Here and there: Amalek – yesterday and today

As we sit around the Seder table, whether in Israel or the Diaspora, let us remember what Amalek did to us.

April 6, 2017 13:52
Freed Palestinians

Freed Palestinian prisoner Mohammed al-Bashiti, who served 12 years in an Israeli jail after he was convicted of being a member of Hamas’s armed wing, gestures as he holds a weapon in a pickup truck with Hamas militants upon his release, in the southern Gaza Strip, last year. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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This year, like last year, we will be spending Seder in Jerusalem with our younger son and his family. He believes that everyone sitting around the table should participate, and therefore he gives each guest a specific subject on which to speak. My task is to speak about Amalek and parashat Zachor (“Remember”).

We are commanded to remember what Amalek did to us, the Jewish people, on our journey out of Egypt, how it attacked the weak, parched and weary. Perhaps it is no coincidence that this is the Torah portion that we read on the Shabbat before Purim.

The link is clear – Haman was another Amalek who wanted to destroy the Jews.

Today we remain surrounded by “Amaleks” that wish the destruction of the one Jewish state. Iran, with its ayatollahs, makes no secret of its hatred of Israel. Former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had no problem saying the time has come to “wipe Israel off the map.” The current president – Hassan Rouhani – proudly took the stand at this year’s parade of Iran’s military arsenal which displayed rockets on which were inscribed the words “destroy Israel.” Iranian sophisticated military equipment is regularly dispensed to its surrogates Hezbollah and Hamas, which operate directly on Israel’s borders.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Eisenkot warned recently that Hezbollah is preparing for its next major attack on Israel. His view is that war with this fundamentalist Shi’ite terrorist group is only a matter of time. The February edition of The Tower Magazine noted that Hezbollah has the capacity to fire 1,500 rockets into Israel each day. Its advanced launchers are reportedly embedded in some 10,000 locations within more than 200 civilian towns and villages.

Hamas’s charter calling for Israel’s annihilation remains intact.

Calls for Israel’s destruction do not seem to make waves among world leaders. One can but imagine the reaction if Iran called for the destruction of the United States or a European country. Yet in January 2016, when sanctions against Iran were lifted – the US having decided that Iran had rolled back the scope of its nuclear activities – there was a long queue of countries anxious to do business with this barbaric state.

The bottom line is that it is “okay” to call for the elimination of the country whose population includes the greatest number of Jews, this some 70-plus years since another Amalek, Hitler, succeeded in murdering six million Jews simply because they were Jews.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel was launched at the 2001 United Nations’ so-called Conference against Racism, in which I participated.

Unfortunately, it evolved into a racist conference against Israel and the Jewish people. Here, a different “Amalek” was born, one to attack Israel not militarily but economically.

The concept of boycotting Jews is not new. We well remember the boycott of Jewish shops and businesses in Germany under the Hitler regime, which my husband’s family experienced in the 1930s. Of particular note is that BDS today is not limited to one country (as it was in Germany) but operates in numerous countries. Former Canadian justice minister Irwin Cotler described the boycott movement as “a new, global, sophisticated, virulent and even lethal form of antisemitism. Israel is the targeted Jew among the nations.”

What is the ultimate goal of the BDS campaign? In the words of the campaign’s founder, Omar Barghouti, “If the refugees [Palestinians] were to return, you would not have a two-state solution; you’d have a ‘Palestine next to Palestine’ solution.” Is this not another way to eliminate Israel? Yet another “Amalek” is the one within.

Assimilation is gathering pace within Jewish communities worldwide. A primary cause is outmarriage. The last available Pew Research Center survey in 2014 showed the Jewish community of the US with an intermarriage rate of 58%, rising to 71% in the nonobservant sector.

The constant barrage of anti-Israel hysteria is making inroads into Diaspora Jewry’s identification with Israel. We see an increasing number of young Jews in the US who gravitate toward J Street rather than the traditionally pro-Israel organization, AIPAC. This applies also to Jewish students who choose to identify with J Street U, Open Hillel and organizations such as Jews for Justice for the Palestinians.

This disconnect should be of grave concern to both Jews living in Israel and those in the Diaspora. A recent Reut Institute report, titled “The Future of the Nation-State of the Jewish People: Consolidation or Rupture?” highlighted the necessity for Israel to become more inclusive.

Yes, we do have varied “Amaleks,” but the good news is that we now have our own beautiful country that is there to defend us against those who wish us harm.

Defense takes many forms – the physical one as well as the one that helps to keep us within the fold. What has been proven is that youngsters from abroad find new meaning in being Jewish once they have experienced Israel. The Taglit/Birthright scheme has proven itself. The challenge is to bring many more of our young people to Israel, for they are the future.

On the eve of two freedom milestones in our history – the Festival of Passover, when we recall our freedom from bondage in Egypt, and Independence Day, when we mark our return home, we can take pride in this little country’s achievements in spite of absorbing millions of refugees (whom the world prefers to forget) and having to fight for survival time and again. We are on par with Silicon Valley in the hi-tech sphere. We remain outstanding in the field of research and development. We are at the forefront of discovering treatments and medication to help mankind.

As we sit around the Seder table, whether in Israel or the Diaspora, let us remember what Amalek did to us, but at the same time let us rejoice in how privileged we are to have witnessed the rebirth of the State of Israel.

■ Hag Same’ah! The writer is active in public affairs and is public relations chairwoman of ESRA, which promotes integration into Israeli society.

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