It's Time To End The Occupation

What few remember is that it is only with the hardening of King Sihon's heart and the ensuing battle are the Israelites finally forged together as a unified people, ready to enter the Land with Joshua.

Jack Berger

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צילום: ערוץ 7
As we read the story of Passover, we are told that with each successive plague, G-d hardens Pharaoh's heart. Yet, with each plague, the Israelites too are tested. The hardening of Pharaoh's heart was not just to leave Egypt, but just as importantly, it was to strengthen the Israelites' belief in G-d and to warn Pharaoh that his words and actions ultimately will have serious consequences.

What few remember is that it is only with the hardening of King Sihon's heart and the ensuing battle are the Israelites finally forged together as a unified people, ready to enter the Land with Joshua.

G-d must test the strength and belief of each new generation of Israelites to see if the Israelites are willing to take action and fight for their covenant to inherit the land. So, too, did we have to fight to enter the Land in 1948, after G-d hardened the hearts of the countries of the world, for in 1945, it was time to go back. Even after the slaughter of six million men, women and children, there was no place else for Jews to go.

"Into your hand I have delivered Sihon, King of Heshbon? I? G-d? will provoke war with him? I will send messengers? to Sihon [to Camp David - JB] with words of peace? but Hashem, your G-d will harden his [Yasser Arafat's] spirit and make his heart stubborn?" (Deuteronomy 2:24-30) G-d is telling His people that it is only through a willingness to fight for our Jewish people will G-d then be willing to be our strength and our shield. So it was in 1948, 1956, 1967 and yes, in 1973. So it was at Entebbe on July 4, 1976. If we sit on the sidelines, if we wait for a miracle, trouble is sure to come. So it is for us today.

It should be remembered that in 1918, with the fall of the Ottoman Empire, Britain and France were handed 5,000,000 square miles to divvy up and 99% was given to the Arabs to create countries that did not exist previously. 1% was given as a Mandate for the re-establishment of a state for the Jews on both banks of the Jordan River. In 1921, to once again appease the Arabs, another three quarters of that 1% was given to a fictitious state called Trans-Jordan by a liberal, fundamentalist Jew by the name of Herbert Samuels.

Does this hardening of an enemy's heart sound familiar? A misguided Jewish prime minister tries to appease a murderer of Jews by giving away portions of our Land of Israel - 96% of this and 50% of that - and all believed that our enemy would eagerly accept this "generous offer". To the disbelief of everyone - the Leftist fundamentalists, the President of the United States, and all the other appeasers - our enemy's heart was hardened, and a war has ensued.

The Land of Israel, from the Jordan to the Mediterranean, was given to the Jewish people as an everlasting covenant. After 2,000 years of wandering in the deserts of other countries all over the world, G-d heard our cries in Europe, in Russia, in Ethiopia and in the Arab world, and returned us to our Land. The Torah tells us to seek the truth ? emet ? not our own delusions.

There have been too many shivas in the last eight years. The obscenity of the words, "They were sacrifices for peace," spoken by Yitzchak Rabin, who also became a sacrifice for peace... Yet there is no peace, but only the obscenity that the life of a Jew can be sacrificed for a worthless agreement with a Jew-hater. Zachor, remember, we were there 60 years ago.

Peace is an important goal, for a Jew seeks peace, but not when it is based on a lie. It was the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain who wrote in his later years, "Everything would have worked out okay if only Hitler hadn't lied to me."

Our Land of Israel has been conquered over 17 times by at least six empires over the last 3,500 years, and never once did any Christian or Moslem conqueror make Israel or Jerusalem the center of it' s theology ? for the Christians it became Rome, for the Moslems it became Mecca. This "third holiest for Moslems" is a bunch of nonsense. When Basra was being bombed in Iraq during the Gulf War, Basra was the third holiest. How the world indulges lies, big and small. How some in the media, in their willful ignorance, refuse to deal with the facts. "All the news that's fit to print" has become all the news that' s fit to spin.

No other people have been tied to their Land and their capital with such a love and such an obligation. Three times each day, the more traditional of our people have turned toward Jerusalem and prayed to return. We Jews are a most chutzpadika people, with a most special relationship to our G-d and our Land - and the world knows it. If only we could get more Jews to know it. The very existence of our people is an historical mystery. We are a nation that survived for nearly two thousand years while seemingly on the brink of total annihilation, yet the announcement of our death has often been greatly exaggerated. No nation has survived its enemies against all the odds of history except the Jews. Where are the empires of the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans or the 1,000-year Reich of the Nazi Germans. Jews have been the victims of crusades, inquisitions, pogroms, and holocausts, and have survived them all.

"What is the secret of their immortality? " asked Mark Twain. Yet, just over 50 years ago, even the best friends of the Jews believed that this time there was no longer a chance for the Jews to survive, our people not only survived Hitler and his all-too-willing executioners and their European collaborators. But our Jewish people ? our brothers and sisters - had the chutzpah, just three short years after the Holocaust, to not only survive, but to return to our homeland and begin our rebuilding. "How goodly are thy tents oh Jacob, thy dwelling places oh Israel" - reborn.

In the re-establishment of the State of Israel, all people of the world should be confronted with the reality of the unique, unconditional, eternal covenant of love between Israel and our G-d, and that there must be a higher force at work through the very existence of Israel and our people. Otherwise, it makes no sense.

