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Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Victims of Arab Terror and Jewish Cravenness

by Rabbi Aryeh Spero, published in the Jewish Press
Many of our family had gathered in Israel to attend a wedding; instead, that day they attended a funeral. On Tuesday, the day before my cousin Nava was to be married, she and her illustrious father, Dr. David Applebaum, became the 850th and 851st Jews murdered since September 2000 by Palestinian Arabs bent on methodically killing innocent and productive Jews living in Israel.

Having just returned from a short visit to the United States to brief American doctors on how to save the lives of people attacked by terrorists, Dr. David scheduled a late night get-together with his daughter at Jerusalem’s Cafe Hillel to proffer his blessings and meet one last time before she left his household to set up her own. All that was left for him to do after that was to walk by Nava’s side down the aisle to her chupah. Father and daughter were together that next day -- eternally, not at the chupah but buried in the graveyard – almost side by side.

David Applebaum was the director of the Emergency Unit at Jerusalem’s famed Shaarei Tzedek Medical Center. Over the years he developed innovative medical techniques for saving the lives of those rushed through the doors after Arab death squads attacked Jewish civilians. At other times and in other venues he simply ministered to those needing immediate medical care, be they Jew or Arab. He never differentiated. But his murderers, the Arab jihadists, do differentiate, specifically targeting Jews, often delighting in snuffing out the lives of those like Dr. David who routinely sustain life.

Years ago, after leaving Cleveland for Israel, David established Terem, Israel’s first walk-in neighborhood clinics, more accessible to many than the ones located at big hospital centers such as Hadassah or Shaarei Tzedek. He also pioneered procedures in preventing blood clotting in heart attack victims. Nava continued the tradition by working with children with cancer as part of her sheirut leumi, the national service for army-age girls.

Ironically and grotesquely, these cousins who were devoted to sustaining life are dead, while the terminator of life, the mastermind behind decades of Jew killing, Yasir Arafat, is allowed to live.

What comes to mind when writing this is the chapter in Samuel which describes how King Saul spared the life of Agog, the king of Amalek, who led his people in a vicious campaign of killing Jews during the First Commonwealth. For political reasons or out of fear of what others might think or due to misguided ideology or ancient realpolitik, Saul spared the life of Agog and simply expelled him from the land. Agog refreshed, and the Amalekites rose once again to afflict the ancient Israelites. Saul lost his kingship, for G-d let it be known that Saul’s lack of grit at the moment when courage was needed disqualified him for continued leadership of the Jewish nation.

The buried can no longer feel. But the living, David’s five remaining children, and Debra, his widow and the grieving mother of Nava, will live daily with the ache for which there is no medicine, no doctor; with the loss that can never be made whole. Nava’s future generations will never be. And so it is with the thousands similarly robbed of life by Palestinian Arab terror as well as the thousands of other victims wounded for life.

David Applebaum was energetic, with an everactive mind conjuring up new and practical solutions for quandaries in medicine as well as halacha. A man of big ideas yet gentle; professional yet warm; involved in serious community matters yet fun; opinionated yet modest; confident in his ideas yet knowing when to back off. And always busy.

He was a devoted disciple of the late Rabbi Aaron Soloveichik, who was his rebbe at the Brisk Yeshiva in Chicago, where he received s’micha, ordination. David was a walking repository of homespun Rabbi Soloveichik stories. He treated Rav Soloveichik wonderfully prior to and during his illness. . .

. . . Though David lived in rabbinics, he practiced medicine, made it his career. David was actively involved in every institution touching his life. No doubt Nava would have achieved much in the years to come, but that future was stolen from her by the enemies of Israel and the Jewish people.

We all ask: When will this terrorism end? It will end when Israel uses the military force required to end it. “Cycles of violence” continue only as long as neither side is capable of ending it. Israel has the capacity to end it just as the Americans stopped the Nazi brutality in World War II. Thus far, however, we Jews have displayed neither the will nor the stomach to achieve the victory that will finally subdue the other side and end the “cycle.” The current stalemate will end with one of the sides being victorious. It had better be us, for the fatwas issued by almost all of Arabia’s mullahs call first for the slaughter of all Jews in Israel, then throughout the world.

For years now Israel has made major concessions, including the irrational gestures of freeing terrorists and withholding retaliation after terrorist attacks, providing guns to the “police” of the Palestinian Authority, and forfeiting land, communities, and our historic and holy sites. None of these capitulations has ended the “cycle of violence”; instead they have emboldened an enemy seeing in these surrenders a fearful Israel willing to amputate itself, to twist and accommodate itself to every terrorist demand, in hopes of pleasing the jihadists into ceasing their murder. It has brought not peace but more murder: more affirmation that Allah is slowly defeating Jehovah.

Patience is a virtue; unlimited patience, however, bespeaks a fear to act. Making periodic overtures is understandable; ignoring the stated aims of your enemy calling for your destruction is suicidal. Watching the murder of those entrusted to your care is immoral: “Thou shalt not stand by idly while the blood of your brother is spilt.”

