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Reflections From The Jerusalem Jail

By Tzvi Fishman
1/13/2008, 12:00 AM

While I was being detained Thursday night at Jerusalem Police Headquarters for demonstrating against President Bush and the Road Map Plan, it occurred to me that I would rather be imprisoned in the Land of Israel than be a free man in America, England, or France. True, there are problems in Israel that need to be mended. Our situation can be compared to a patient in a hospital. Though the patient is presently ill, he is on the way to being healed. Though the treatment may be painful, it is a necessary part of the recovery process, even if it takes a long time.

In contrast, the situation of the Jewish People in the Diaspora is similar to a dying man in a hospice for the terminally ill. Judaism in the exile is destined to end. That is the nature of the exile itself – a long Divine punishment that lasts a certain time then dies out without a trace. In contrast, Jewish life in the Land of Israel flourishes and grows in spite of all of the complications and setbacks.

The plague of darness that fell over biblical Egypt is happening again today.The majority of Jews who are still living in the Diaspora are suffering from this very same plague. The darkness in the Diaspora is so thick, a person who is accustomed to the holiness of Eretz Yisrael can actually physically feel it – what the Torah terms “darkness that you can feel” (Shemot, 10:21 ). Unfortunately, the Jews in the Diaspora are blind to the prison bars that surround them. This is the worst type of incarceration there is. They believe that everything is wonderful, that Jewish life is thriving, and that Hashem is pleased with their Jewish Federations, and Temples, and gentile wives. The proof of their blindness is that they don’t see the darkness at all. You can explain things to them until you are blue in the face, but the lovers of galut are blind to their exile reality. They will list a hundred sound reasons for prolonging their Diaspora existences, when the plain simple truth is that, today, a Jew is supposed to live in the Land of Israel. We are not speaking about people who have sick parents to attend to, or other possibly justifiable reasons, but about the majority who could come to Israel, but don’t.

In this week’s Torah reading, Rashi explains that four-fifths of the Jewish People in Egypt were stricken during the plague of darkness, because they did not want to leave their bondage and journey as free men to Eretz Yisrael. Only one out of five took a part in the Exodus. Today, a similar percentage of Jews cling to the darkness of their foreign exiles in America, Mexico, Australia, Canada, South Africa, Russia, Europe, and the other Mitzrayims of today. They don’t see the bars of their jail cells, but the spiritual bondage is exactly the same.

May the G-d of our Forefathers open the eyes of all of our incarcerated brothers and sisters in exile to recognize the darkness of their foreign lives and false identities, and may He bring them home soon to join in the work of healing the psychological scars and traumas of the Diaspora, which still cling to our frightened leaders and weaken our embattled nation. 

If we had another 5 million Jews in Israel, the Arabs would flee on their own. There would be no Road Maps, no Annapolises, no Oslos, no Hitnatkuts. As the expression goes, "If you are not a part of the solution, you are a part of the problem." True we have problems in Israel, but the Jews of the Diaspora are to blame.