Meir Jolovitz
Meir JolovitzCourtesy

It’s beyond ironic. It’s tragic.

Born in 1937, former Israeli Chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau was a young child when World War II broke out, and along with his slightly older brother Naftali survived the horrors of the Holocaust. Liberated from Buchenwald, he was the youngest prisoner there.

Interviewed in the 1997 Academy award-winning documentary “The Long Way Home” Rabbi Lau still recalled the admonition of his brother, uttered during the last months of their incarnation in 1945 when they feared that they were about to be separated.

Rabbi Lau remembers:

“It was in the last months. My brother, older than me, came to the fence of my barrack, and told me ‘We don't have parents any more. The only one you had was me. But now, they take me away. We will never meet again. I don't believe that this hell will end. I don't see any light at the end of this tunnel.”

He continued, quoting his brother:

“You are eight, adult enough, to understand what I'm telling you. I want you to know, that if a miracle happens, if a day will come and you survive this hell, there is a place in the world named 'Eretz Yisrael'. Repeat the name and don't forget it. ‘Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel.’ This is our old homeland. This is the place where they don't kill the Jews. So if you survive, tell anybody whom you meet that they have to take you to that particular place. Eretz Yisrael.”

He repeated the name: Eretz Yisrael. The Land of Israel.

Where they don’t kill the Jews!

It is really more than ironic. It is terribly tragic that today, Israel is the place, more than any other, where they still try to murder Jews.

But of course, Rabbi Lau's brother did not mean that the Arabs did not want to kill Jews in Eretz Yisrael,. He meant that in Eretz Yisrael they would not get away with it, as they had all the centuries in Euope.

You see, it didn’t end in Buchenwald. Just like it didn't start there.

It’s really quite simple. Like the Nazis before them, the Arab objection is not to anything Israel, or the Jews, have done, or failed to do, but to the very fact that they existed at all.

My own father – a survivor of thirteen concentration camps – was liberated from Mauthausen on May 5, 1945. Three years later, he was part of a nascent Israeli air force. He fought in the War of Independence against a different enemy of the Jewish people.

And I remember, quite well, my father telling me when I was still quite young – even younger than the age of Rabbi Israel Meir Lau when he was in Buchenwald – that he was still fighting the Nazis. They were simply wearing a different uniform, he declared.

Yes, my father and both Lau brothers – Israel Meir and Naftali – realized that even in Eretz Yisrael, they were still killing Jews. Recall the pogroms of 1920, 1921, 1929, and throughout the Arab Revolt of 1936.

Of course, it should have ended with the declaration of an independent State of Israel in 1948. It did not. It should have ended with Israel’s victories in successive wars over the next generation. It did not. And we were told, that it would end with a series of misbegotten peace initiatives – most infamously, Oslo, in 1993. It did not. They actually made it worse.

On October 7, 2023 – with half the nation intoxicated by the deceitful consequence of the belief that Israel would find its peace partner if only the right buttons were pushed, the Hamas-Nazis murdered Jews again – in the Land of Israel – where they weren’t supposed to kill Jews!

What Naftali Lau meant was that antisemites dion't kill Jews in Israel without having to pay for it. And a look at the news shows how much the IDF is making them pay.

Meir Jolovitz is a past national executive director of the Zionist Organization of America, and formerly associated with the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies.