This is a "feel-good" sermon that says nothing new and avoids an essential truth:
The Muslims, as followers of the Qur'an and believers in Shari'a, will not--indeed,
cannot--rest till Israel is destroyed as a political state and the Jews there either
annihilated or driven fully away. It's a matter of their essential theology that must not be denied, and no amount of "education" of Americans or caterwauling about
the "world's" supposed obligation to protect the Jewish People is going to make
one whit of difference about this.
As long as we Jews live in "hope" alone or "cautious optimism" about "peace processes" that are opaque political stunts engineered by cynical politicians who know better, we cannot complain when things go awry and the Muslims become ever more pugnacious, violent, and more militarily powerful(a la an Iran with its impending offensive military nuclear potential). Why? For we are then complicit in their ugly behavior by rewarding it with passivity,appeasement, "tolerance", and even cowardice.
When Jewish Americans/American Jews--and especially our "leaders" like Rabbi Dollin--start changing their self-avowed consciousness from "humble," supposedly "enlightened" sheepishness to actively encouraging Jews to develop a masculine self-defense mentality, learn practical skills of self-protection and defiance, and
lobby our elected politicians to adopt a strong, resolute, rationally aggressive, pro-America, pro-Israel, pro-Liberty mien, the Muslims here and abroad will eventually start to change their tune--and their actions. Sadly, a bigger war with them in the shorter term is truly inevitable, because that's the clear and direct charge to them of their holy writ. But it is our internal moral, mental, and physical strength that will determine whether we will win, and how many of us will die--whether a relative few or many.
The next Arab attacks against Israel will be a good deal bloodier than either 2006 or 2008. If our people in the Diaspora continue to believe it can be avoided or averted by this latest round of "peace talks" and therefore act accordingly by remaining blithely complacent and distracted, they are then helping to ensure that more Israelis--and now, likely Diaspora Jews too--will die when the balloon finally does go up again in the Middle East. So, the really key"change" that must happen is really with us, not the Muslim Arabs and Palestinians, RabbiBruce Dollin's "cautious optimism" because "as Jews, we have to hope" not withstanding.
L'Shana Tova 5771
Rosh Hashana 5771: Two Narratives
September 13, 2010 Hebrew Educational Alliance
Last week, Mahmud Abbas, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Barak Obama sat down for dinner in the White House. Plenty of press; men shaking hands; smiling, and heralding the beginning of another peace process. I have been asked what I think about all of this. And I have said: I’m cautiously optimistic. Optimistic because how can we not be optimistic? We have to try, even if it takes a hundred peace processes; even if we have to see a hundred U.S. presidents sitting down to dinner with Israeli and Palestinian to achieve peace. The Jewish People is “rodef shalom,” a seeker of peace and we will pursue peace until the end of days. But I am “cautiously” optimistic: cautiously. And why the caution? Because there are two stories here that clash. Two stories of two peoples. Palestinian and Jewish.
And I am biased. The Jewish Story is mine ….and yours. I believe that my story can include a State of Palestine living side by side with the State of Israel. I believe my story can include Arabs, Muslims and Palestinians. But I am cautious because I don’t believe, at least today, that the Palestinian story can include me and you; the Jewish People. I believe that peace will not come until their story can include us.
I think it wise for us to spend a few moments this morning listening to the Palestinian story because it is a story being told today around the globe. It is told to every Arab child in Israel. It is told in every Arab country in the Middle East. It is told to the almost 2 billion Muslims who live scattered on every continent on the globe. And it is told on university campuses throughout America and to college students in Europe. This story is gaining credibility throughout the world and is making headway even in the American Jewish Community. We need to hear their story if only to reaffirm and reiterate our own.
Here is how I understand what they are saying. Their narrative begins with the Koran; the prophet Mohammed, 6th century CE, mysteriously rides his horse Al Barak from Mecca to Jerusalem, prays upon the Shakra, the foundation stone of the Holy Temple and then ascends to heaven. Jerusalem becomes a holy site for Muslims. The 7th century: Caliph Omar conquers Palestine in the name of Islam and Palestine becomes holy ground for Muslims forever. Late seventh century, the Dome of the Rock was built on the Haram al Sharif, the Temple Mount: a site of pilgrimage for Muslims worldwide.
As their story goes, : the Arabs of Palestine have lived on their sacred soil for 1400 years. They are the indigenous people of Palestine.
