Israel’s Lame Response to the Ukrainian Situation

I’m pleased to share this guest post from my friend and colleague, Rochelle Furstenberg.


Is This The Child We Yearned For?

By Rochelle Furstenberg

In 1939 my husband’s father, Yeshayahu Solly Furstenberg wrote from Berlin to a friend in the Land of Israel expressing his anguish that he had been knocking at the doors of many countries and no nation

would open its heart to him and his wife and two small children. “I don’t know what to do,” he wrote with the same desperation that millions of Jews felt at that time. “We have received expulsion orders and we have no place to go.” An ardent Zionist who believed that Jews must be independent and able to defend themselves, he would certainly have admired the courage and independence of the Ukrainians who are fighting the Russians today. He would assume that “if only we had our own sovereign state, we would stand up for justice and show mercy, not only to Jews but to all people seeking sanctuary.”

Thankfully, due to the generosity of his wife’s sister and brother-in-law, Solly Furstenberg did manage to escape Germany with his family.  But he did not live to see the establishment of the State   of Israel. He would be very proud of his people’s accomplishment. But alas, he would also have reason to be shocked that 80 years after he stood forlorn, begging for entrance to the nations of the world, the government of the sovereign state for which he yearned so deeply would turn its back on refugees  running for their lives, seeking safety from the bombs and tanks .And if Israel does allow a few to enter it  is with shameful demands of money and documents that make them promise to leave after a certain period of time

Is this the child we yearned for?

Is this the government we recently ushered in with such great expectations, only to learn that our leaders are technocrats with limited moral vision.  In Ha’aretz last Thursday Uri Misgav  gave voice to the shame that so many Israelis feel as they witness the moral bankruptcy of our present government,  a prime minister unable even to utter the name “Putin,” and squarely blame this madman for the genocide that is taking place. Bennet basks righteously in the spotlight as an international mediator, while the bombs fall mercilessly on innocent people, and Putin instructs “ the “young men to now rise and play before us.” Israel’s Foreign Minister is empathetic in nature. But he has not exhibited the courage  to oppose a coalition that places pragmatism before pity.  And then of course there’s the head of the  Opposition who sits Sphinxlike, fascinated by how a fellow dictator can wield power. The Ukrainians are  begging for arms. Is there no way that the leadership of one of the strongest, most innovative armies in the world today can find means of sending helmets and guns, not to speak of Iron Domes to this courageous Ukrainian resistance? We must be careful because of our own interests in Syria. But how can one predict how events will play out and where our interests lie. Certainly, the support of the U.S and the European Union is in our interest.

But first and foremost it is in our deepest interest to do what is right, that which we would expect our allies to do if we were attacked. We criticize those who were indifferent to Jewish suffering during the Holocaust, and yet we are stingy about taking in non-Jewish refugees. .Every country can find reasons of self-interest for being tight- fisted, but in these dark days, where is the Jewish mission to be a “light to the nations. ” Indeed, the Jewish people of Israel and the Diaspora identify with the plight of the Ukrainians, and are sending money, food, clothing and messages of encouragement  to the refugees fleeing harm. Everyday Israeli citizens seek means of helping. A friend entered a post office to send money to a relative in Kiev as the clerk was leaving. She was told that it was too late. But when the clerk heard it was for someone in the Ukraine, he quickly changed his tone. “ Ukraine? Of course, of course, I’ll take care of it,” he responded, and went back to  his desk.  As is often the case, there is a disconnect between the people and its leadership.

As  Purim approaches, perhaps we should remember Mordechai’s warning to Esther. To paraphrase it in light of today’s situation, ”Do not think to yourself that you can escape  the fate of  your fellow man. You too could be in such danger.”

About the Author
Renee Garfinkel, Ph.D. is a psychologist, television commentator and podcast host of the Van Leer Series on Ideas with Renee Garfinkel
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