A Jewish Message to the Terrorists of the World
This week, Jews all around the world will read a portion of Deuteronomy that calls to remember an incident that occurred over 3,000 years ago. It involved a belligerent enemy whose name would have been erased from history were it not preserved in the Bible, the Jewish People's foundation text. I am referring to Deuteronomy 25:17-19.
Throughout our long history as a people, we Jews have looked at those three verses as a paradigm for our relationship with history: we don't forget our history — we embrace it. We Jews accept the concept of history so fully that we actually sacralize it — we make our history sacred. The results are known as the Bible and the Talmud.
Unfortunately, in that long history, there has been more than one attempt to eliminate us as a people. Indeed, in the dim mists of our early history, we coalesced as a nation only after we won our freedom from a state that wished to keep us enslaved and disbanded as a people. Egypt's Pharaoh wished to keep us as his personal slaves and to prevent us from fulfilling our destiny as a nation. So, too — as the above passage reminds us — the hostile desert tribe of Amalek tried to wipe us out before we reached our homeland.
Several centuries later, an invading people from across the Aegean, the Philistines, tried to subjugate us. Our reaction was to band together and to form a strong, unified people, first under the leadership of Saul, and then under David, who formed the united kingdom of Israel and Judah. Arameans, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Ptolemaic Greeks, Seleucid Greeks, and Romans all tried to stamp out our identity as a nation. The Assyrians, Babylonians, and Romans actually succeeded in destroying our state, but not our people. When exiled by the Babylonians, our psalmists taught us to remember Jerusalem with the words of Psalm 137:1-6.
Six centuries later, when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the Holy Temple, and exiled us first in 70 C.E. and then again after the abortive Bar-Kochba Rebellion of 132-135, our rabbis taught us to pray these words three times a day:
Sound the great shofar of our freedom; lift up a banner to ingather our exiles. and gather us from the four corners of the earth. Praised are You, O LORD, who gathers the dispersed of His People Israel. ...
Return with compassion to Your city Jerusalem, and dwell there as You have said. and rebuild her soon, in our days, and speedily restore the throne of David to her. Praised are You, O LORD, who rebuilds Jerusalem. (Siddur, 'Amidah)
For the next eighteen centuries, Jews everywhere turned to Jerusalem to direct their prayers, a practice we follow to this day. Whether it was the medieval Church or a variety of Muslim empires, we endured indignities in order to preserve our heritage and to keep our Zionist dreams alive. The twelfth-century poet-philosopher Yehudah Halevi expressed Jewish sentiments when he wrote: "My heart is in the East [in Jerusalem], but I am [located] in the far West [Spain]."
Through the Inquisition, exiles, pogroms and more exiles, blood libels, disputations, ghettoizations, and forced conversions, and on to the most horrific of all — the Holocaust — the deliberate, willful intention to perpetrate genocide upon the Jewish people, an act successful in eliminating one-third of our nation — six million souls, one quarter of whom were children — through all of this, we didn't forget our dream of returning to Zion and Jerusalem and reestablishing a Jewish state in Eretz Yisrael — in the Land of Israel. Israel, not Canaan, not Palestine, but Israel! And thank God, thank God, in 1948, we saw our dreams fulfilled!
With this short history review in mind, I turn now to Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Gaza's Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, and all the world's anti-Semites that are gathering next month in New York on September 22 at the United Nations World Conference Against Racism, also known as "the Durban IV Conference," where they intend once again to label us Jews as a racist people and Israel as a racist state. It seems rather ironic a label to be given us, knowing that Israel has a population of black-skinned Ethiopian Jews that numbers about 130,000 who either are themselves rescued by Israel or the descendants of those rescued within the last four decades, a group whose Zionism knows no bounds. So, too, Israel is home to a group of yellow-skinned Jews who were formerly known as the "Vietnamese Boat People" — a group rescued from the high seas by the late prime minister Menachem Begin, some 45 years ago. Some fine "racists" we make when we come in every shade of skin known to humanity!
It is now to the real racists — Presidents Abbas, Raisi, and Erdoğan, as well as Hamastan leader Yahya Sinwar and his Damascus associates Khaled Maashal and Syrian president Bashar Assad as well as Qatar-domiciled Ismail Haniyeh — that I turn to say:
You may send your shahadin — terrorist suicide bombers — to wreak havoc among us. You may rain missiles and rockets down upon our communities to kill and maim indiscriminately. You may rally your anti-Semitic leftist friends and Islamist friends to mislabel and condemn us. You may succeed in your attempt to "pull the wool" over the eyes of the world — but you don't fool us. And you don't scare us, because we have come home to our aboriginal land, the land where we were born as a people over three thousand years ago, the land that has been the focus of our prayers for over two thousand years, the land that we have reclaimed from the desert sands with our blood, sweat, and tears, as well as our substance for the last century and a half.
And I might add that the six and a half million of us who are already home, as well as the other six and a half million of us who currently dwell in the diaspora, are united in purpose to preserve our Jewish homeland. Your 5.3 million Palestinians are part of the 300-million-member Arab nation, and if one adds the 70 million Iranians of Iran, your combined numbers exceed ours by 2,900%. None of you is threatened with extinction; we, on the other hand, know the threat of extinction all too intimately.
So, to you and your friends at Durban IV, this is what I have to say: when you learn to live with us in real peace, we will gladly live beside you and share our technological expertise so that together we may make the region prosper as we are doing with our partners in the "Abraham Accords." But when you plot our demise and destruction, we will not only defy your evil intentions — we will work to eliminate you!
The choice is yours to make. But remember one thing: we are home in Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel, and for as long as the sun rises in the east, we will be staying!
Rabbi Dr. Daniel M. Zucker, author of over one hundred articles on the Middle East, is founder and chairman of the Board of Americans for Democracy in the Middle-East, an organization dedicated to teaching the public about the dangers posed by radical Islamic fundamentalism. He may be contacted at contact@ADME.ws and/or ADME.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image via Max Pixel.
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