Tonight we mark Holocaust Memorial Day, or as it is known in Hebrew, Yom HaShoah.
The date set for this day is intentional. First we remember and mourn all those millions murdered by the Nazis. Then, next week, we mark Memorial Day-Yom HaZikaron, for all those killed in the IDF, and by terrorists. And only after these two days, can we celebrate Israel’s Independence Day, Yom HaAtzmaut.
Since inception of the State of Israel in May, 1948, there’s an understood ‘given’ that the Holocaust can never, and will never reoccur. Except, that’s not necessarily so.
First, it is essential to clarify one major point, actually the core of our existence today in Israel.
There are those who believe, and express, that the State of Israel was created as a refuge for the Jewish people, prodded on by international guilt pangs after World War II.
Actually there were Jewish activist leaders among the ‘early Zionists’ at the end of the 19th century and coming into the 20th, who so believed that such a ‘refuge’ was the only way to save the Jewish people. But they were far from being the first, or original Zionists.
For some two thousand years, traditional Jews have repeated three times a day, 365 days a year, ‘And our eyes shall see Your return to Zion, with mercy. Praised be our G-d, who returns His Presence to Zion.
Major Jewish commentators, over the centuries, discussed and determined the necessity of Jews to live in Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel. Some of the most significant, influential Jews of the past 1000 years made Aliyah, that is ‘came up’ to live in Israel in the mid-1500s. This process climaxed in the late 1700s and early 1800 when students of the Ba’al Shem Tov and the Vilna Gaon started coming to Israel.
In other words, the intrinsic rights of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel are as eternal as is the Torah, and have nothing to do with external threats, be they physical or spiritual.
That having been said, by way of a short introduction, undoubtedly, our People’s destiny was and is, to a certain degree, shaped by where we are. Had the Jews of Europe moved to Israel in the early 1900s, a Holocaust such as witnessed during World War II could not have happened.
This is perhaps best expressed by Rabbi Yisachar Shlomo Teichtel, a Torah scholar of the highest level. Living in Hungary he greatly opposed the new ‘Zionist movement.’ However, witnessing the horrors of the Holocaust, and then experiencing them first-hand as the Nazis invaded Hungary towards the end of the war, he realized that his views and philosophies concerning the Jewish return to its Homeland were mistaken; had Jews moved back to Israel, they would not have perished in the Holocaust.
As such, he wrote a famous book, Em HaBanim Smicha as ‘tshuva’ or repentance, for his thoughts. The book details why Jews should live in Israel.
So today, here we are, back in Israel. And it can’t happen again.
Truthfully, it is quite difficult for me to comprehend how it is that my brethren don’t see it, that they are blind to it. What more has to happen before everyone wakes up!? The danger is both spiritual and physical.
The patterns and trends of both scream out to be heard. It makes no difference if you are a liberal Jew in Pittsburgh or a traditional Jew in San Diego. (Remember, the Nazis considered a person to be Jewish if he had a Jewish grandparent.)
I have seen articles discussing the necessity for Jews to be able to protect themselves in Synagogues, including armed guards at the entrances. But what about the kids? In France, or in England? Places where a Jew must hide the fact that he’s a Jew to prevent being attacked.
The spiritual threats are no less daunting. There cannot be any mincing of words. Jews in the United States are disappearing at a rate faster than the speed of light. As reported in a 2018 Pew survey: “…the percentage of Jews who have completely abandoned their tradition – a stunning 42%, or, were we to still accept the figure of 6 million American Jews as having anything to do with reality, then the past few decades have witnessed a mass migration of more than 2.5 million Jews away from their Judaism.”
This is not a holocaust? This isn’t what Hitler set out to accomplish – the annihilation of the Jews?
But of course the cherry on the icing is saved for last. How can the political expressions of anti-Semitism be disregarded? Be they euphemisms or straight out of the book. Be they expressed or be they ignored.
Current events in the United States, England, France and other countries around the world leave little room for doubt. The directions are clear as day.
And if all this isn’t enough, well, the NY Times cartoon certainly was the best of the best – or the worst of the worst. Keeping in mind that the Times owners are themselves Jewish. When Jewish self-hate reaches the stage of intentional cooperation and participation in Jew-bashing of the lowest form, well, my friends, we have a real problem.
However, do not despair. There is a solution. But only one. There is no other.
Jews must come to Israel. Jews must live in Israel. Jews must make their families in Israel. Jews must have their children in Israel.
Israel is the only place in the world where Jews should be – where they must be.
Living in Israel is the only medicine that can save the Jewish people from another holocaust, be that holocaust self-inflicted, or caused from without – or both.
Being Jewish in Israel does not mean religious coercion. But Jews in Israel always know they are Jews. Our language, Hebrew, our week, starting on Sunday and ending on Shabbat. Our holidays are Jewish holidays, with everyone celebrating as they want. And despite the arguments, frictions, inner-turmoil, as the saying goes, ‘it’s not because you are Jewish.’
Judaism of Galut, of Diaspora, of the world, is facing a death sentence. When the doctor prescribes a horrible tasting medicine, or treatments with indescribable side-effects, but determines that there is ‘no other way,’ so you take it or leave it. If you take it, you live. If you leave it, you die.
Jews still have a choice. Jews can take it or leave it. They can come to Israel because they WANT to come it Israel, because they love Israel, because they understand that Israel is where Jews should be – like a fish in water.
Or they can wait. Until it really really gets bad. When the violence begins to resemble more and more the pogroms of Eastern Europe. When overtly anti-Semitic politicians are elected to higher and higher offices. When Jews who have forgotten that they are Jews are reminded, the hard way, by their next-door neighbors.
Don’t say it can’t happen. We’ve been there, done that. It doesn’t work.
The best way to mark Holocaust Memorial Day is from here in Israel, thereby preventing another one, forcing us, G-d-forbid, to have to mourn the disappearance of millions more.
Jews: Come home. Now.