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Monday, November 17, 2003

Keeping the faith

The Eurobarometer poll continues to astound and inform me. 55% in France, 65% in Germany, 69% in Austria and 74% in the Netherlands -- believe that Israel is now a threat to world peace.

It's amazing to me that the very countries who hosted the Holocaust now have the chutzpah to condemn Israel! (Keep in mind the definitive example of chutzpah: the man who kills his mother and father and then begs the court for mercy because he is an orphan.) Were it not for these Europeans and their antecedents, the dire necessity for a Jewish state wouldn't have arisen in the first place; it is precisely because they sacrificed the Jews within their borders sixty years ago, that the existence and survival of a Jewish state became such an urgent moral imperative.

Left to our own devices, I think we Jews would have disappeared as a people long ago through our own inclinations to assimilate. It has been the sequential hatred of others over the millennia that has kept us separate, identifiable and intact. The great irony is that if any of our enemies really wanted to do away with the Jews, all they would have to do - or have to have done - is simply leave us alone. But they either will not, or cannot.

"In every generation they rise up against us." I almost deleted that line from our Passover seder a few years ago! I thought antisemitism was an anachronism, dead and buried with the Six Million, redeemed by the rebirth of the state of Israel, firmly and irrevocably ensconced in The Past. Then a suicide bomber walked into a seder in a hotel in Netanya and blew himself up to kill the Jews there. At that moment, I don't know why, my world turned inside out. That suicide bomber pushed me over the edge, forced me to engage in a war I did not seek.

As some are compelled to seek the personal and national destruction of my people, so I am compelled to seek the faith I need to sustain me as a Jew in dark times. As surely as European hatred propelled the state of Israel into existence, that suicide bomber drove me both outward to engage against him, and inward to look for guidance in the fight. The reverberations of his explosion propelled me right into the faith of my people, into the very arms of the G-d of Israel.

In this I am not alone. Holocaust survivor Leah Fuchs Chayen writes of her experience:
I did not know the Rosh HaShanah prayers by heart, but remembered a few outstanding things like Avinu Malkeinuand Min Hameitzar Karati ("I called upon the Lord in distress"). When I came to the words "You have chosen us from all the nations, You have loved us and wanted us," I looked up at the flames consuming the children -- I was bewildered and I said it with a question mark at the end. But, I said it again at minchah and maariv. I thought a lot about what was happening around me, and about the prayers, and decided I did not understand -- but the Lord was mine and I was His, and I was a Jew and was desperately trying to cling to my religion. I spoke to the Lord and sometimes asked Him what He was doing, even if He knew what He was doing. He was there for me, and I clung to him with desperation.

See also: German Parliamentarian Call Jews "Race of Perpetrators" - at DW-World.DE