HOW CAN I SING HASHEM’S SONG IN A STRANGE LAND?By Chana Ruth Harris
February 18, 2009
When I was young, I knew very little of Judaism, and very little of the State of Israel, but I remember the Six Day War. I remember it because a Jew from Israel came as a guest to our home. We never had guests in our home except relatives or other children, but I remember how my mother cleaned and cooked to prepare for THIS visitor. He had to be someone special! We children were sent off to bed so the adults could talk, but I was far too curious a six year old to sleep. I stood behind the slatted hall door in my blue flowered flannel pajamas, as quiet as a mouse, and listened to their talk. Being so young, I understood very little of what they said, but I did understand that a miracle had happened, that G-d had reached down with a mighty hand just like in the Scriptures, and the Jews had been saved.
My first year in college our choir sang a psalm that began with the words, By the waters of Babylon , there we sat down, yeah, we wept when we remembered Zion ’ Singing this song, somehow, made me long for a Jerusalem I had never known, and I didn´t know why. If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth, if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joys.’ Over the course of my life, this song came back to me over and over. Not just the song, but that feeling, that longing for Jerusalem . Never having been there, I was connected, I AM connected. Somehow, my soul knows that I live in exile. Someday, I will return.
This land where I now live, this America , is a great land. I love it with all my heart. I love its ideals. I love its dreams. I love its freedoms. I love its people. The United States is a great country, and I do not know why I have been so fortunate to have been born here. G-d bless America and the American people.
But I tell you today, that my body, my heart, my soul, also belongs to another people, the People of Israel, and to another land, Eretz Israel . Just as I give my all for Israel ´s G-d, so I give my all for its People, for its Covenant, and for the Land. These things cannot be divided.
Today, Israel is under attack. There are those who have clearly stated they will accept nothing less than its eradication. Israel does not exist on the maps they print of the area. They will not pronounce the name Israel ,’ but rather they refer to Israel as the Zionist entity.’ The elimination of Israel is higher than the welfare of their own people, necessitating the insane continued existence of refugee camps of those they want to move back into Israeli territory rather than help to move onto a good life elsewhere. It means squandering money on bombs and rockets better spent on the well-being of their own. It means spending resources developing propaganda to spread the Blood Libel or to blame Jews for the Holocaust (you know, the Holocaust that also never happened.) It means putting bomb factories in schools and hospitals and the basements of homes so that innocent women and children can be used as human shields. Even the Nazis did not use their own children as shields. But our enemy knows that Europe will see their dying martyred children, and be confused, and rather than blame them for building bombs in their basement with children present, they will blame us for destroying the basement where the bombs are made that kill Jewish children. THIS is the face of our enemy.
THIS is the Amalek of our age. As Amalek always does, he does not fight the Jew fight man to man. He follows behind, picking off the weak, the women, the children, the innocent. He is an abomination.
It has become popular among some smaller subgroups of society to say War is not the answer.’ I don´t know where this notion has come from. When the barbarians ride over the hill to pillage your village, kill your young men, rape your women, and take your children into slavery, there is no virtue in standing idly by and letting them do as they wish. Rather, standing idly by is morally sick, and to claim it for virtue is so twisted as to border on evil. I am not saying such people have evil hearts. They have very, very good hearts. I am saying they have wicked actions. I am saying that naiveté and good intentions cannot excuse bad choices, especially with calamitous consequences.
For thousands of years people have been complaining about the Jews. When Israel was a powerful nation, they complained. When Israel was occupied by the Greeks and the Romans, they complained. When the Jew lived in exile, trying to live as Jews in other nations, whether it be in England or Russia or Germany , Babylon or Persia , Spain or Yemen , they complained. After the Holocaust, when no one wanted us in their land, they created the State of Israel so that we could live apart from them. Now they are not happy with that. Too many Jews have felt guilty about the discontent of the world with Jews. The world already offered it´s final solution’ to the Jew Problem.’ I say, THERE IS NO JEW PROBLEM. I will not feel guilty. Rather, THERE IS A GENTILE PROBLEM; we call it anti-Semitism and the tolerance of anti-Semitism. And Jews have a solution. It´s very simple. Someone tries to hurt us, WE FIGHT BACK. It is called self defense!
We gave birth to the prophet who wrote that the day would come when we would beat our swords into plowshares, because yes, we do long for peace. But people seem to forget, we are also the People who gave birth to the Prophet Joel, who wrote that we would beat our plowshares into swords! Yes! There is a time to stand and fight! Sometimes war, despite the terrible, horrible things that happen during war, is the best answer, and the only moral answer given the circumstances. When such is the case, it is important not to equivocate. When the choice is made, do it efficiently. Fight to WIN. Otherwise war becomes long and drawn out, and the death toll is excessive. Or worse, you end up losing the war, and all of the terrible things have happened for nothing. It is one thing to be slow to go to war. It is quite another to be slow to fight once in a war. The first is a virtue. The latter is a vice. Once a war is begun, the way peace is found, is for one side to win, and the other to loose. If negotiations had been the way to peace, most likely war would not have begun in the first place. Peace negotiations during a war are notoriously used only as a way to regroup forces for the next attack. They serve only to make pacifists feel happy. They almost never broker lasting peace.
This is especially true in the middle east, where the Palestinian groups such as Hamas and Fatah have made it abundantly clear that they will never accept Israel as a Jewish state. EVER. Those who wish to negotiate peace are like men in love who can´t take no for an answer. What about NO do you not understand???? There is NOTHING you can say that is going to change minds. NOTHING. This is the ultimate Dr Phil moment: GET REAL.
Israel therefore has two choices: surrender and cease to exist, or fight until victory.
