Yesterday, I took some tourists to Yad Vashem. In the early 1930’s, Germany was a “cultured” and “enlightened” society, famous for its literature and its arts. Jews were a part of the upper strata, prominent in all spheres of German life. Then, in the throes of economic decline, Hitler rose to power, rallying the masses in his call for Aryan supremacy, by blaming the Jews for all of the country’s ills.
In five years, six million Jews were murdered. The Vatican was silent as the slaughter continued. The powers that be in Washington, knew of the carnage, and decided not to bomb the rail tracks which led to the death camps. The French and other cultured European countries aided the massacre. With only a handful of exceptions, the world turned a deaf ear to the nightmarish plight of the Jews. Yes, the Allies fought against the Germans, but it was to save themselves, not to save the Jews.
The Yad Vashem experience is a little like a “reconstructed” death march through the hell that was Nazi Germany. Leaving the museum’s terrifying exhibits and halls, you walk out of the darkened chambers into bright sunlight, where you face the forest and hills of Eretz Yisrael. There is no explanation. There is no sign to read. No one tells you what to think or how to feel. Some people probably don’t catch the point at all. Others might think that the museum designers are trying to get across the universal message that after darkness comes light, or that life goes on, triumphing over suffering and death. I, however, explained to the visitors that they were staring out at renewed Jewish settlement in Eretz Yisrael, precisely because that the Holocaust had come as a painful amputation to uprooted us from the exile, after we had failed to respond to the call to come home, which had arisen for the first time in nearly 2000 years with the birth of the Zionist movement, for, as our Prophets had warned us, only in Zion would there be a refuge from the death camps of galut.
The visitors nodded their heads.
“So how can you return to America,” I asked them, “to continue living in yet another exile amidst the gentiles when you can live today in your own Land in Israel?”
“A Holocaust like this could never happen again,” one said.
“Certainly not in America,” another added.
“The world has learned its lesson,” the third remarked.
Hearing their words, I realized that it was the Jews who hadn’t learned the lesson. Just as Zeev Jabotinsky warned the Jews of Europe and no one listened, the Yad Vashem Museum warns the Jews of the Diaspora and no one listens. Yes, it’s nice, very powerful, deeply agonizing, and what lovely grounds. But the visitors leave the museum and return to their lives in America, and France, and England, and Australia, and all the Germanys of tomorrow.
My friends. History repeats itself. Especially Jewish history. In every Diaspora we ever lived, no matter how good things seemed to be, the time always came when the gentiles reminded us that we were a hated minority who didn’t belong. And it will happen again. Even in America – if there are any Jews left after the silent Holocaust of assimilation decimates our ranks. Yes, my good friends. Make no mistake. You are living a delusion. It will happen again. The Almighty has promised that the Children of Israel will return to their Land, and He will bring it about, in one way or another, His words will all come to pass, whether by our joyful aliyah, or by force, with His wrath poured forth.
The choice is yours.