One kid: Israel and the class bullies

Israel is like that one little boy in a class of bullies whose father told him that if he held steady, he would outlast all of his opponents.

March 30, 2010 23:19
4 minute read.
The Schechter Haggadah

The Schechter Haggadah. (photo credit: .)


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Growing up, there was one kid in our class who seemed to take more abuse than all the other kids combined. He was mercilessly picked on and called all kinds of hurtful names by his classmates. They shunned him, they wouldn’t study with him or even lend him a pencil when his own broke. They blamed him for anything and everything that went wrong in school, and refused to let him join any of the cliques or clubs that spring up among students. They even threatened any children who did associate with him, warning them that they, too, would be ostracized if they were caught hanging around this kid.

The principal tried many times to make peace between the kid and the other students, but it rarely helped. Even if there was a truce, it never lasted long, and soon the bullies were back at it all over again. All the principal could do was urge the kid to stay strong, not to give in or give up, and reassure him that one day, justice would prevail and he would no longer be terrorized.

In the kid’s neighborhood, the situation was essentially the same. A group of rowdies made fun of him and didn’t want to play with him. He was never invited to the football or basketball games that spontaneously occurred in the local park. If he did try to join, they either booed him off the field, or sometimes even summarily ended their game, just so that he couldn’t participate. On several occasions, they yelled curses at his house, and even threw stones or rotten eggs at his window.

The kid’s father was terribly upset about all this, because he knew that his son hadn’t done anything wrong and deserved to be treated decently by the other kids. But all he could do was teach the boy to defend himself and stick to his guns, not to lose faith in himself nor sink to the level of his detractors. “Don’t let it get your goat,” said dad wisely. “In the end, time heals all wounds, and wounds all heels.”

THE “KID,” of course, is Israel. We are surrounded by bullies on all sides. Syria rebuffs our efforts at reconciliation and joins with Iran in threatening our existence, pouring the bulk of its meager income into buying more and more weapons that are pointed our way. Lebanon – having capitulated into becoming essentially a satellite state of Iran – whines that “all our problems are caused by Israel.”

Even the neighbors “at peace” with us are anything but friendly: Egypt demonizes us at every opportunity, even declaring last week that its synagogues are not Jewish property, but rather “Egyptian historical sites.” And in Jordan, anyone who dares quote the Israeli point of view in the media – let alone interview an Israeli – is ceremoniously drummed out of the press corps or thrown into prison.

As for the Palestinians, they roam the planet, denying our ancient link to the land, inventing all kinds of blood libels against the Jews and begging the nations not to have any dealings with us, even as we solicit donations for them and seek a peaceful coexistence. The more hostile among them plot acts of murder and violence, confident that whatever crimes they commit, Israel will be held at fault by the UN and the world at large.

Not for nothing did the authors of the Passover Haggada choose to end the Seder with the little ditty of “Chad Gadya.” For as glorious as the saga of Pessah is to us, as wonderful as our liberation from Egypt, our ascension of Mount Sinai and our conquest of Israel are, the story does not end there. There would be centuries of exile and emancipation, persecution and perseverance in the face of countless regimes and rulers.
We would be scattered to the four corners of the earth, enduring great hardship and prejudice along the way. Yet we would keep our culture intact, never abdicating our peoplehood, proud of our many accomplishments achieved in an atmosphere of absolute adversity.

In the end, we would never lose faith in our mission. For we knew that father, the Almighty, was watching over us and guiding us along this tenuous, sometimes treacherous, trek through history. If he held steady, and did not falter along the way, that one little kid would outlast all of his opponents and detractors. He would be bruised, but never bowed. He would be vindicated in his quest for truth and would yet reclaim the glory that was his destiny.

The promise of Pessah – summed up in the cry, “Next year in Jerusalem” – would certainly be fulfilled, along with the grudging recognition that our cause is just. That is the essence of Passover – I kid you not.

The writer is director of the Jewish Outreach Center of Ra’anana.

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