Streams of Anxious Consciousness – 30

My family asked me when I would stop writing these Streams. I replied, when I no longer have something to share. Thus, I continue. I know it helps me much. I hope it can offer you some support, education, perspective and challenge.

Until now, for some unknown reason, I chose to use Roman numerals for listing each Stream. I knew when I arrived at 30, I would change to natural numbers. We are here. Thank you for going with the flow and understanding.

Friday morning, I went back to visit the villa that hosted the infamous Wannsèe conference. It was at that haunting place in early 1942, that German leadership enjoyed wine and caviar and listened to classical music, sitting with a gorgeous view of the picturesque lake behind them. Within ninety minutes time, those powers decided how they would deal with the “Jewish Problem” in Europe.
Birds chirping, trees and the surrounding areas littered in autumnal leaves, the stillness of the lake seen from the dining room window makes it look like glass, all lend itself to this feeling like you are walking in a painting.

Here, in this gorgeous place, while enjoying opulence, scrumptious foods and lavish décor, evil people decided to do unthinkable acts to Jews. Hannah Arendt wrote about the banality of evil – the limp reaction of the gruesome and barbaric acts of which Nazi leadership instructed underlings to complete. Wannsèe always underscores the banality of evil.

Being there now, I could not help but think of the masterminds responsible for the barbaric act of October 7th. It was not devised in a tunnel and was not funded from the taxpayers of Gaza.

It was devised and implemented and funded most likely by Iranian Revolutionary Guardsmen and Iranian leadership along with Hamas brass, sitting in billion-dollar, gold encrusted hotels in Qatar and drinking fancy teas and expensive coffees and tasting rare foods, all while discussing this maniacal scheme and intention to kill Jews inside of Israel. Then, these planners and organizers implored their mindless henchman to carry out their dirty work. These Hamas terrorists belong in a category reserved for Ivan ‘the Terrible’ Marchenko, the Ukrainian guard of Treblinka who savored his gruesome task of killing Jews, or Adolf Eichmann who was part of the Wannsèe Conference.

Soon, I am headed to Israel. I am already having nightmares about what I might see, who I might meet and the trauma my kinsfolk has, and is, enduring. To think some sipped from fine china with their pinkies in the air when mapping out this gruesome day is more than my mind or heart can accept. It was an encore of the banality of evil.

The headlines have been replete with calls for a cease fire. Two articles in two different news sources printed this week claimed that the window for action by Israel against Hamas is closing. The United States’ tolerance for Israel’s actions will soon evaporate. Other countries will join that chorus.

What is the statute of limitations on empathy? How long does morality get the spotlight? When do we move on from the 1400 dead and the 242 captives? Is there a time-length for each soul? Do murdered kids measure differently on the empathy meter? How about raped girls? Kidnapped babies?

The answer is never. It is seared into our minds, like numbers tattooed on our arms. For eternity. Perpetuity. Generations. Israeli resolve to live in peace and security will and must never end. We learned painfully, that when we take our hands off the wheel, even for a little while, there will be those who try to violently steer us over the cliff.

Furthermore, the idea that we should stop our war on terror soon is a mighty large sentiment by a country that spent a decade in Vietnam, and cost 58,000 lives and billions of dollars. It is a hefty sentiment from that same country that spent two decades in Iraq and Afghanistan, lost thousands of soldiers and scores more were wounded physically and emotionally and no clear victory. Today, the Taliban is still in control and powerful, Iraq was crawling with Isis and the USA tells Israel to pause. Really? Is that the best course forward? The same country that is spending trillions (and rightly so) on aid to Ukraine to ensure that the evil Putin does not try and conquer Eastern Europe, telling us to pump the brakes? To halt removing terrorists from our porches and patios? Why? Because of a few misinformed and misguided mice that are roaring?

No. We cannot abide by such a request.

Israel is a country shaped by Munich and Entebbe.