Tyrants from Europe invade their land. Christian crusaders, Ottoman Turks, the British and now the Jews.
15th century to World War I: the Ottoman Turks occupy Palestine. They are cruel taskmasters who steal the youth of Palestine to fight their imperialist foreign wars. World War I: the British convince the Palestinians to fight on their side against the Turks with the promise of Palestinian liberation and self-rule. The British lie. They have already promised the land to the Jews. Balfour declaration: 1917. We will come back to it. The Allies win the war and the British retain colonial control over Palestine.
Late 19th Century: European Jews come to Palestine. With money from world Jewry, money from Jewish Europe and money from the Jewish United States, foreign Jews buy Arab factories and industries. They buy land, they occupy the land, and they steal the land that had been worked by Palestinians for a century. The Jews work the land; they eject Palestinian farmers from their own sacred soil.
Palestinians fight back: riots and boycotts from the 1920’s onward. But British officers train Zionist militias which then attack Palestinian villages during the night. Jewish militias terrorize Palestinian families.
Hitler rises to power in Europe. He kills Jews in Europe. When the war is over, the British and the rest of the world feel sorry for the Jews. The United Nations, out of pity for Jews, pass the Partition Plan, dividing up Palestine into two unequal pieces, giving the best land to the Jews and what is left to the Palestinians. Palestinians reject the plan.
Nakba. Catastrophe. 1947. Jews attack Palestinian villages and massacre the innocent inhabitants. The Zionist army expels Arabs from their homes: in Jerusalem, in Haifa, in Acco, in Jaffa. The Zionist army expels them at the point of a gun. 750,000 Palestinians. Now refugees to Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt. The Palestinians are homeless. The Jews occupy all of Palestine. The Palestinians who are left, cannot travel freely, they cannot work, they cannot run their lives as men should be able to run their lives. They are poor and live in degradation. They are mistreated and abused by the Jews. Families disintegrate. Nakba. Catastrophe. It is 1947, it is 2010. Nothing has changed.
The settlements. Slowly, over years, Jews steal more and more land that belongs to Palestinians. They put up a wall to divide the land in half. Apartheid. Palestinians have no rights; the land is occupied by foreigners, by European colonialists, like the crusaders, like the Turks, like the British;
now the Jews.
The Jewish lobby controls Washington and Washington controls the world. American imperial hegemony props up the Jew who persecutes the Palestinian. A heinous historical injustice has been committed against the Palestinian People. The Israelis are powerful, the Palestinians weak. The Israelis are rich, the Palestinians poor. The Israelis are cruel, the Palestinians, helpless. The Israelis are Goliath, the Palestinians are David.
The Palestinian People will never give up until all of Palestine is liberated, until the refugees and their children and grandchildren return to their homes, until the eternal aspirations of the Palestinian people on their own sacred soil, are realized once and for all.
This is their story. A story that is told on every continent on earth. A story that is taught to Palestinian grade school students whose curriculum includes the glory of armed struggle against the Jews. A story that has served as an excuse for Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia to invade and seek the annihilation of the Jewish State. The annihilation of the Jewish State, mind you –not a two-state solution, not partition, not a secular democracy in Palestine. But the annihilation of Israel by throwing the Jews into the sea.
But that was the past. Granted. That was Nassar and Assad and Hussein. They’re all gone now. Well then let’s go to the present. Let’s go to the present. Hamas and Hezbollah; they too use the same narrative of the Palestinian as an excuse for terrorism, kidnapping, murder, and missile attacks. And of most concern today, the Palestinian narrative is used as an excuse for a credible Iranian threat to destroy the State of Israel with nuclear weapons that they are only months away from building. For all of Israel’s enemies and for most Palestinians, the logical conclusion of the Palestinian story, one way or the other, by peaceful means or armed struggle, is the eradication of the Jewish State of Israel from the world.
Well, we have a story too. With a very different conclusion. We rely on the State of Israel to protect itself, its territory, its people, its towns and cities, from threats in a hostile world. But the State of Israel relies on us, American Jews to tell our story at least to America, perhaps also, to the entire world.
We must tell our story to whoever will listen. And here is our story.
