by

by Paula R. Stern
Jan 18, ’06 / 18 Tevet 5766

History is replete with indignities forced on the Jewish people.
Europe is filled with the rotting remnants of concentration camps and
ghettoes, burned ashes of age-old synagogues and broken stones from
the desecrated cemeteries of our loved ones. There are not many Jews
left in these places, but there are lessons that must be heeded, pain
that must not be forgotten, and a way of thinking and acting that
must be avoided.

Out of this shattered past came a nation determined never to return
to the ghetto, never to let another nation push us down, keep us
back. Here in Israel, we were determined to be free from the
persecutions of the past. We became the glorious fighters of the
Haganah, defenders of our homeland and of our right to
self-determination. In our haste to redefine the meaning of a Jew, we
rebelled against the world demanding of us anything we did not want
to give.

We took it as our right to rescue Jews in Entebbe, held as part of a
hijacking simply because they were Jews. We dared to attack the Iraqi
nuclear reactor because it posed a clear and present danger to our
existence, and waited more than a decade until the world thanked us
for our actions.

Our emergency teams rush to scenes of disasters around the world – in
Turkey, Southeast Asia and Sinai – and while we rush to help all who
need, we remember to focus also on the Israelis and Jews who need our
help. We don’t stop looking until we find them and bring them home.
So it was our teams that found the little Jewish boy from Belgium who
tragically died in the tsunami, our forces who triumphantly pulled a
little Israeli girl from the rubble in Turkey, and our soldiers who
quickly brought survivors of the terrorist attacks in Sinai back to
the safety of home.

This was our way of announcing to the world that we would not be the
Jews who were abused and murdered in Europe. We had been removed from
inside the ghetto and, more importantly, we had removed the ghetto
from inside of us.

In the City of the Patriarchs, our holy Hebron, another, lesser-known
injustice has also been righted. When the Mamelukes conquered the
Land of Israel in the 13th century, they forbade Jews from entering
the Cave of Machpelah, the resting place of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac
and Rivka, Jacob and Leah in Hebron. Instead, Jews were allowed to
advance only to the seventh step along the staircase that led to the
eastern entrance of the building. In the land of their fathers, Jews
were not allowed to enter their holy places, denied access to the
tombs of their patriarchs, restricted by those in power. This
discrimination quickly turned to persecution and murder, culminating
in the massacre of the Jewish community in Hebron by Arabs in 1929,
the theft of Jewish property and lands, and the desecration of our
holy sites.

The seventh step, like the Mamelukes and the Romans, the Greeks and
the Ancient Egyptians, Haman and Amalek and Hitler, has faded into
non-existence. But the ghetto mentality, the need to please others
even to the point of indignity and destruction, is returning. No one
epitomizes this ghetto mentality more than the chief apologist
amongst us, Yossi Beilin, who recently called for “the immediate
expulsion of Hevron’s Jewish residents.”

At a time when our courts have again recognized that lands in Hebron
were and are owned by Jews, it is our Israeli government that orders
Hebron be classified as a closed military zone and Jews not allowed
to enter. This time, we do it to ourselves. It is our government that
denies us access to our forefathers and restricts our movement. It is
Defense Minister Sha’ul Mofaz who seeks to hide his impotence against
daily Kassam rocket attacks by unleashing the army against young
unarmed Israeli teenagers. He tries to hide his weakness against our
enemies by turning a strong arm against his own people, as he did in
Kfar Maimon, Ofakim and Gush Katif.

See how brave are the mighty Yasam troops in their black uniforms as
they push and shove teenage girls. Sure, they can’t stop a suicide
bomber in Netanya or Be’er Sheva, and are completely worthless when
it comes to finding the Kassam launching grounds, but pit them
against unarmed women and babies and see how strong they are.

The notion that giving in to Arab demands will bring peace, that
withdrawing from Gush Katif will stop violence, that strengthening
Abu Mazen will bring him to the negotiating table, is based on the
same misguided notion of collaboration made famous by Chamberlain’s
conceding to Hitler.

What we know is that the violence has not ended, the terrorist
attacks, the infiltrations, the shootings, stoning attacks and
ongoing rocket barrages that now reach to Ashkelon have not stopped.
Our enemies still call for our destruction, still dream of the day
when all will be theirs and Jews will be banished again from the Tomb
of the Patriarchs, from the cities of Hebron and Jerusalem, and from
all parts of our land.

Despite Hamas standing ready to capture a large portion of the
upcoming vote, ongoing threats and almost daily attempts to murder
Jews, there are still those who believe that just one more step, just
one more withdrawal, just one more promise will appease the endless
appetites of a people who have sworn on our blood that they will have
our heart, Jerusalem; our soul, Hebron; and our bodies, all of Israel.

Today, the Israeli government is following the tradition of the Arabs
and British in 1929, using force and expelling Jews from lands for
which they hold legal title. Today, the Israeli government is
entertaining thoughts of allowing international organizations to
supervise Jerusalem’s holy sites. And still Jews, and only Jews, are
not allowed to pray on the Temple Mount. But this time, this time, we
have no one to blame but our own sorry excuse for Jewish leaders.

Through each day and night, as I hear of the government’s endless
concessions, I begin to believe that the day is not far off when we
will once again be forced back to the seventh step. And this time, it
will not be by the Mamelukes, the Nazis, the British or the
Palestinians. This time, it will be the likes of Kadima, Sha’ul Mofaz
and Yossi Beilin, and other Jews who forgot that the ghetto was a
place of death for the Jew, a place of surrender, a place in which we
lost our lives, our souls, our will to be free in our own land.


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