In September of 1972, Palestinian terrorists snuck into the Olympic Village during the summer games in Munich and held eleven Israeli athletes hostage. The German police failed at protecting the olympians in the village, and after much negotiation, the terrorists and their Jewish hostages were moved to a nearby airport. There, a German attempt to have the terrorists eliminated and the hostages rescued was brutally botched. It resulted in all of the athletes being killed while some terrorists were captured alive and released just a few weeks later.

Frustratingly, Prime Minister Golda Meir had offered to send an elite Israeli commando unit to Munich to storm the village and try and save the athletes. German police said they would handle the situation on their turf.

They failed miserably. Jewish blood was dripping on German soil, again.

In June of 1976, Air France flight 139 was hijacked. The terrorists demanded the release of dozens of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

Prime Minister Rabin and Minister of Defense, Shimon Peres immediately assembled a bold and audacious plan called Operation Thunderbolt. The crack-team of Israeli commandos would land in Entebbe and eliminate the terrorists and take all of the hostages back to Israel.

Entebbe’s success was a modern-day miracle. More, it was a post-Munich declaration that Israel would never again relinquish responsibility to another nation to care for its citizens.

That is why this incursion into Gaza must continue. The cost of our cessation is a price no family or country can afford. We cannot leave our fate to Gaza, The United States, the United Nations or any other country.

America, you know as well as we do, that Hamas will be on your doorstep soon enough, if we fall back. We have a responsibility to remove them from our borders and allow Israelis to live and sleep in peace. If we learn from your example and ours, from Munich and from Entebbe, we must see this through until our objectives are achieved. We need your blessings, your endorsement and your support. Words of pause and cease fire, especially while Hamas holds 242 Jewish souls against their will, are not helpful, not productive and not welcome.

Eventually, this war will be over. Gaza as it was will be a faint memory. The Jewish survivors of the Gaza envelope will have a long road of therapy, support, rebuilding and trauma to deal with. It will last far past the end of this century. Israel has already committed trillions of resources and will keep moving forward to make sure those who survived will be supported and the memory of those who were murdered, will be forever be honored.

The people of Gaza deserve a future too. If we learn from the mistakes of America, we have an opportunity to see what we can establish in Gaza that will not yield the same result.

After the United States quietly and successfully funded Afghanistan’s defense against Russian aggression, we had no endgame, no strategy for after Russia walked away in defeat. Fast forward and the Afghans gave birth to the Taliban, and it was America who funded and armed much of the Taliban aggression we faced post 9/11.

Many western countries think long and hard about how to win a war. They do not think as hard about how to prevent the same war from happening again.

This will be the challenge for Israel in a post Hamas Gaza.

I want to share some ideas we should aim for and others we should not.

Under no circumstances should the United Nations be deputized as a peace keeping force in Gaza. First of all, the United Nations is naming Iran as the chair of the Human Rights Council. That is like naming me the spokesperson for under-eaters anonymous, or naming Donald Trump head of the humility commission. The United Nations does not miss an opportunity to miss the opportunity to remind the world why it is in existence. It’s resolve and purpose diminishes by the day.

Even more worrisome is the poor track record of the UN. If you visited the Lebanese border anytime in the past 15 years, one could easily see a United Nations flag waving, demarcating a UN peacekeeping outpost. Within a few yards is a Hezbollah outpost flag waving. These outposts are lined up around the border of Lebanon and Israel and the flags and posts are just a stone’s throw from one another. I am not sure if the UN peace keeping mission and Hezbollah are in cahoots, but it feels that way. Since 2000, when Israel left Beirut and since 2006, when UN resolutions insisted on a peacekeeping presence, hundreds of thousands of precision rockets have been amassed and are hidden under the noses of the UN, in nursery schools, mosques, hospitals and other protected sites in Lebanon.

This is all a long way of saying; the United Nations cannot be trusted with peace making or peace keeping.

Israel cannot and should not reoccupy Gaza. We cannot afford the cost. ‘Cost’ is a triple entendre. I mean financially and the cost of loss of life for Israeli soldiers and the cost of loss of dignity for the Palestinian people.