The Jewish State was destroyed by Titus almost two thousand years ago and not once thereafter did anyone ever claim the land of Israel as their new homeland. The only people who saw this Land as their homeland for the last two thousand years were our stiff-necked brothers and sisters - the Jews. Never did we as a people ever look for another homeland and never did our G-d give up on our people. Every Jewish prayer for the last two thousand years was filled with love of the Land of Israel. "G-d, may You rebuild Jerusalem in Your mercifulness." Or, "Take pity, our G-d of Israel, on Jerusalem, Your city on Mount Zion, the habitation of Your glory." Or, "May it be Your will, oh G-d, to make us return to our land." The more distant the land was, the more it came alive in our hopes and prayers.

The State of Israel was in fact not re-established in 1948, but in the year 70 CE, the day after the Romans exiled us. The moment Titus threw us out, the same moment, we were busy contemplating our return.

In our Birkat HaMazon, our Grace After Meals, we say, "When the Lord brought us back to Zion it was like in a dream? then our mouths filled with laughter? and our tongues with ringing song." Yet, "How could we sing the Lord' s song, in a strange land?" We couldn't. "Ki mitzion taitzeh Torah, ud'var Hashem B'Yirushalyim." From Zion comes the Torah, and the word of G-d from Jerusalem. No other people can make that claim.

Yet, the world community has for decades declared that Jerusalem, our capital, needs to be internationalized. Just last year the Pope once again made this statement, yet is there anything to discuss? To whom does Jerusalem belong? For the Jew, our pilgrimage is to Jerusalem. For the Christians, their pilgrimage is to Rome. For the Arabs, their pilgrimage is to Mecca. From time immoral, even in the writings of Christian missionaries, is it not true that Jerusalem was always referred to as the city of a Jew named David? Was it ever called the city of Titus, or the city of Saladin? And today, do the descendants of Rome, of Titus, or of Saladin mourn and fast on the ninth of Av, the date of the destruction of the Temples?

It was the famous Israeli author Shmuel Agnon who made us aware of the unusual relationship between the Jewish people and the land of Israel. When he received the Nobel prize for literature in 1966, the King of Sweden, Gustav VI asked him, "Where were you born?" And Agnon responded, "I was born in Galacia, but that was only in a dream; in reality, I was born in Jerusalem and exiled by Titus."

When a Jewish boy is only eight days old, he is circumcised and the Jewish community wishes him all the good things in the world, but above all a prayer is said that he may ascend to the Land of Israel and visit the Temple on the three festivals of Pesach, Shavuot and Succoth. At eight days old, he becomes connected to our tradition and becomes a Zionist.

As a child grows up and is ready to marry and stands under the chupah for the marriage ceremony, everything stops. The rabbi then places a glass on the floor and asks the bridegroom to break it as a sign of mourning and the young man states that he, "would not forget Jerusalem and its Temple, as one would not forget one's right hand...." At the very moment of declaring his devotion and his love for his bride, a moment of incredible joy, a moment to be remembered as a most sacred event, it is still impossible to forget the destruction of our Temples and our longing for Jerusalem. This has been our custom for nearly two thousand years. How many millions of glasses have been broken in Jewish history?

On Passover, the most celebrated Jewish holiday, we re-tell the story of the Exodus, but at the end of the Seder we finish with the words "Next Year in Jerusalem."

On Yom Kippur, as the book has been sealed, the sun has set, and the shofar is sounded, we start the New Year with the words, "Next Year in Jerusalem."

Even in the death camp of Auschwitz, the stories of commemorating these moments of hope were often retold, ending with the declaration: "Next Year in Jerusalem."

And perhaps the most profound statement the Jew ever makes is when he dies and his remains are to be buried. The Jew is always buried in Israel. Now, some might protest and point out that there are Jewish cemeteries around the world, far away from the land of Israel, yet as is tradition, just before the coffin is closed, some earth from the land of Israel is sprinkled on the dead. While his tombstone may be outside Israel, his body is buried in the land of Israel. And when a Jew mourns, the words of comforters are, "May you be comforted with all those who mourn for Zion and Jerusalem." Might they not say, "May you be comforted with all those who mourn in Chicago or Glencoe"? No, a Jew mourns with those in mourning for Zion and Jerusalem. Does any other people attach their most profound life cycle events to our Land of Israel or our most special city of Jerusalem?*

And yet, I realized on my most recent trip to Israel that it is now time for the settlers to leave the occupied territories if there is to be true and lasting peace in the region. After all, that is what the world wants for us Jews, to rest in peace. And so, I say it is time for the settlers to leave the occupied territories. As I traveled to our Biblical communities of Hebron, to Kiryat Arba, to Bet El, past Mamre, to Efrat, to Shilo and Tekoa, et. al., I finally and sadly realized that it is true, as some say, the settlers are truly an obstacle to peace. It is time to uproot their communities and move them out, by force if need be.

For you see, the real settlers are the Palestinians, the real occupiers are the Arabs, and they are occupying our land, given to us by G-d. As G-d repeats from Genesis through Deuteronomy, in all the five books of Torah, "Go in and possess the land I am giving to you and your descendants this day as an everlasting covenant..."

"The land I am giving to you" ? to the Jewish people. Now, who are you going to believe, G-d, or the United Nations? The Chicago Tribune or our Torah?

Enjoy the miracle. You' re part of it.

Zei gezunt; und bleib ahn erlicher yid. Live in good health and remain a sincere, proud Jew.

* With inspiration from Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo.