Friday, February 13, 1998

Out of the Closet

Hebron-Past, Present and Forever
by David Wilder
The Jewish Community of Hebron

Out of the Closet
February 13, 1998
President Ezer Weitzman opened the celebrations marking Israel's 50th birthday a few days ago. At that time the highly touted 'slogan' was released: "Together with Pride - Together with Hope". (Byachad b'ga'ava - byachad b'tikva). This slogan effectively exemplifies the Number One Problem plaguing the Jewish People today - both in Eretz Yisrael and throughout the Diaspora.
In the book of Devarim (Deuteronomy) 8:17, the Torah says: "And you will say in your heart: My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this strength". In a very few words, this really sums it up.

Fifty years of the State of Israel - following 2,000 years of Galut, riding on the tails of the holocaust, war after war, terrorist attack after terrorist attack, isolation and alienation - all that considered, with the present state of the country - 50 years isn't bad. We have achieved a tremendous amount. Our national home has been reestablished and Jews from around the world are, for the most part, presently free to live here, if they so choose. We are a home to numerous cultures and religions, not all of whom are necessarily harmonious. We have developed technology second to none, in diverse and vital fields. Our industry is still maturing, but is, and will continue, to grow. On the face of it, we really do have much to feel proud about.
It is also quite important to realize that we have not yet reached the goal. For this, it is necessary to look ahead - to look forward. This is illustrated by the second half of the phrase, dealing with hope. Such is the reality and dream of the Jewish people since time immemorial. There is a continued striving, pushing ahead, with an awareness that the best is yet to come. Without this trait, it is impossible to improve, to rectify past transgressions, to achieve on a higher plane.

So, why then shouldn't the phrase - Together in Pride-Together in Hope - be appropriate?

Following the decision to declare the State, a serious disagreement broke out concerning the writing of the Declaration of Independence. If G-d was not mentioned, the Rabbi's would not sign. If He was mentioned, how would the declared secularists-atheists react? David Ben Gurion's famous compromise spoke of 'Tzur Yisrael' - the Rock of Israel. Everyone could interpret as they saw fit. G-d was left undercover.
When someone does something good for you, the normal response is to say thank you. Thank you isn't only etiquette. Thank you is acknowledgement of the source of the good. Inability to acknowledge isn't only impolite - it is a lack of an essential human characteristic. It is the height of haughtiness. It is in effect saying, "I don't need you or anyone else - only I am responsible for the good, for the success, for the achievement".
What is the source of such manners? Principally it is paucity of education - a deficiency of knowing and understanding the most basic tenets of our existence. If a person really believes that he is fully responsible for all success, he hasn't an inkling of his own faults or lackings. So it is with a nation. If we don't know how to say thank you to He who is responsible for our success. - who are we and what are we?
Very simply, if 50 years ago it was difficult for some to accept G-d's role in our continued existence, the time has come to change. If we want to use the slogan 'Together with Pride - Together with Hope' we must add the most essential words, presently left out - Together in Faith' - the faith of our Forefathers, the faith of our people, in our Rock and our Redeemer. For only He holds us 'together.' Without G-d - there is no 'together.' That is why, today, the Jewish people are so divided.

The verse mentioned above clearly states the dilemma: : "And you will say in your heart: My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this strength". The time has come to move on to the next verse: But thou shall remember the L-rd your G-d, for it is Him who gave you the power to succeed."
After 50 years of Statehood, the time has come to take G-d out of the closet.

Monday, February 2, 1998

Israel and Saddam: Rights and Obligations

The past week or so has been filled with media reports revolving around
Iraq. Israel takes the possibility of an American attack over the skies of
Iraq quite seriously. During the Gulf War, the Madman from Baghdad
bombarded Israel with 39 missiles. Similar assaults on Israel are
considered possible with another outbreak of hostilities between the US and

Israeli officials are attempting to downplay the possibilities of such an
attack. We are being told that the likelihood that Saddam will again bomb
Israeli cities is minimal. However, to my ear, these rebuttals seem to be
overplayed. It is being said too often - as if someone is trying to
convince himself of something.