Being concerned more about – and feeling greater “nobility” in safeguarding – the innocents among the enemy, when such restraint results in the death of the innocents among your own people, is a false ideology, especially when the so-called innocents crave your death and root for those murdering you. Some call such “concern” sophistication, when in truth it is self-indifference. Not valuing the total worth of one’s loved ones and people is not civilized; it leads to a society’s inner demise. Such behavior is craven.

Crucifixion is an alien concept. Even G-d did not allow Isaac to be sacrificed in the worship of Him. Nor should we allow akeidahs to be erected to the worship of the concept of “How good and noble we feel that we treasure the enemy’s children more than our own.” Since when has heroism become accepting death instead of fighting it – fighting the source of that death? Certain rabbis and intellectuals notwithstanding, this is simply old-fashioned avodah zorah, strange ideologies. These false ideologies never bring peace.

Where is our outrage? In the name of sophistication, we have muffled the normal and requisite response of outrage. Anger born of petulance is immature, rage raised against those who have forever taken that which is yours is necessary and moral. The suppression of justified anger leads to human beings no longer human but mindless, walking cliches – politically correct robots. It leads to the easy acceptance of injustice. So many officials in our community express outrage only when those of other groups claim a civil rights infraction. Yet they display amoral indifference to the murder of Jews by the hands of others.

So many Jews the world over extol how they value life by citing how protective they are of Palestinian Arab life. But by accepting the ever-increasing loss of their own, are they not elevating the life of Arabs over their own? What kind of demented “celebration of life” is that?

The Applebaum-Spero family residing in Israel are the embodiment of what the Bnai Akiva/Mizrachi movement envisioned. Good citizens, whose sons fight in their country’s army, whose daughters serve in noble work projects; who live by the laws of G-d while contributing their talents, energy and vision to the society, Israel, in which they live. They gave up the comforts and earning power of America to live not simply in a country of Jews but in Eretz Yisrael – the historic, G-d given land, the Jewish state.

Foolishly and ironically, Israel has allowed its power to be its own albatross by invoking the fashionable theory that the powerful must show more restraint than those perceived as less powerful. The result is many more Israeli civilians dead than should ever have been allowed, and rendering to the Palestinian Arabs more power than when decades ago they faced Syria’s Assad and Jordan’s Hussein.

Thinking that with its power it always can stop Arab aggression tomorrow, Israel allows countless todays to go by wherein the Arab terror apparatus carries out its bloody slaughter. Perhaps if we were weaker, with our back up against the wall, we would fight with everything we have, and do so today. But because we are more powerful, we tie our own hands and act as if the real fight can wait until tomorrow. Tomorrow, when 2,000 will be dead?

Many are confusing the Palestinian Arab situation with the American civil rights movement of the 1960’s. They’re dead wrong. This is not a social issue where we must understand what motivates the aggrieved. Let us confront the reality that war has been declared by Islam against Israel, indeed against Jews the world over. We therefore must react as those involved in war and be guided by principles of war and not those of social work. No “understanding” on our part will change the creed which lies deep in the pan-Arabic heart. It is hubris to think we can change these deeply-rooted emotions and religiously-based attitudes, these internalisms. Only the Arabs themselves can make that metamorphosis.
Thus far the Arab world is not reversing itself but is daily increasing its threats, diatribes, and theological assertions against Jews. Though all of mankind is born with a common human nature, our minds and hearts – our attitudes – are molded by the teachings we are taught from early on. Here we are dealing with a culture intoxicated by a barbaric bloodlust as well as a craving for power and death masquerading as a desire for statehood. This evil is found not only in the religious elements but the secular ones as well, for example the Baathists in Iraq and Syria.

This is a war, and any concession made to the enemy on the battlefield is dangerous, displays fear, is suicidal. It will bring defeat, for the other side will not stop if we don’t stop it first. We still are powerful enough to make a choice: instead of a political Masada, I prefer Chanukah.

David Applebaum’s journey began in Detroit and took him to Cleveland, to Chicago, to Toledo, back to Cleveland, and finally Jerusalem. Deborah joined him during this journey. So many others – relatives, friends and colleagues – met him on the way. There, in Jerusalem, father and daughter, David and Nava, rest with so many before them. We, however, cannot rest.

Throughout Tanach, the ancient Israelites were victorious when leaders arose willing to fight the enemy head on, with all at their disposal: the nation, while fighting, looked up to Heaven.

No attempts at peace treaties were efficacious during the First and Second Commonwealth when attempted with those who did not crave peace as much as the Jews. Defeat came when ancient Israel was led by leaders no longer sure of the relevance and importance of Israel as a distinct unit – witness the Jewish Hellenist kings who were “internationalists” first, and the earlier secular kings allured more by power and comfort than the religious ideal of Israel’s Divine destiny. False prophets twisted the religion to weaken it; intellectuals demoralized the people by intoning how Israel could not win and through moral relativism expressed that the Jewish cause was no more just than that of its enemies.

Prior to past ravages of the Jewish people, our communal leaders told us to be quiet and rely on their high-powered negotiations. The masses followed; absent an army and state, we were powerless. Now we have a state and our elites still tell us not to use our power. They, the “smart” Jews, will negotiate for us. Effectively, nothing has changed. So to those who wish to make yet more concessions to the Palestinian jihadists, I say: Not in my name.