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Monday, January 29, 2007

Are we "Jews of Silence?"


"Nothing's new," as King Solomon said so eloquently in Kohelet, Ecclesiastes.

Concerned Jews and non-Jews all over the world are incredulous at the silence here in Eretz Yisrael.

We have a government

which consists of politicians, who consider corruption their right
which is enthusiastically negotiating with terrorists whose public aim is our destruction
which is considers relying on foreign military an achievement
which cheerfully plans on exiling tens of thousands loyal Jewish citizens from their homes
which does not keep its promises to its citizens
which imprisons and prosecutes those who dare to even peacefully protest.
Those concerned Jews and non-Jews all over the world write to me. They send me very troubled letters. They say:
"We want to protest the corrupt and incompetent Israeli Government, but why aren't Israelis on the streets demonstrating? Why have you become the 'Jews of Silence?'"
For me, a Jewish activist during the 1960's, the term "Jews of Silence" relates to Soviet Jewry during the more than half a century of totalitarian Communist control, when they were persecuted and restricted by the USSR. They lived in fear of the "Gulag." They had no religious freedom, no civil rights. They couldn't live as Jews and they couldn't leave their living hell.

Eli Weisel wrote about the pain he saw in their eyes. Their pain and suffering spoke to him. For many of us, the Save Soviet Jewry Movement was our way of being "civil rights activists" but with a Jewish agenda. World Jewry protested for years until Jews were allowed to escape. A sizeable percentage of Jews from the FSU are now living how they wish wherever they wish.

Nobody is hearing cries and protests from Israel. It seems so much like the Parshot Shavua, the Torah Portions of the Week of this season. We're reading from the beginning of "Shmot," Exodus. Bnai Yisrael, the Jewish People have become slaves to Pharaoh. That's after their enthusiastic welcome by the "
previous" Pharaoh. Conditions have been getting worse and worse, but there's silence, but a population explosion. It was only when Pharaoh died that the Jewish people showed any visible or conventional sign of concern. Shmot, Exodus II

כג וַיְהִי בַיָּמִים הָרַבִּים הָהֵם, וַיָּמָת מֶלֶךְ מִצְרַיִם, וַיֵּאָנְחוּ בְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל מִן-הָעֲבֹדָה, וַיִּזְעָקוּ; וַתַּעַל שַׁוְעָתָם אֶל-הָאֱלֹהִים, מִן-הָעֲבֹדָה.
23 And it came to pass in the course of those many days that the king of Egypt died; and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage.
כד וַיִּשְׁמַע אֱלֹהִים, אֶת-נַאֲקָתָם; וַיִּזְכֹּר אֱלֹהִים אֶת-בְּרִיתוֹ, אֶת-אַבְרָהָם אֶת-יִצְחָק וְאֶת-יַעֲקֹב.
24 And God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.
כה וַיַּרְא אֱלֹהִים, אֶת-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל; וַיֵּדַע, אֱלֹהִים. {ס}
25 And God saw the children of Israel, and God took cognizance of them. {S}

G-d sent Moshe to the scene, but his leadership wasn't so readily accepted. And even when they had finally left Egypt, the Jewish People kept trying to get back there at every opportunity, only remembering the "good."

Modern commentators have compared the stages Bnai Yisrael went through in ancient Egypt to the gradual persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany, which culminated in their systematic murder. In Ancient Egypt, G-d interfered and sent Moses to save them. That was because the entire Jewish People was enslaved. During the rise of Nazi Germany there were Jews in other parts of the world, and nationalist Zionist Jews in Eretz Yisrael, who were supposed to save European Jewry, but they didn't. The European rabbis of the time also instructed their followers to stay put, rather than be corrupted by the assimilated life-style in other countries, like the United States and Eretz Yisrael. They waited for the goyim to save them. The goyim didn't have saving Jews, stopping the Holocaust, on their agenda; so Jews continued to be murdered until the war was over. That's why six million were murdered.

We're in Eretz Yisrael, our promised land. How can I be comparing us to Bnai Yisrael as slaves in Egypt, or European Jewry during the Holocaust or Soviet Jewry in the USSR? It's the silence. There's a lack of faith in "democratic" means, in the government and in demonstrations. Even massive prayer vigils have proven disappointing. Those of us who were among the half a million Jews who had massed on the Kotel, including those who couldn't get into the plaza, remember that it didn't stop Disengagement. It was
ignored by the international press.

We aren't like the Jewish slaves in Egypt, because whether we meet in mass demonstrations or not, we are crying out in pain to G-d. We are also trying to utilize whatever media we can, yes, including blogs, to let the world know.

And this isn't like Nazi Germany, because we are in Eretz Yisrael, and we're neither leaving nor expecting others to save us. But similar to those days, there is much going on behind the scenes that the world isn't aware of. There was Jewish Resistance to the Nazi brutality. And there were righteous Jews who were willing to give up their limited rations and even lives to live as Jews.

The big difference between today in Israel and Soviet Jewry is in the eyes. The eyes of today's Jewish pioneers are not silent. There's no fear. There's strength and pride in being Jewish and settling the Land.

I've spoken to some of the kids who spent weeks and months in Israeli jails after being arrested for protesting Disengagement. They refused to recognize the authority of the judges to judge right from wrong, since the judges' criteria are anti-Jewish. These brave children were not broken. There's eyes are alive and strong.

When the Israeli riot police came to Amona last year to destroy homes and stop the demonstrations, they expected their armor and horses to frighten the demonstrators. They were enraged at the way the kids stared them down and tried to argue with them. Some of the police brutality was from the frustration of those bullies who expected the crowds to flee. They tried to beat the pride out of the kids.

Those kids were amazing. I remember seeing a couple of young teens arguing with police on the road to Jerusalem afterwards. From the body-language it was clear that the kids were stronger.

In ancient Egypt the enslaved Jews fought back with more and more babies, and today the Jewish birthrate in YESHA is also very high. Has G-d decided that the Moshiach will come when we old people are gone, like the slaves had to die off before Bnai Yisrael could enter the Holy Land?

It's obvious that we adults don't have a solution. The State of Israel is not doing its job for the Jewish People. But living in Shiloh, I don't hear silence, I hear and feel action and protest. We are crying out to G-d. Join our prayer here in Eretz Yisrael!

And as Jews say everyday in the "Amidah," The 18 Blessing Prayer:
"…Blessed art You Hashem who causes the Pride of Salvation to flourish."
"…Hamatzmi'ach Keren Yishu'a."

Siddur photographed from
ArtScroll

6 comments:

Yoel.Ben-Avraham said...

There's a lack of faith in "democratic" means

What do you expect. Israel does NOT have a true democracry. The politicans are NOT elected by the people (the electorate) and therefore not accountable to them. They are at best chosen by the party mechanism and perhaps accountable to them. Most likely they are really selected in backrooms by the money-people, the same eighteen families Dunn & Brad Street say control the Israeli economy.

"Without a vision (of something better) the people come apart." If you have a vision of a better, more democratic, Jewish Israel share it. Check out The Orange Revolution

Batya said...

good points neighbor

Cosmic X said...

We've lost a few battles, but with God's help we will win the war.

muse said...

AMEN!

Ari Kinsberg said...

"jews of silence" is the most moving book i've ever read.

http://agmk.blogspot.com/2006/12/soviet-simhat-torah-part-two.html

sadly, it applies to many situations in addition to the specific one wiesel was writing about.

muse said...

Wiesel considered them gagged by the gulag.