Naphtali Perlberger

Is War the Second Front?

It is Erev Shabbos and soon we will pass through the potential of transitioning from the mundane to the holy, but will it work for most of us as we open our Torah to begin anew the annual cycle that begins with Creation, that begins with bringing order to chaos? Will “Let there be light?” work its magic this time? Did it for the millions in the concentration camps who had no calendars to tell them which day of horror was metaphysically, Shabbos?

On one level – the one that bombarded our senses in Golus since Shemini Atzeres/Simchas Toarh – the barbarism of pure animals that is the hallmark of Hamas (and centuries of progenitors) was in our face, as a cancer overcoming all our senses, all our thoughts! For the most part, even world figureheads and news outlets covered the week in the prism of moral clarity. But, sadly, it seems (and fearfully, in reality) the news outlets, the questions from the press to leaders at the podium, social media, and the outpouring of anti-Israel, anti-Jewish rallies is slowly creeping into each corner of the world. The tide may be turning, from sympathy to condemnation — an old wound re-opening OR are we fooling ourselves, never healed!

Technology, instantaneous communication, social media all provide benefits no one could have dreamed of in my own lifetime that has spanned World War II to Now. Access to information, knowledge, learning far exceeds anything conceived of just two decades ago. Rather than hearing of stories that some war bride was writing letters to her new husband before she learned that he had been killed in battle months ago, that revelation comes in seconds and minutes, unless names are withheld for security reasons or the inability to identify the massacred until DNA testing.

Years ago, I wrote a piece in the Times of Israel warning that the “War of Words” was the real battleground, and that by the sheer volume of Jew haters in the world, it was a war that had to be fought vigorously, or lost by either overwhelming hate messages or by our silence or inaction. As Albert Einstein wrote:“The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” Adding to that cold truth are the many words of Martin Luther King, Jr., among which is “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

Our present day foreign enemies — China, Russia, Iran – the list goes on – have tapped into technology and have transformed that gift into a weapon of war, perhaps the most effective and far-reaching! After all, unless you are literally in Israel or Gaza right now, the world only sees and hears what it will be shown and told! Hamas knows that!

As I write this Erev Shabbos (ironically also Friday the 13th) less than twelve hours ago, Israel asked the UN to let the people of northern Gaza know that they should leave the area in the next twenty-four hours. But, can they leave? Egypt has closed its borders and no neighboring Arab country wants Palestinians – just as they did not open their arms in the seventy-five years since 1948. I fear – but is there any doubt – that part of Hamas strategy is to showcase the human shields they will use to broadcast Israeli aggression. All the leaflets and radio warnings Israel makes routinely before it retaliates after an unprovoked attack – will not drown out or counter what our enemies know is our Achilles heal – carefully crafted media coverage to take our consciences away from the evil of slaughtering, torturing, raping, beheading, burning alive and kidnapping men, women, elderly and children as young as six months!

And the media will do so – out of ignorance, out of the need to sensationalize, or is it something much more subversive and evil? Hamas knows that its strength is not in numbers or weapons, but in public opinion. If the world is flooded with images of civilians, who were prevented from evacuating by Hamas, killed and injured, especially if they are children, the elderly or infirm, then the horrors of last week which triggered all of this, funded and trained by Iran, will fade away!

Israel as the oppressor is a familiar and captivating excuse for antisemitism – it always has been! It does not matter that Hitler’s prime directive was the eradication of Jews even after the Allies were closing in on him. It does not matter that Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, and the endless list of enemies have as their goal the obliteration of the State of Israel and the extinction of the Jewish people.

What is even scarier and more horrific, perhaps than the war itself — wherever, how long and to what extent it will go — is the global protestations, and, on this day, Iran has called for a “global jihad”), G-d forbid, outright violence, that is upon us! Antisemitism, not just in words, but in the translation of hatred into a distorted “moral” crusade, is a familiar place Jews find themselves, echoing back to Biblical times!

We must not remain silent! If we are not holding the rifles and facing our enemy eye-to-eye, we must not fall into the despair, helplessness and sheep-like resignation to overwhelming enemies, human and technological. As an observant Jew, we are called to pray, learn torah, give tzedaka and do good, individually and collectively. I am so proud of the hundreds of thousands of Israelis and other nationalities that, without hesitation, are ready to fight! So many young men and women, safe in America and other countries, are getting on planes to join and do whatever they can to help.

Achdus – Unity – of our People is what is needed at this time, especially as the forces of Evil get stronger and stronger, not on the battlefield, but through the War of Words. The words of Einstein and Martin Luther King must penetrate our minds and hearts. The voices WILL get louder – coming out of universities, institutions, and ultimately, I suspect, governments – but that is our history!  We will prevail!

On a personal and religious level, I believe completely that G-d will be our General of Generals! I believe in the Covenant – it was the first and foremost promise made in the Torah that is our life-blood, our blueprint for living. For all of you who doubt, who question either the existence of G-d or his caring for us, stand up for Israel, stand up for the survival of the Jewish People. It truly does not matter if you bear arms or speak out in the presence of doubt. It only matters that you do not allow the War of Words to disarm, to crush and cause you to surrender!  Israel’s survival is the moral imperative – without it, without the counter-balance of Good, Evil will prevail. We cannot let that happen! The clarion call must ever be: AM YISROEL CHAI!

About the Author
Naphtali Perlberger is a senior lecturer for AISH HaTorah and gives weekly shiurim at Chabad of Golden Beach and Aish Chaim of the Main Line. He is one of the founders and a past president of the Philadelphia Community Kollel. He is Founder & President of Philadelphia Chapter of Children of the Holocaust, and past FJA Chairman of Men's Organizations; past President of Kosloff Torah Academy; and, talk show host for a radio show, "G-d is Listening".
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