Friday, July 1, 2005

A Gentleman and "Following Orders"

I will be in the NY area the second half of July, G-d willing, and will be available to speak to groups and the media.

Musings #128
June 30, 2005
23rd of Sivan

A Gentleman and “Following Orders”

Two images are chasing around in my brain competing to see who will be the first on the page. It’s hard to decide, and I don’t want to delay one in favor of the other, so they will be combined. In actuality, they are related.

In the more than half a century since World War II ended, philosophers, politicians, religious leaders and educators have condemned the German rationale, excuse for murdering Jews and others during the Holocaust. The German people explained that they were “just following orders.” Being part of the post-war baby boom it was almost a mantra, a negative one for us. It was made very clear to us that we must develop strong consciences and never, ever do something immoral, no matter who was telling us. “Just following orders” was considered the lowest level a person could go.

This makes the present situation wherein Israeli soldiers and police are beating up Jews, dragging them from homes and demonstrations, as if they were dangerous criminals. The scenes on the TV of four five even six big burly police and soldiers, dressed in riot gear, grabbing a single teenager, both girls and boys, pushing mothers who are holding babies, as the victims all cry out in pain… You wouldn’t want to see, but everyone should, because no description, even from the most gifted writer can convey the sick brutality.

For months the press has been full of condemnation towards anyone who dares to refuse orders or encourage soldiers and police to refuse orders. We are told that the “state” is supreme, and if something is voted for in Parliament, then it is to be obeyed without question. That’s why good Germans killed Jews. They didn’t want to get into trouble; they didn’t want to lose their jobs. Just like Bibi Netanyahu’s
reason for staying in the government. He’s just following orders unlike two young soldiers Avi Beiber and Chaim Attar who are in military prison for refusing to participate in the uprooting of Jews from Gush Katif.

And the gentleman I’m referring to was always a gentleman even kissing ladies’ hands, like in the old European royal courts. He’s the same gentleman who was civil to those who tried to murder him and his followers. He was always well-mannered to those who turned in fellow Jews to the British. He was also polite when after decades in the opposition he became Prime Minister and didn’t replace political appointees of the old rule with the new. Yes, I’m referring to Menachem Begin, a charming sensitive man who never deserved the description “terrorist.”

Today’s disgraceful action against fellow Jews is a continuation of the “
sezon,” when the Hagana and the Jewish Agency turned Etzel and Lechi, aka, the Stern Gang fighters over to the British and the murderous attack on the Altalena, a ship that arrived in Israel soon after the declaration of the state. It was sent by the Etzel and loaded with arms and volunteers to liberate the Old City of Jerusalem. Instead of finding a way to work with Menachem Begin, who headed the Etzel, Ben Gurion decided to attack the ship. The result was many Jews were killed, the weapons sank with the ship, and Jerusalem was divided until the 1967 Six Days War.

As the newly established Jewish state and army concentrated on becoming a state “like any other,” the leader of the opposition, being a gentleman didn’t demand apologies and re-education. The history curriculum glossed over it, and there was no national “cheshbon nefesh,” introspection or “accounting of the soul.”

That is why today it is so easy for a segment of the Israeli population to attack fellow Jews. They got away with it decades ago and have no idea of the immorality. No matter what the outcome, we have a duty, what Menachem Begin should have done in the early years of the state. We must keep reminding our fellow Jews of the immorality of their actions. We must awaken their consciences until they do “tshuva,” repent and understand the seriousness of their sin.

Only after “tshuva” can we all unify into one strong people, G-d willing.

Shabbat Shalom U’Mivorach!

Batya Medad, Shiloh
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