Sunday, May 8, 2011

Yom HaShoah, Yom Hazikaron, Israel Independence Day--and Zion

On a recent Monday, at precisely ten am, all of Israel stopped: cars, taxis, buses, pedestrians.
Sirens wailed.
Everyone understood. Everyone stopped, stood—silent.
It was Yom HaShoah, the day and the hour and the moment to remember the Shoah, the Holocaust, when six million Jews were murdered because they were Jews.
As a new immigrant to Israel, I had never experienced this. I was impressed: the sirens’ wail, the cars askew on the road—passengers and drivers standing alongside—and a bus, seemingly frozen in mid-turn through a traffic circle.
For two minutes, nothing moved.
Later in the day, in our local mall, TV screens showed black-and-white documentary film from World War Two concentration camps. The images were stark, sobering.
They were images of strangely thin people —starving, caged, being herded (we now know) for death.
Our grandparents.
On that Monday, May 2, we honored the murdered with our sirens and our silence, to demonstrate that we do not forget.
One week later, sirens blare again, for Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day, when we remember the 22,684 soldiers who died fighting for Israel, and our 3,971 civilian terror victims. In America, these numbers would be ( based on today’s population)  1,180,000 fallen soldiers and 210,000 civilian terror victims.
The numbers are staggering.
Then, next day,  Tuesday, May 10-- Israel‘s Independence Day.
Our 63rd birthday.
Perhaps this is a moment to pause, to think about Zion.
Surely, we live in momentous times. The nations of the world seem hostile. The three hundred and forty million Arabs of this region seem daily to dehumanize Israel’s five million Jews. The language of hate permeates their media, their mosques and their schools. Iran threatens to annihilate us. The Arabs print maps of a new ‘Palestine’ in place of Israel. They announce that their new state will  be Jew-free.
The European Union and the United States scold, pressure and perhaps threaten us to give the Arabs what they want.
Arab media promotes Jew-hatred?
Doesn’t matter.
Just give the Arab what he wants.
Jews appear to have chosen two ways to respond to this pressure: Zion and anti-Zion.
 Anti-Zion wants to be like everyone else. Everyone else says, give the Arab what he wants.
Anti-Zion says, give the Arab what he wants.
For them, Zion is dead.  We must give up land.  The UN, EU and US say so. We have no choice. We must surrender land for peace.
They say, ‘peace’.
‘Everyone else’  hears, we ‘surrender’.
If we refuse, anti-Zion says, we will suffer an apocalypse, with all the chaos, confusion and fires of Hell.
An Israel newspaper, ironically called Haaretz, (’ the land’), declares that every Jew who embraces the land pushes Israel down ‘the road to Hell’.
But this apocalyptic vision is completely un-Jewish. It comes from everyone else. It derives from the idea that a Jewish national homeland is an impossibility: G-d has rejected the Jew. The Jew has no legitimate ‘Zion’.
We have no choice but to surrender.
The second approach is to embrace the land— the very thing anti-Zion fears.
This group is Zion.
Zion says, we do not surrender land.
The land is our destiny. 
It is our identity.
For some in Zion, ’land for peace’  appears indeed to be the UN’s perfect solution to the Arab-Israel conflict: the Arab gets the land and the UN gets the peace.
What will the Jew get?
Doesn’t matter.
The anti-Zion vision will bring a two-state solution and with that, as former Israel UN Ambassador Abba Eban once said, we will get Auschwitz borders.
It could be a Nazi’s dream for the modern Jew.
The Zion vision is different; it accepts no compromise on land.
What does that get us?
We do not know.
We do not ask.
We do not surrender.
In Zion, some believe that we do not hold onto this land because of our strength, might or power—or the UN; we hold this land because it is the will of the G-d of Israel.
The G-d of Israel spoke it-- and today, after the Holocaust of Europe, five million Jews live it.
We do not surrender what belongs to G-d.
G-d owns this land, not us. He gives it to whomever He pleases.
 He has promised this land to the Jew.
If everyone else complains about that, our Prime Minister should reply, “Can’t help you. I don’t own the land. Go talk to the Owner.”
 Zion knows what the Arab knows (and what anti-Zion refuses to accept): when the Jew removes himself from his religion, the Arab will separate him from his land.
It is that simple.
Perhaps this is why anti-Zion worries about Hell.
Perhaps it is why Zion is so energetic and strong.
Perhaps Zion is the reason we have a birthdate to celebrate.

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