IDF soldeirs take part in a night-time drill [file].
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The attacks on the Jewish community in Paris and Copenhagen transpired just a few short weeks ago, as did the reaction to them by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who after both attacks reminded the Jews of Europe that, “Israel is waiting for you with open arms” and that “Israel is not only a country in whose direction you pray, the State of Israel is your home.”
Following the prime minister’s reassuring remarks, he was lambasted by many representatives across the European Jewish community. European Jewish Association Rabbi Menachem Margolin said, “Every such Israeli campaign severely weakens and damages the Jewish communities that have the right to live securely wherever they are.”
While we would like to wish this were true regarding the Jewish people, Jewish history has proven repeatedly that this is not the case; we have been and always will be at best guests in foreign countries. This is precisely why the establishment of the modern State of Israel in 1948 was imperative and, in the opinion of some, a revelation of Divine Providence. Israel considers itself the protector of Jews worldwide, and it has proven itself as such many times over (Operation Magic Carpet to save the Jews of Yemen, Operation Ezra and Nehemia airlifting Iraqi Jews to safety, Operation Yachin bringing Moroccan Jews to Israel, and counter- terror raids such as Operation Isotope and Operation Entebbe). As such it would be highly inappropriate if at a time of Jewish crisis our prime minister did not remind our people that Israel is a Jewish sanctuary.
Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, leader of the British movement for Reform Judaism, reacted to Netanyahu’s solicitation by saying, “It is unhelpful for Jews in Britain and France. There is a difference between saying ‘Israel is here for you’ and saying ‘You should be here.’ ‘Should’ is a problematic word. There is this ‘oy vey the world is against us’ narrative, which thank God, is not true. It is certainly not true in Britain.”
Rabbi Janner-Klausner’s statement is almost as ludicrous as the one I heard from a number of Jews in the UK when I visited there the week after the Paris attack. Jews who reassured me that “the Muslims in England are different than the ones in France” and that the British government knows how to deal with Muslims. Perhaps we should introduce Rabbi Janner-Klausner and her British compatriots to Anjem Choudary, one of the most popular Muslim clerics in the UK. Choudary blatantly rejects UK law and calls for all of Britain to accept Sharia. He broadcasts that the 9/11 bombers were magnificent people who were carrying out their Islamic responsibility, and he refers to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as “the caliph of all Muslims and the prince of the believers.”
Perhaps these Jews are unaware of the fact that following the attacks in Paris and Copenhagen, British Prime Minister David Cameron raised his country’s terror threat level to “severe” in response to the rise of militant Islamists in Iraq and Syria, some of whom come from Britain, as he claimed that Britain was facing a “greater and deeper threat to our security than we have known before.”
Or perhaps, and more than likely, many of these Jewish people are afraid of their own shadow and unwilling to admit that regardless of the consistent challenges to its existence, Israel is the place where they are most secure because, as the Jewish prime minister stated so persuasively, Israel is the only place that they can call home.
Although highly predictable it never ceases to amaze that members of the Israeli government criticized Netanyahu as well. Tzipi Livni at the time said that Netanyahu’s words were a sign of his political weakness, “Jews should not immigrate [to Israel] because it is a safe haven,” she said, which made me wonder, why not? What would Livni’s reaction have been to those Jews who narrowly escaped the catastrophic consequences of the Holocaust and journeyed to the shores of Palestine in hope of rejuvenating their spirits in a land they could call their own? “The events in Paris do not only involve Jews and are not just their problem,” Livni continued. “This is a global struggle against extremist Islamic terrorism and we need to enlist the world to fight against it too.”
Livni is correct, the world must be aware of the global threat radical Islam poses to it, but it would be foolish and neglectful of Jewish leadership to approach Islamic terrorism as anything other than an acute Jewish problem. Precisely why Prime Minister Netanyahu stood in front of the US Congress and ended his speech boldly declaring, “The days when the Jewish people remained passive in the face of genocidal enemies, those days are over. We are no longer scattered among the nations, powerless to defend ourselves. We restored our sovereignty in our ancient home. And the soldiers who defend our home have boundless courage. For the first time in 100 generations, we, the Jewish people, can defend ourselves.”
Netanyahu also referred in his speech to another event we commemorated but a week ago: Purim.
Purim should have reminded the Jewish people of their fate as strangers in a strange land – subject to the whims and notions of foreign governments which can choose to annihilate the Jewish people. Yet, even after miraculously escaping the perils of Haman and ultimately being granted an opportunity to return to Jerusalem and construct the Temple, the majority of the Jewish nation stayed in Persia.
Drowning in the comforts of their wealth and economic success they, too, proclaimed that “Jews should not immigrate to [Israel] because it is a safe haven.” They attempted to confirm then that which Chief Rabbi of Denmark Michael Melchior declares now: “Terror is not a reason to move to Israel.” When will we learn that the only safe place for the Jewish people is a place they can call their own? Prime Minister Netanyahu’s final assertion, as he made reference to Moses who delivered us from Egypt, was, “Even if Israel has to stand alone, Israel will stand.”
In a few weeks we will mark Passover; a time when we reflect upon our exodus from Egypt and celebrate the creation of the Jewish nation and its return to Israel. A time when we should be proud that our nation is represented by a leader who affirms the value of a Jewish homeland, a time when we must identify that which distinguishes the Jewish nation from the rest of the world, a time when we can all join in unison and sing, “Next year in Jerusalem.”The author serves as a lecturer for the IDF to help motivate troops and infuse them with Jewish identity. In addition he is currently involved lecturing throughout Israel on the basics of Judaism for many secular kibbutzim and moshavim. He is the author of four books and a renowned guest lecturer for communities throughout the Diaspora. www.rabbihammer.com