As Tisha B'Av rolls closer, it behooves us to ponder how Israel managed to extricate itself from the trap laid for her in the 1990’s by the infamous Yasser Arafat and by the “liberation” terror organization that he led.
The Oslo Accords cost us over one thousand casualties, but the dangerous veering toward the sea, eventually slowed. Nowadays we are discussing sovereignty – not “victims of peace”. There is plenty of room for improvement in our diplomatic discourse even today. But everything is relative.
In contrast, remember what happened in the darkest days the Jewish people ever experienced, ever – in Nazi Europe. You remember the famous poem, by a German Lutheran leader called Martin Niemöller, about being passive and keeping silent:
“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
The Oslo Accords, horrific as they were and still are, never reached anywhere near the point Europe reached during Nazi days. Why? Not because Palestinian Arab leaders are lacking in antisemitism. They are not. The central reason was that during Hitler’s day, there was no State of Israel. But there was also another reason. The second reason was that prominent people in Nazi Germany simply did not do very much about it, when ugly things began to happen in their country.
In Israel however, way before things slid into a complete abyss, people did things. People stood up and said, this is not cool. Not just the downtrodden, not just the persecuted, stood up and banged on the national table. Prominent people stood up and said this – not many of them, but enough of them.
One of those prominent people was Eallan Hirshfeld. Eallan was not personally struck by terror. He did not live in a threatened village with hostile Arab neighbors on every side. He was a successful businessman in a safe and affluent Israeli community – Raanana. And still, Eallan stood up. He stood up so firmly that many other people stood up as well. And thus, before anyone knew it, or understood how it happened, there was a Matteh Eretz Israel (headquarters) in Raanana. And in other cities. Not just in "settlements" – all over the place.
It is hard, nowadays, in retrospect, to remember or explain how hard it was for Eallan to stand up like that. How unpopular it was to say what he was saying. How people would spit on the Eretz Yisrael faithful in the street.
But Eallan strongly believed in personal responsibility. He believed that if he was a person – he had responsibility. I recall sometimes people would say something about “the Government” or “the Knesset Members” being to blame. I can still hear Eallan’s voice, his typical exasperated responses.
“Look – they’re useless. USELESS!! Right? But what are WE doing, hmmm? That’s the point. Right?”
Why did Eallan’s influence spread? Because he taught by example – and only by example. He never told others what to do. Instead, he showed others what to do – by doing it.
“MY FRIEND Noam Federman has been arrested by the Shabak”
I well recall one of the most difficult aspects of that period which was actual arrests and harassment of Oslo Accord opponents. Many were confused and frightened, and on the verge of giving up their beliefs, or at least keeping quiet about them. At least for the time being. Many, but not Eallan.
I remember when Noam Federman, a fierce and radical opponent of the Accords, was arrested by Israeli Secret Services. Did Eallan publish a opinion piece expressing reservations about whether or not this was justified? Of course not. Nothing so pareve. Instead, Eallan sent round an unqualified denouncement of the Federman arrest. And to clinch matters, and make it clear to everyone that there could be no doubt about Noam Federman’s credentials, Eallan referred to Noam, each time, as “my friend -- Noam Federman”.
Noam Federman’s “friend” Eallan could easily have gotten arrested himself, by presenting Noam Federman that way, especially during the arrest, while the Shabak trail was still warm, so to speak. As a businessman, Eallan had a great deal to lose, reputation-wise. Did Eallan let such worries cramp his style? No he did not. Could he have personally been harmed by being so outspoken? Definitely.
In fact, Eallan did eventually find himself on the Shabak radar screen. And he was, much later, arrested by the Shabak himself. But Eallan’s impact on others was so decisive, that when this happened – I instinctively knew exactly what to do.
I am after all a well known patent attorney, right? I live 10 minutes from the Weizmann Institute of Science – not in Yizhar, or Hebron, right? And so, I rushed to my keyboard.
“MY FRIEND Eallan Hirshfeld has been arrested by the Shabak,” I announced to all my contacts.
A few days later, the phone rang.
“Thank you very, very much indeed,” an emotional voice said dramatically.
It was Eallan. He had been released. Public pressure had done it again.
Eallan means “tree”
Eallan, in Hebrew, is a tree. The very first Psalm summarizes which type of person is similar to a tree.
”Blessed is the one
who did not take counsel with the wicked
nor stand on the road of those who sin;
nor sit in the company of those engaged in foolishness.
but whose desire is in the Torah of G-d,
and who ruminates on G-d’s law day and night.
Such a person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in good time
and whose foliage will never wither—
and everything that he does – will succeed.”
Yes, this was Eallan.
His last message
Only a short time ago, Eallan emailed me. “Sorry to report that am not at all well”, he wrote laconically.
I called him immediately. “There’s nothing to be done about me,” he said in a business-like tone, “But don’t you all worry about me. You fight on, right?”
“Yes – we will, Eallan. But --”
“Keep your head up, right?”
“Well – yes, of course, Eallan.”
Eallan died a few days later, so this was our very last conversation.
As Tisha B'Av approaches, we pray that this will be the last year we will have to hear about any destructive “Palestinian state” notions.
Meantime, we do hear these ominous words – even from our own brethren, even from Jason Greenblatt. And so, our eyes are abrim with tears, and our hearts are very sad, as well as fearful.
And more than ever, we vow to continue to remember Eallan and honor his brave Zionist example to all of us.
We will keep our heads up – right?
We will fight on for the Land of Israel -- right?”
Susie Dym is spokesperson for Mattot Arim, an Israeli NGO founded by volunteers who reject land-for-peace ideologies and work toward peace-for-peace