Jews have lived in the land of Israel for 3800 years, since the time of Abraham. Modern archeology finds evidence of Israelite settlement in 1000 BCE, 1600 years before the birth of Mohammed. 6th century BCE, the Babylonians destroy the First Temple in Jerusalem. The first Exile. Under Cyrus, Jews return. Second Temple. The Bible is completed. The Talmud begun. 70 CE, the Romans destroy the second Temple. Exile and dispersion again. Christian anti-Semitism and the accusation: “the Jews killed Christ.” To Christians, Jewish degradation at the hands of Christians proves God’s rejection of the Jews. Now the Christians are God’s chosen people. In the Muslim world, Jews are dhimmis, second class citizens who cannot own land.
The Middle Ages. Jews: merchants, money lenders, hated and reviled, pariahs; tortured, raped, burned at the stake, massacred…expelled. The Jews cannot live in Christian lands, kicked out of Spain, France, Italy, Germany, England, Austria, Prussia, and Russia.
Yet wherever they go, Jews preserve their law, culture, language, prayers, diet, and their children are educated in the traditions of their ancestors. Their children read. And twice a year, Yom Kippur and Pesach, they chant and pray: “Next Year In Jerusalem.” And they sing: am yisrael chai, the Jewish people will live.
Middle 1800’s. Pogroms, persecution, …there is no future in Europe.
Brave men and women make a choice. Will the Jewish people live or will they die here in Europe at the hands of their enemies? They choose life. They chose self- determination. For the first time in 2000 years, they take their fate into their own hands. For the first time they reject being the victim in history and they choose to make history. They chose peoplehood. They choose a nation with Hebrew as its language, Judaism as its culture and the land of Israel as its homeland.
There is no future for Jews in Europe and they move to the Holy Land. They obey Turkish law. They live in the cities and run businesses. They raise money from Jews abroad to purchase land from Arabs at inflated prices. They work, till the soil, plant the trees, drain the swamps. Their life is hard but they make the land green, they make the land fruitful. They support themselves by the work of their hands and the sweat of their brows. They prosper.
The British, World War I. Will the Jews fight for them or for their enemies? The British make a promise: 1917, Balfour. “His Majesty’s government views with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine…” The Jews will be a nation and the Jews will live with their Arab neighbors.
British mandate in Palestine. More Jews come to Palestine. They work the land, they grow their businesses. Arabs feel threatened claiming that the Jews are stealing their land. Arabs revolt. There is violence, Jews are killed. The Haganah: Jews do not rely on the British for their personal safety and security. For the first time in 2000 years, Jews protect Jews. The Holocaust. 6 million Jews murdered. European Jewry eradicated. Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany. Jewish refugees from Arab countries. Israel wants them all and Israel absorbs them. 1947. United Nations Partition Plan. A Jewish State, a Palestinian State: side by side. A two-state solution. America supports it. The Soviet Union supports it. The world supports it. The Zionists support it. The Arabs of Palestine have their State. The Arabs of Palestine have self-rule, self- determination; they have sovereignty, their dream has come true. And they reject it. The Palestinians don’t want a part of Palestine. They want all of Palestine.
War erupts. The Haganah prevails. Palestinians panic. They flee from their villages and towns. 750,000 thousand Palestinian refugees to Egypt, to Lebanon, to Transjordan, to Arab countries. Arab countries, by the way, that spread over 9 million square miles of territory. Arab refugees flee to countries that share their language, ethnicity, culture, and religion. And they are not wanted, they are not welcome, they are not absorbed. A million and a half Jewish refugees arrive in Israel at the same time. Israel: a territory that spreads over (not 9 million square miles) but 8 thousand square miles. Jewish refugees who go to Israel. They have different languages, different cultures, different ethnicities, different worldviews, different values. Israel absorbs them all! Palestinian refugees in Arab countries, none wanted, none absorbed.
The regular armies of Arab Nations attack. Israel fights back. 7 wars: 48, 56, 67, 73, 82, 06, 08. After each war, Israel agrees to a cease fire and then begins peace negotiations with whoever will speak to them. The peace processes. Israel gives back land for peace. Peace with Egypt, peace with Jordan. No peace with the Palestinians. The year 2000, Camp David. Israel offers to the Palestinians 97% of the West Bank and offers East Jerusalem as the capitol of the new State of Palestine. Again. For the second time in history, a Palestinian state and a Jewish state living side by side; a two-state solution. America supports it. The world supports it. The Israelis support it. The Arabs of Palestine have their state. The Arabs of Palestine have self-rule, self- determination; they have sovereignty, their dream has come true. And again. Yassir Arafat, the sole representative of the Palestinian People rejects the offer. He rejects peace. The Palestinians don’t seem to want part of Palestine, they seem to want all of Palestine.
