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Machshavot | Parashat Bamidbar

May 22, 2018 Andrew Shaw
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It should have been a tremendous week.

It began with Mizrachi’s schools mission for Yom Yerushalayim. Thirty two students being inspired by Shabbat in the Holy City and then part of the wonderful celebrations for 51 years since the reunification of Jerusalem. They came back buzzing from the powerful spiritual experience.

And then the following day the momentous events of the opening of the American Embassy in Jerusalem, a historic day when the leader of the most powerful nation on earth declared in no uncertain terms that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

As President Trump said ‘almost immediately after declaring statehood in 1948, Israel designated the city of Jerusalem as its capital – the capital the Jewish people established in ancient times….Israel is a sovereign nation with the right like every other sovereign nation to determine its own capital. Yet for many years we failed to acknowledge the obvious, the plain reality that Israel’s capital is Jerusalem. On December 6 2017 at my direction the United States finally and officially recognized Jerusalem as the true capital of Israel, and today we follow through on this recognition and open our embassy in the historic and sacred land of Jerusalem.’

However, on that same day, Hamas attempted to continue their terrorist activities by encouraging tens of thousands of Palestinians to storm the border fence to attempt to cross into Israel and with their knives, bombs and Molotov cocktails to cause death and destruction in any area in Israel they could reach.

The IDF did what any army would do – defended the borders to stop the invasion. However, 62 protesters lost their lives whilst trying to infiltrate the border.

As one IDF reservist said:

“I want to testify that what I saw and heard was a tremendous, supreme effort from our side to prevent, in every possible way, Palestinian deaths and injuries.

Of course, the primary mission was to prevent hundreds of thousands of Gazans from infiltrating into our territory. That kind of invasion would be perilous, mortally dangerous, to the nearby communities; would permit terrorists disguised as civilians to enter our kibbutz and moshav communities and would leave us with no choice but to target every single infiltrator. That’s why our soldiers were directed to prevent infiltration, in a variety of ways, using live ammunition only as a last resort.

The IDF employs many creative means of reducing friction with Gazans and uses numerous methods, most of which are not made public, to prevent them from reaching the fence. In addition, over the past few weeks there have been serious efforts to save the lives of children and civilians who have been pushed to the front lines by the Hamas, who are trying to hide behind them in order to infiltrate and attack Israel.

When there is no alternative, and live ammunition must be used to stop those who storm the fence, the soldiers make heroic and sometimes dangerous efforts not to kill and to only injure those on the other side. The IDF stations senior commanders at every confrontation point to ensure that every shot is approved and backed up by a responsible figure with proper authority. Every staging area has an especially large number of troops in order to make sure that soldiers are not put into life-threatening situations where they will have no choice but to fire indiscriminately.

A situation where thousands of people rush you is frightening, even terrifying. It is extremely difficult to show restraint, and it requires calm, mature professionalism. Sixty-two dead is an enormous number. But I can testify from my first-hand experience, that every bullet and every hit is carefully reported, documented and investigated, in Excel spreadsheets. Literally. I was there and I saw it with my own eyes.”

However, the typical responses from the mainstream media, the EU and the UN jumped to condemn and accuse Israel with no mention of the terrorists. Particularly repulsive was the speech of Emily Thornbury, the shadow Foreign Secretary:

“We condemn unreservedly the Israeli government for their brutal, lethal and utterly unjustified actions on the Gaza border, and our thoughts are with all those Palestinians in Gaza whose loved ones have been killed or injured as a result….we urge the Israeli forces serving on the Gaza border to show some long-overdue responsibility to their fellow human beings, and stop this vicious and utterly avoidable slaughter of peaceful protesters demanding the right to return to their homes.”

By Wednesday the details had come out backing the IDF version and admitting that nearly all of those killed were Hamas or Islamic Jihad terrorists – did we get apologies from the BBC, from Emily Thornbury, from the UN? Of course not. We know what we are up against. However, the next sorry tale made it even worse.

By now, many of you will have seen the despicable scenes of a group of young Jews saying Kaddish for Hamas terrorists in-front of the UK Parliament! I would post the link to the video but it contains some very explicit language from a very (quite rightly) livid person who comes across this revolting ceremony.

For me what was even more tragic is that the group present had amongst them leaders and educators of the young Jewish community from certain Zionist youth movements who are responsible for teaching our young people about Israel!

However, there was one amusing moment of the video. The group start by saying a few pathetic things about Israel, then, they read the names of the terrorists killed. During this time a lovely big black dog is lying quietly in the sunshine – oblivious to the lunacy going on.

Now dogs don’t feature much in Torah apart from Yetziat mitzraim. There the Torah tells us that on that night, “No dog so much as whet his tongue towards the Children of Israel (Shemot 11:7)” The idea that the dogs didn’t bark or attack as we left, is said in praise of the creatures. One idea is that they realised the greatness of Yetziat Mitzraim and Bnei Yisrael and were silent.

Back to last Wednesday. As soon as one of the leaders announces she was going to say Kaddish the dog began to bark, as if even our four-legged friend was saying – I am not staying quiet while this mockery and disgrace is going on!

To me this event was a nadir in the depths that certain Jews will go to attack Israel.

There is a Mishna in Arvei Pesachim (116A) that tells us that on the night of Pesach when we recount the exodus story we should “Matchil B’Gnut U’Mesayim B’Shvach “ begin with disgrace and end with praise”

This week as a community, we have done the exact opposite, we began with praise and ended with disgrace.

Let us hope we can rekindle that praise, with the upcoming wonderful few days of Zman Matan Torateinu to remind ourselves of the eternity of Torah, our relationship with Hashem and our love for the people, Torah and Land of Israel.

As the head of World Mizrachi, Rav Doron Perez said: ‘Mount Sinai and Mount Moriah, Shavout and Yom Yerushalayim, one week apart, have turned collective fate into spiritual destiny. May we appreciate the enormity of our era and recommit to our timeless Torah values.’

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach,

Rabbi Andrew Shaw

Mizrachi UK