On the occasion of Israel’s 70th Independence Day, ZAKA founder and chairman Yehuda Meshi-Zahav composes a letter to his uncle and former leader of the Neturei Karta, the late Rabbi Amram Blau, reflecting on the achievements of the state.
To my dear uncle and leader of the Neturei Karta Rabbi Amram Blau of blessed memory, When I was young, I would join the demonstrations you led against Shabbat desecration and any other issue. For me, you were the epitome of the general, a leader and a fearless, uncompromising fighter for the principles of Judaism. We grew up with your stories of heroism, like the time you put your head in the Edison Cinema ticket window in Jerusalem to prevent desecration of the Shabbat, and were beaten with clubs until you lost consciousness.
From you, we heard again and again about the great danger inherent in the Zionist state, to the extent that you would ask to cross the border to the protection of the Kingdom of Jordan. We heard about the decrees of annihilation of the Zionist regime, whose sole purpose was to rid the Jewish people of its religion and faith. We heard your warnings that within a few years there would be no remnant or refugee surviving from the people of Israel.
You taught me about the importance of separating ourselves from everything that is part of the Zionist regime, not to take any money from the state, and that anyone who participates in the elections is effectively indulging in idol worship. You said in public forums that the Zionists were to blame for all the troubles of the people of Israel, including the Shoah itself.
As I grew older, motivated by my belief in your path, I too became involved in organizing demonstrations and protests. I was arrested countless times, and my bones were crushed by the beatings of the “Zionist soldiers.” But you taught us that every bruise from such blows was another level in the lofty ranks of “self-sacrifice,” and therefore we, too, did not feel the pain.
Today, after 70 years of a Zionist state, I am pleased to inform you, my dear uncle, that your fears were groundless: we have a wonderful, amazing Jewish-Zionist state that serves as a model for the entire world. A state that is blossoming in almost every sphere – education, economy, health, immigrant absorption, and Judaism itself. About seven million Jews – over 50% of the Jewish people – live in the State of Israel, and in Jerusalem alone we are approaching one million residents, which probably was not the case even during Temple times.
Who would have believed that, 73 years after the Shoah, when the people of Israel were almost annihilated and there was hardly any trace of Torah and Hassidism, we would have a Jewish state of our own.
A state in which the world of Torah would reach a level unparalleled in the history of the Jewish people. Since King Hezekiah, there has not been as much Torah study in the Land of Israel as there is today, and you will be surprised to hear that the “Zionist regime” is the greatest supporter of Torah education in the world, investing billions of shekels.
It is hard to believe that it was only 75 years ago that a Jew had no place to go. At the end of that terrible war, every refugee returned to his home, but the Jews were the only ones in the world who had nowhere to go, neither home nor country. That is, until the establishment of the State of Israel. Thousands of generations of Jews dreamed of a state, and today, we have merited what so many did not.
My uncle, if you were able to open your eyes today, you would see that in the “Zionist state of destruction,” 73% light Hanukka candles, 78% fast on Yom Kippur, and over 200,000 people take part in Selichot prayers at the Western Wall. How hard you had to fight so that every road in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods would be closed on Shabbat.
On the 70th anniversary of the Zionist state, there are seven cities led by ultra-Orthodox representatives, where the roads are closed on Shabbat and holidays, as they are in other cities with large ultra-Orthodox populations.
According to the Neturei Karta anthem we would sing at demonstrations, “We follow the path of Torah to sanctify the Divine Name.” We were sure that our place in Heaven was guaranteed. Yet here, in the Zionist state, the degree of “devotion” reaches the highest level, the level of the very symbol of self-sacrifice, Rabbi Akiva. Nearly 24,000 IDF soldiers have been killed sanctifying God’s name while defending the State of Israel and the Jewish people.
If only you knew just how wonderful the youth is here. Several times a year, thousands of youngsters born and raised in the Zionist state gather near the remnant of our Temple, swearing their willingness to sacrifice their lives for the sanctification of God’s name in defending the homeland and the people of Israel. How many tears did I shed during this sacred ceremony when I saw two of my own sons enlist and take that oath, one in Golani and the other in the Paratroopers.
No one forced it on them. They did so of their own free will.
My dear uncle, this “state of Sodom and Gomorrah,” as you called it, is today the state with the largest number of charitable organizations – and many of them were founded by ultra-Orthodox Jews, such as Yad Sarah, Ezer Mizion, ZAKA and United Hatzalah. Israel is the first to offer help and assistance to others in mass disasters around the world, and takes unimaginable risks in operations such as Entebbe to rescue its people. We have a state that is the very embodiment of the concept of mutual responsibility.
Rest in peace, my dear uncle Rabbi Amram. There is no need to fight anymore. Although your generation may have feared the Zionist state, 70 years later it has been proven that the State of Israel, with God’s help, is the savior and protector of the people of Israel, and this is indeed the safest and best place to live as a Torah observant Jew.
The writer is the founder and chairman of ZAKA Search and Rescue, a UN -recognized international humanitarian volunteer organization with nearly 4,000 volunteers in Israel and around the world. Meshi-Zahav was chosen to light a beacon in the 2003 Independence Day celebrations.