The Jews have long been likened to the miner’s canary. The miner’s canary is that fateful companion who is brought along for the miners’ descent. Its job is to test the air for the unseen menace of gasses. For the canary is uniquely ‘gifted’ with an extra sensitivity to methane; that invisible poison beyond the grasp of the common nose; a gas that can accumulate – most fatally – in mining tunnels. That which others can not yet sense, the canary knows in her bones. And so the canary in its cage dies a death by gas and its demise becomes a mournful message, a crucial signal, to any miner smart enough to heed it.
Jews warn the world of the presence of hidden noxious cultural currents. It is why the Jews were the signature carnage of the Nazi regime; sending forth a world-wide message that this evil is ruthless and headed for your shores. It is why the destruction of ancient Judea preceded Roman world-domination in 70 CE. It is why Jewish persecution in Spain signaled an era of murderous fundamentalism. It is why the pogroms of the late 1800’s foreshadowed the slaughter-house that Russia would become.
The jihadist mentality might be focused on the Jews destruction, but its mission is to destroy all ‘infidels’. It is all too telling that the slogan for the Houthis Yemenite terror group is “God is great, death to America, death to Israel, curse on the Jews, victory for Islam.” What first attacks the Jews will inevitably come to endanger others.
We Jews seem to be inescapably suited to that canary’s cage. Not a cheery metaphor by any means. And the image of the canary’s subterranean cage is too painfully reminiscent of our underground hostages. But here’s the secret…and why so many of us chose to brave the storm to make this place our home. The secret is to know why the canary sings.
Maya Angelou knew why the caged bird sings…well, I know why the miner’s canary sings and its reason is my guide. The miner’s canary sings because it has agreed to be the one to bear the darkness where the treasures are buried – the mine. Agreed to be the one to descend to the depths in order to protect. In order to lift the call – to intone the bells. Willing to fall for the sake of a greater good.
The canary sings because when the world is in danger, our task is to redeem it.
With Hamas at our doorstep, with Iran pushing fast against us, Israel will keep singing. With the warble of a world-blackened name, we will sing. With the scorners and the haters harangues, we will sing. We will be the bird that blasts its anthem to the ends of the earth that it might be heard and heeded…because the world is worth it.
And here’s the final secret. We might have gone down with the gasses of Birkenau like a bird caught in a cage….but now we have the State of Israel. This time our bird has no bars to bind it. It has autonomy. It has its song if the world would but heed it. And it has its wings, lifted high with the investment of our combined and committed energies.
The Jews may be are the world’s miner’s canary, but Israel is its wings.