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Thursday, November 13, 2003

All is not lost until we can cry no more

In reading from the depths i call, one of the most disturbing things, to the author and reader alike, is that the children don't cry in the cattlecar. I've only just read to the point where Mengele is separating the arriving crowds, but so far the children haven't cried. In fact, no one has. Beyond crying? Never Again.

And so I give you two pieces that made me cry, thank G-d.

The first is Banagor's Retort to a Leftist Idiot who commented that "America are worse than the Nazi party." This is so well written that I dare not interrupt; I couldn't choose an excerpt anyway.
Exactly where are our concentration camps; our burning ovens for the bodies of the dead; our torture chambers and "Doctor" Mengeles; our scores of millions of dead lying in the fields?

Where are the invasion forces at every doorstep in every surrounding country, with boots stamping over the graves of the tortured and killed by virtue of a fallen racist ideology which we do not serve? Where are the walls engraved of entire villages - nay, cities - wherein every living soul has been executed in cold blood by the knife, bayonet, or bullet?

Where are the lines of naked prisoners with numbered tattoos serving as slave labor, sleeping ten to a bunk, wasting in starvation, cholera, and typhoid? Where are the lines of women and children forced into chambers of stone before the canisters of gas are dropped within from without; their writhing bodies observed through portholes smeared with the pleading hands for the doors to open to the jeers of the guards? Where are the slaves who tend to these fallen innocents to pry open their jaws in a rictus simply to extract the last precious few gold teeth to enrich the state? Where are the lampshades made of their skin?

Where are the reams of newspapers fed to the populace each day stating that one is superior to another; pointing fingers at a "lesser race" to be mocked, tortured, blamed, and killed? Where are the troops banging at the doors of private citizens merely for a critical remark or two, or the insinuation thereof, about the state of affairs in the country? Where are the reams of rotting corpses shoved by bulldozer into the deepest lime pits for fear that the sheer magnitude of death would blot the face of the world with unfathomable disease?

This call for the Nazi party to be reinstated demonstrates the lethality of the Leftist ideology today. No educated and honorable person would ever call for this to happen. There is no sense to it, but they perceive themselves as the last defense for the "sane". The only sanity that they give us is the sanity of the grave. It is true - absolutely true - that most Leftists would be shocked at these words, but only because they are in a state of utter denial. I question all of their motivations; I scoff at their education; I jeer at their senseless calls for the overthrow of a government without the full realization of what it is exactly that they truly support. Which among them would set up a better world? Who among them would prevail but these Nazified crackpots who now wish for nothing else but the end of civilization to satisfy their own twisted and sordid desires of darkness? Who here would deny that such people lay the blaming ideologies of the world on the victims that Hitler himself had chosen to crush forever?

That a person cannot see the differences, and is blinded by their hatred so much that they have left the rational world of reason and the experience of the tangible obvious, leaves me not to wonder the answer, but to know. I know what these people want because they say it out loud. These are the misguided fools whose vacant dreams of destruction would bring us all down someday. They pretend to be moral, but they are nothing but vile; no honor cloaks their shoulders; no pride is shown on their faces; no words of theirs find any construction; everything is hated in their eyes and everything that they say will be met by scorn.

The second is "We Were Robbed" by Michael Freund, posted in its entirety to save you paying for access to the JPost archives.
Down a historic and picturesque street in Palma de Majorca's old quarter stands an imposing church which symbolizes the hypocrisy of Europe, in all its grandeur and glory.

The tall and ornate building, adorned with carefully crafted medieval sculptures which appear to be standing guard over the entrance, bears the curious name of Monti-Sion. Curious, that is, because it is a reference to "Mount Zion," one of the hills of Jerusalem, which is located far to the east of this quaint little island off the southern coast of Spain.

What connection could there possibly be between a Spanish church and the Jewish people?

Quite a lot, as it turns out.

On a brisk fall afternoon, an English-speaking guide leads us to the church, and quickly offers the solution to the mystery behind its name.

Centuries ago, when the cruel precursors of the Inquisition destroyed Palma's Jewish community, forcing those who remained to convert to Catholicism, they chose to build a church on the site of one of the town's synagogues.

After all, what better way could there be to celebrate their "victory" than to tear down the symbol of the "old" religion and replace it with one from the "new"?

And that is how the synagogue of Mount Zion was transformed in the 15th century into the church of Monti-Sion.

Along the right side of the building, one can still see a layer or two of the synagogue's original stones, on which the church now stands. They sit there silently, bearing the burden of history and offering painful testimony to the iniquity that was wrought so long ago on this sacred place.

I approach the stones with reverence, rubbing my hands along the grooves, caressing the indentations, as if by doing so I might be able to salvage something from the building's distant and excruciating past.

I look around, trying to find some indication, some acknowledgment that this was once a Jewish house of prayer. But, of course, there is none. No sign to indicate that a synagogue once stood here, no marker to tell the story of how this place was stolen from the Jewish people and made into a church.

Moments later, I step inside, drawn by some inexplicable force to see what has become of this place. A service of some sort is about to begin, and a group of nuns walks down the aisle, stopping to exchange a few words with one of the parishioners. He says something to them, and they respond with an outburst of laughter. Their smiles and joy only serve to deepen my sense of pain and anguish.

Our guide points upward inside the church to what appears to have been a seating gallery for women, a leftover remnant from the time when the building once served the local Jewish community.

I close my eyes and imagine the Hebrew prayers that were once said here, the cries and pleas for Heavenly mercy that the island's Jews undoubtedly once offered as the threat from their neighbors grew in intensity.

As I feel the tears begin to take form, I turn around quickly and flee, unwilling to endure the sight of a synagogue about to be used as a cathedral.

Monti-Sion, and countless other buildings like it throughout Spain, Portugal and the rest of Europe, is stolen Jewish property. It was seized from our ancestors by both church and state through acts of treachery, the booty they saw fit to keep once they had dispensed with the local Jews.

Though a great deal has been done to restore Jewish property confiscated under 20th-century Communism and Fascism, little if any effort has been made to return assets taken prior to the last century.

A few weeks ago, while interviewing the president of Portugal in Lisbon, I asked him whether perhaps it was time for his country to give back what the church and the monarchy had seized from Portugal's Jews when the community was destroyed in 1497.

The president replied by saying, "We cannot rewrite or relive history. We cannot go back centuries. We cannot today, after 500 years, redress a situation in material terms."

With that, I wholeheartedly disagree. There can be no time limit when it comes to justice, and there can be no excuse for holding back on returning stolen Jewish property.

Centuries may have passed, but that in no way dilutes Europe's moral obligation to correct what can still be corrected. There is simply no reason why buildings such as Monti-Sion, or Jewish religious objects which sit gathering dust in convents and monasteries across the Continent, should not be restored to their rightful owners, the Jewish people.

Europe does not hesitate to preach to Israel about morality in international affairs, even as it continues to enjoy the fruits of hundreds of years of pilfering and theft of Jewish property. The time has come to correct this injustice and to demand that Europe atone for its numerous transgressions.

The countless Jews who died on European soil over the past two millennia as a result of pogroms, persecutions, massacres, and expulsions cannot be brought back. But at least some of the communal belongings they left behind most certainly can.

Israel should raise this issue at every opportunity with European officials and heads of state, reminding them of their historical debt, figuratively and literally, to the Jewish people and their state.

Lists of confiscated Jewish communal property in Europe should be expanded to include not just buildings taken by the Nazis or the Soviets, but by their medieval forebears as well. The Foreign Ministry, working together with Jewish organizations, should press the Europeans to come clean, and demand the return of our stolen patrimony.

After all, from a moral point of view, our right to Monti-Sion in Spanish Majorca is no less compelling than our right to Jewish property in Germany, Poland or elsewhere.

We Jews have long memories. That is what kept us alive as a people throughout the long, dark night of our exile. And that is what should keep us yearning to get back what is undeniably ours. It may take a decade, or a generation, or even longer to achieve. But get it back we should.