The Palestinian Authority cannot govern Gaza. The PA is brittle. Abbas has lost strength over time, and with his exit soon enough, who knows what will be of the Authority. To assume the PA are good partners in a hotbed like Gaza, is foolish and dangerous. Even the best intended PA officials will be overthrown, like they already have been in Jenin and Tulkarem and other West Bank enclaves.

Whatever mission is assembled, perhaps of moderate Arab countries who have no tolerance for mischief and can fund support, it MUST include a new educational system that speaks of possibility and not one that demonizes Jews and Zionism. Salam Fayaad is a noble person. He should come back and lead the initiative for the people of Gaza. Fayyad is a forward thinking, American educated, economic genius who served as the Prime Minister of Palestine for a while. He used his voice to advocate for education, investment, technology and growth. It was a harder sell than bombs and guns and he was quite literally, run out of town.

Fayyad, or someone of his ilk, along with a conglomerate of moderate peace keeping countries is what Gaza needs for a different future.

Dalia Scheindlin just authored an article in the New Republic on the least bad option for Israel. She advocates for something close to what was done for Kosovo, in 1999. But Scheindlin goes out of her way to explain this is the least-bad option, not a great option. There is a big difference. Regardless of which option is chosen or versions of different options that are cobbled together, refocusing on education in the Gaza Strip must be paramount.

When Ariel Sharon unilaterally withdrew from Gaza and Jewish entrepreneurs gifted millions of dollars of plug and play agricultural infrastructure to the people of Gaza, it was to give the Palestinians a running start towards growth. Instead, we know what they did with the sacred opportunity.

No one can tolerate more of the same or a repeat when we withdraw again. It is time to begin thinking about what can and should be in place in Gaza next.

Nary a minute passes and I do not think about the Israeli hostages. Their personal plight in tunnels and darkness, disconnected from their homes and families coupled with the indescribable torture families are living through not knowing about their loved ones, hurts my heart and mind, simultaneously.

There are no words. My fingers hurt even typing these words.

Especially crushing is the idea that babies and toddlers and six-and seven-year-olds are in Hamas hands. What will happen to them? What will their fate be? Will they be kept alive? Will they be nourished? Fed? Clothed? Taught a new language? A new religion? Will they be instructed to hate Jews? To demonize Israel? To become shahids?

The dread and horror are unspeakable and unthinkable.

I was reminded of an apocryphal story in the aftermath of World War II. One lone survivor went back to his home to find rubble. At what was his workplace, he saw no remnant of his prior life. There was no evidence of the synagogue or the schools that once were bustling in his hometown. The person searched high and low for any survivors of his family there. Months turned to years with no success. The man was alone. He could not locate any other survivors.

In despair and defeat, he would shuffle to the town square daily and feed the pigeons, sing Jewish songs and weep.

One day, a group of kids from the local orphanage were in the square and the weak spirited man was spreading the crumbs for the birds to eat. He then began to sing the words of Avinu Malkeinu and the Shema. As he did, kids from the orphanage stopped frolicking and looked up. They knew that song. It opened a recessed vault of memory. There were Jewish children given to the orphanage so that they may survive the war. This man’s song was awakening their true identity and DNA.

I would certainly want my child to live and would offer them to the custody of Christians or an orphanage who would care for them, if God forbid, I were faced with that choice from WWII.

I am not sure I would want my children to stay alive and be in Hamas’ custody. The choices are ghastly.

I can only pray that we can sing loud enough for those babies and toddlers and children to hear our voices and our songs. May their identities never wane and may those vaults of memory stay open forever.

May God bring them to their families’ embrace immediately. Please, please God.

About the Author
David-Seth Kirshner is the senior rabbi of Temple Emanu-El, a Conservative synagogue in Closter, New Jersey. He is the past President of the NY Board of Rabbis and the NJ Board of Rabbis and is a Senior Rabbinic Fellow at the Hartman Institute and serves on the Executive Committee of the JFNA. Rabbi Kirshner was appointed to the New Jersey/Israel Commission by Governors Christie and Murphy. Rabbi Kirshner is a National Council member of AIPAC.
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