But there is a difference between this time and last time. Presently the
possibility of bacteriological warfare seems to have skyrocketed. Again, we
are being calmed with expert analyses: "Saddam has only several
non-conventional warheads," as was reported in today's Jerusalem Post front
page article. On the other hand, U.N. weapons inspector Richard Butler told
the New York Times last week that the Madman has enough biological warheads
to "blow away Tel-Aviv." So, I guess the question is: How many
'non-conventional' (a nice euphemism) bombs will it take to turn Israel's
largest city into Aushweitz Two?!

Israeli leaders are not worried about an Iraqi attack. They deployed
Patriot anti-missile missiles on the outskirts of Tel Aviv today just for
show. Hospitals are stocking up on various types of medicines, just in
case. The gas-mask offices are doing non-stop business. Official
statements claim that Israel has nothing to do with the conflict between
the U.S. and Iraq - Israel has no desire to be involved in any way, shape,
or form.

The only problem is that Israel is involved - like it or not - starting
back in 1981 when Menachem Begin had the guts to destroy Iraq's nuclear
capability. Then, the whole world condemned us - during the Gulf War they
cheered us. But even then no one cared that we were being pounded by Iraqi
Scud missiles. George Bush and the United States refused to let us
retaliate or defend ourselves.

We are still a target - make no mistake about it. The U.S., in recent press
releases, has been denying that the aim of the next Iraqi war is to end the
Madman's reign. Instead, they only want to obliterate his remaining missile
- non-conventional warfare possibilities. This is preposterous. Why should
they make such claims? Bush's major error, which according to many
political pundits cost him the presidential election, was not to finish off
Saddam. Why should Clinton, given the opportunity, make the same mistake

Why? The answer is very simple. If the bombs fly, there can only be one
goal - to kill Saddam. The public declarations are for a different reason.
Analysts in Israel believe that the Madman will utilize his bacteriological
weapons only as a last resort - as an act of final desperation. In other
words, if he thinks that his time is up, he will try to take us with him.

So, the stage is set. America will bomb Iraq and Israel will have to suffer
the consequences. This time, will we be able to hit back? Secretary of
State Madeline Albright sat with the Prime Minister for 5 hours on Saturday
night. For about an hour, they met without anyone else present in the room.
One can only imagine the conversation. I have no doubt, that in spite of
the fact that the purported reason for the meeting was the 'piece process,'
when they sat alone, Madeline laid the cards on the table. Yesterday she
announced that an attack "was not days away or months away. That leaves
only weeks."

Maybe so. Or maybe it is just a smokescreen. The problem is that bombs go
through smokescreens.

What is there to do? Does Israel have any alternative to sitting back and
waiting for the next round of Iraqi missiles on Tel-Aviv? In my humble
opinion, the answer is most definitely affirmative. Israel has a most
justified alternative. If our intelligence reports determine that an Iraqi
attack on Israel is imminent, be it with or without biological warheads,
Israel must preempt. The same way we did in 1967, and the same way we did
in 1981. True, the entire world will gang up on us, led by the White
House, the Kremlin, Europe, etc. etc. So what? Why do Israelis have to die
because of George Bush's stupidity in not finishing off Saddam last time
around. Why do Israelis have to die because of a conflict 'we have nothing
to do with?'

A couple of weeks ago the news hubbub dealt with Arafat's visit to the
Holocaust Museum in Washington - for or against. I am so totally amazed at
the blindness that seems to have enveloped us. Here, the entire Jewish
world argues whether or not Hitler 2 should get a pictorial preview of what
he would like to do to us, while at the same time, the State of Israel -
the Jewish People, are again threatened with the modern day gas chambers
and ovens of Treblinka and Bergen-Belson. Only this time the extermination
gear flies through the air.

In a few months we are due to celebrate birthday number 50. In order to
reach this momentous occasion, it is not only our right, but our obligation
to see to it that NOT ONE MORE IRAQI BOMB falls on Israel. We owe it to
ourselves, to our offspring, and to our ancestors to stop being sitting
ducks. This is not why we came back to Eretz Yisrael. We do not have to
initiate unnecessary warfare. But, just as Begin realized in 1981 that the
survival of the State was dependent on an Israeli preemptive attack on the
Madman's nuclear factory, so today, the same may be necessary. I only hope
that G-d will grant Netanyahu the same nerves that Begin had, thereby
allowing him to make the right decision - in time.