Posts Tagged 'Palestinians'

Eicha: Questions to Consider

This coming week on Tisha B’Av we will commemorate the destruction of the Temple. Unfortunately this year it will be easy to connect to this holiday. Between the senseless missiles and attacks coming at Israel and the devastation of Gaza  it is all too easy to conjure up the images of destruction.  Glued to the news and Red Alert we all have these images of destruction and the sound of the sirens locked in our heads. When we finally achieve a lasting cease-fire we will have many questions to answer. Similarly, Lamentations is full of questions as to how this destruction came to be. There we read:

How has the Lord covered with a cloud the daughter of Zion in His anger! God has cast down from heaven unto the earth the beauty of Israel, and has not remembered God’s footstool in the day of God’s anger. ( Eicha 2:1)

Between the senseless violence and hatred from Hamas, their desire to kill Israeli soldiers and citizens alike, their disregard for their own people, the rest of the Arab world being eager to let their children die in the name of their own media efforts against the Jewish State, the media giving legitimacy to the heinous inhumanity of Hamas, and the reemergence of Antisemitism in Europe, there is a lot of cause for anger.  It is easy to give into this self-righteous and all-consuming feelings of divine anger. We need to defend our own, but when this is all over we will need to wage peace. We need to withstand the temptation of acting out of anger.

This Shabbat we read the Haftarah of Hazon which describes the vision of the destruction of Tisha B’Av. In the Haftarah we read:

Wash you, make you clean, put away the evil of your doings from before Mine eyes, cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek justice, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. ( Isaiah 1:16-17)

The only way out of this, that I can see, is that the Israelis and Palestinians have hope. We might be angry, but the Palestinians need to know that we are better for their future than Hamas. In the wake of the conflict in Gaza and in light of Tisha B’Av, we have a lot of questions to answer. There is no doubt that the Arab world also has many questions to deal with as well. Here is one: Where is the voice of the Arab moderates?



A Joyous Mother of Children: Gilad Shalit

Today Gilad Shalit was returned to his family. It has been hard to find words for what I imagine the feelings that Aviva and Noam Shalit had holding their son again. I could not imagine my life without any of our children. It is just crazy to realize that two of them were born during his captivity.

All day I kept coming back to a story told by Rabbi Yisachar Shlomo Teichtal in his book Eim Habanim Semeichah. In this amazing book Rabbi Teichtal refutes the anti- Zionism of his Hungarian Orthodox upbringing  and beautifully lays out a vision of redemption realized in a Jewish State of Israel. This story is long, but it is prescient and worth reading. Rabbi Teichtal wrote:

In the year 5702 (1942), before Pesach ( Passover), the cursed oppressors issued the terrible decree to abduct young Jewish maidens in Slovakia, age sixteen and older, and deport them to an uninhabited, unknown land. To this day, the fate of thousand of pure Jewish souls who were transported there is unknown. May HaShem speedily take vengeance on our oppressors, on our behalf. The camp of Israel was in a great state of panic.

I know of an incident in which a certain individual attempted to smuggle his young daughters over the border, to save them from this horrible trap. It was the intermediary days of Pesach, and he promised his wife that he would send a telegraphed message from across the border informing her that he and his children  had arrived safely. The mother sat at home anticipating and longing for the moment what she would receive the good news.  It happened, however, that before they crossed the border, the father and his daughters were seized and transported to a nearby village, where they were placed in prison. There, they remained for the duration of Pesach. They were in great danger of being sent off immediately to an unknown place, for that was the punishment for someone who was  caught attempting to escape; he would be deported to an unknown destination in a harsher manner than the other deportees.

In the meantime, his wife, the mother of the girls, was informed of the situation. We can imagine the bitter emotions which overcame her. Her joy at the prospect of deliverance was transformed into sorrow. Her holiday became a time of mourning for her husband and daughters. The entire holiday she cried endlessly. Her entire world became dark. It is impossible to describe the sorrowful state into which she fell from the time she became aware of her husband and daughters’ fate, for she knew what awaited them.

However, the brilliant, righteous, and pious rabbi, a true self-sacrificing servant of HaShem, our master, Rabbi Shmuel David Unger, the av deit din of Nitra, selflessly and vigilantly endangered his own life and labored until he redeemed these three captives with a large sum of money. May he be remembered for the good. On the last day of Pesach they were set free and permitted to return home, unharmed and in peace. This distraught woman was immediately informed, via telephone, that her husband and daughters were set free and that they would return home the next day, isru chag,unharmed  and in peace. It is needless to describe what sort of effect these good tidings had upon the soul of this unfortunate woman. From that moment on, she waited expectantly for the father and daughters to return home.

The following day, she was unable to restrain herself and wait for them inside the house. Instead, she sat by the entrance of the courtyard and, with great anticipation, awaited the moment of their return. When they arrived, she burst into tears and overwhelmingly poured out all the emotions of her heart. On account of the profuse outpouring  of emotions, she was unable even to utter words of thanks to the Holy One Blessed be God for the great miracle God performed on their behalf. He who did not witness this  reunion – the mother reunited with her daughters after such a dreadful captivity, the tears of the mother when she saw that her daughters had returned to their borders, the joy of the joyous mother of children – has never witnessed true feelings of joy. This is what I know about this incident which transpired in our days.

I imagine that such will be the joy of our mother, Eretz Yisrael, when we all return to her bosom after the horrible captivity we now experience. This is how I picture the wondrous joy that a mother will share with her children, that is, Eretz Yisrael with us and we with her. Hence I entitled this work Eim Habanim Semeichah ( A Joyous Mother of Children). (from  Eim Habanim Semeichah- Translated by Moshe Lichtman)

Completed by 1944, Rabbi Teichtal’s words are hauntingly relevant today. This story transpired exactly 70 years ago this Pesach. In this time we  have realized that dream of Jews from all over the world finding a home in Israel.  In Gilad Shalit’s return home we  reconnect to the ideals of Zionism. The steep cost of his ransom awakens us from the dream of these last 70 years.

Today I got a wonderful e-mail from my sister Arielle Hendel who wrote of her connection as a parent to Gilad Shalit’s return. She wrote:

The joy we feel is tempered by the high price we paid to release him.  All of the relatives of the victims of the released terrorists are reliving their personal nightmares of loss without justice or redemption.  The Knesset’s decision was not easy but it underscores the value that Israel puts on a single life.  Gilad was everyone’s concern – he became our son, his redemption is ours. Finally, I am reminded of Golda Meir’s famous words, ”Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us.”

Today the joy of Sukkot is overshadowed by the joy of a mother at the return of her captive son. I still believe in my heart that we will only experience sustained joy when the Palestinians love their children as much as we love our own.

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