No peace. Intifada. Rockets. Hezbollah, Hamas, Iran, no peace. I believe that if Israel’s sworn enemies were to put down their guns and bombs today, then tomorrow there would be a just and lasting peace in the Middle East…there would be a sovereign State of Palestine right next to the State of Israel. I believe, too, that if the Israelis put down their guns and bombs today…..then tomorrow, there would be no Israel.
A peace process began again just a few days ago. Netanyahu, Abbas, Obama, seated together at dinner in the White House. The Israelis want peace. The Americans want peace. The Palestinians want…I don’t know.
I am cautiously optimistic. Optimistic because we have to be. We have to have hope. We have to try again. Maybe this time…maybe this time. But cautious. Because Israel will offer to the Palestinians, yet again, a state of their own, but Israel will not offer the Palestinians the dissolution of Israel. It’s not about borders, water, security, refugees or settlement freezes. These are the details. There are sensible solutions to all of these issues. It’s not about the details; it’s about the Palestinian story making room for a Jewish state. If the Palestinians can create a new story for themselves, then I am convinced, there will be a new story written in the Middle East, the center of which will be a proud, independent State of Palestine. If the Palestinians can write a new story for themselves that includes the existence of the State of Israel as a homeland for the Jewish People, they will create for themselves a future worth living.
So in the meantime, what do we do with our story? Well, we tell it and tell it again, especially to Americans because Israel cannot survive without America by its side. But to tell it, we have to learn it and we have to teach it our kids. Young American Jews did not live through the Holocaust. They did not live through the establishment of the State of Israel. They were not in shul as you and I were in 1973, Yom Kippur, when we thought we would lose Israel for good. They have never lived a day without the State of Israel, the existence of which they simply take for granted. Many of them see Israel as all powerful and Palestinians as helpless. Some of them imagine that if Israel would just be reasonable there would be peace. They imagine that if Israel were simply to agree, there would be peace. They are embarrassed and angry when Israel defends itself because they believe that in conflicts, the powerful must be wrong and the weak must be right. They don’t understand our story because we have neglected to learn it ourselves and to teach it to them.
Our children must hear it from us. Our friends must hear it from us. Our representatives in Congress must hear it from us. The President of our country must hear it from us. No one will tell our story if we do not. The Jewish people have wandered for 2000 years and now they have come home. We deserve a home: safe, secure, and vital. And a home that is at peace with her neighbors. American support of the Jewish state begins with you and with me. Our destiny, Israel’s destiny, like our story, is in our hands.
Our Story. Natan Sharansky, 1991. In an Israeli cargo jet airlifting Ethiopian Jews from Addis Ababba for absorption and settlement in Israel. Ethiopian Jews: different language, different culture, different religious observance, and different skin color become instant citizens of the State of Israel. He writes:
“It took slightly more than one hour to fill the plane with 500 people…. I set to work as a steward, distributing water and bread. The passengers and I shared only two words: shalom and Yerushalayim. But each time our eyes met, they were smiling, responsive. I felt as though my own personal history was suddenly being shared by these hundreds of Jews from Ethiopia; I had come out of a Soviet prison where I had been held as a political hostage. But here was a whole people who had been held against their will, pawns of a doomed regime. As the sun rose, our plane approached the Promised Land;
The pilot brought the plane in low so we could see the land and it was announced in Amharic that below us was the land of Israel. We all began to applaud and never stopped during the whole descent. Israeli songs came over the loudspeakers and scenes of Israel were flashed on the movie screens even as they flashed through the windows. Everybody was laughing and crying. This was the one moment I had come for. Here were no blacks and whites, educated or unschooled, believers or secularists, Russians or Ethiopians or Israelis or Americans. Here was one “am yisrael” returning to its land. The applause, the singing, the crying, the African chanting, all merged into one impossible and triumphant symphony. We were coming home.”
As a people, we will continue to live. We, Jews, in the 21st century, will continue to make the same choice as our Zionist ancestors. We choose life. We chose self- determination. We chose peoplehood. For the first time in 2000 years, we take our fate into our own hands and we chose Hebrew as its language, Judaism as its culture and the land of Israel as its homeland. Our story is in essence, a story of redemption and we will be redeemed. And we will be redeemed.
Rabbi Bruce Dollin