For everything there is a season, a time to laugh and a time to cry, and time to sew and a time to tear apart, a time for peace, and a time for war. My friends, this is not a time for peace. Since Israel is not going away any time soon, the question is ,then, merely that of strategy. How can Israel win this war?
The war is on more than one front. It is not just a war against garage-built rockets and homocide bombers. THAT war I will leave to Israel ´s Generals.
But it is also a war against anti-Semites seeking to destroy Israel in the worldwide media, a war of propaganda, and it is here that Israel is losing, because the anti-Semites have formed alliances with the Secular Left and the Religious Left. The Religious Left in particular is curiously and strikingly blind to whom they are in bed with. Even the Secular Left has historically been rhetorically opposed to anti-Semitism, and so this alliance is somewhat odd, and not entirely a lost cause. It is here that Israel most needs OUR help. It is here that we can offer the most hope. I cannot be in the IDF. But I have a voice here in the USA . I have a phone. I have a computer keyboard. I have feet. And so do you.
But that´s hard, and you aren´t certain what to do. And neither am I. Well, we need to do it anyways. And we better find out what to do. We better make things to do. I will tell you why.
I don´t know what it was like to go through the Holocaust. I don´t think I can even begin to imagine. But I think that with G-d´s help, I was given just the barest glimpse. Back when I was thirty, I had a nightmare, over and over and over, night after night after night. It always began the same, the sound of the dogs, then the sound of the glass breaking, the footsteps on the steps, the pounding on the door and the German voices. I don´t want to give the details, as even remembering this dream is very disturbing to me. I guess I think that if just a dream is this disturbing, what must the reality have been like?
I cannot condemn in the slightest those who endured the Shoah. But I would like to point out what many have pointed out. The Jews of that era couldn´t believe that such evil could exist. They willingly surrendered their luggage, willingly walked onto the trains, willingly walked into the showers and watched as the doors were shut and locked behind them. By the time the Zyclon B was dropped, it was too late for them to act. Banging on the doors did nothing.
The Shoah did not happen in a vacuum. From the time I was in middle school, I have been obsessed with the Holocaust, and why it happened, and how could people have not seen it coming, and why people did not act to prevent it, why people did not act once it had begun, and what made a small handful of people different.
We say never again. We must make those words real. The signs are all around us. If we are to act, the time to act is NOW, not when the doors to the shower are already locked.
I once dreamt I had died and was in a kind of hell. I tried to explain to the angel in charged, But I didn´t do anything!’ to which the angel replied, Well, precicely. This is the hell for those who didn´t do anything.’ At the end of 110 years, my account came up for review, and I suddenly found myself in a different hell, one which was truly terrifying. I saw a woman being tormented by demons, and I wanted to continue hiding, but I thought to myself, I can´t just do nothing, I must do something. So I jumped out and yelled at the demons, and in the commotion, she escaped. Now that really ticked off the demons who then came after me but the scene changed a third time, and I was in heaven! And there was the angel, who explained to me that I needed to have experienced these things so that I could learn. Then the angel touched my forehead and said, Remember. I woke up. I have never been the same.
My friends, I cannot do nothing. I must do something. This is true about a great many things in life. It is true, as well, about Israel . Israel is a woman being tormented by monsters, and for the sake of our souls, and for the sake of Israel , we cannot afford to remain hiding in fear behind a bush. We must do something. Anything. We must act. It means changing the way we think and live. It means waking up from our sleep. It means taking a chance and doing something outside our normal comfort zone. For many of us, it means doing something that will feel silly,’ lofty,’ unreal,’ in the clouds.’ Aren´t there other people for that? Isn´t that why there are idealists? Sensible people do sensible things. Let the idealists take care of ideals? No. Not in times of crises. Idealists are here to call us to arms. Our job is to pick them up.
Sometimes I get images in my head what things will be like in my future. You know, things I imagine I might do or be when I grow old or older. One of my most elaborate ideas is something I call my House of Peace. It is a place in the center of a city, a refuge or sanctuary where anyone can come and just find respite from the tyranny of the hustle and bustle of life, of urgency, of the too many people-ness of the city, of the noise of traffic, of the ugliness of commercials everywhere, and the pressure to buy things, and work, work, work, so you can spend, spend, spend. I have seen its many rooms, its library of spiritual books, its place where people can sit and eat and chat, its gardens, its central room with the skylight and simple oil lamp where one to go and be with G-d. I look to the day I can walk the halls of that House of Peace.
But today is not that day. Today is the day I must protect the Jews. Today I will stand tall and no matter what the cost I will say say, Shema Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Ehad! Today I will serve Israel . Today I will fight for Israel . Today I will kill for Israel . Today I will die for Israel if need be. I will do what I can do, however great, however small, whether it is writing an article published in Newsweek, or writing a letter to my aunt Zoe, whether it is making aliyah to Israel, or simply attending a rally outside the Federal Building on Wilshire, whether it is talking on the phone to my state Senator, or talking to a friend over lunch. I will not be silent, I will not be still, and I will not be afraid.
If you are a Jew, you must realize the depravity that human nature can sink to. You cannot put your hope in peace negotiations. You must face squarely the rise in anti-Semitic activity worldwide. You must keep your eyes open and NOT walk onto that train.
If you are a non-Jew, be one of the rare few. Show us that the rare few need not be rare. Too many Jews remember the long history of anti-Semitism in the Church, and forget that those who hid us were Chrstian too. Carbon may be a common element upon this earth, but it is also the substance of which diamonds are made under pressure.
How can I sing HaShem´s song in a strange Land? By never forgetting Jerusalem . Am Israel Chai!
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