Sometimes I struggle with what to write about for Machshavot.
This week the opposite is true – there is so much about which to write!
We have the poignant and moving burial of the remains of six unknown victims of the Shoah, the ongoing, exhausting Brexit negotiations and of course the upcoming Chag of Tu BiShvat.
However, something came to my attention last night by my friend and colleague Rabbi Barry Marcus, which jumped to the top of my list but whose conclusions link in very powerfully to two of the above three areas and of course to our Parsha.
It was a special report on the crisis in Gaza’s hospitals on the BBC’s news at 10. It was four minutes of the most disgraceful piece of shocking journalism. It focused on the ‘epidemic’ of gunshot wounds that the hospital has to deal with due to the ‘clashes’ at the border with Israel.
The reporter explains to us that ‘There have now been months of demonstrations at the boundary. Many Palestinians say their intentions were peaceful, although some have thrown stones, burnt tires and sent incendiary kites and balloons over the fence’.
Remarkable, there is no attempt at accuracy and context. Hamas, the terrorist entity (that is only mentioned once during the broadcast as being in charge of the strip) has pushed the storming of the barrier with the express intent to break through the barrier with the goal to murder as many Israelis as possible.
The kites and balloons have burned 7000 acres of land, some of the balloons carry explosive devices, recently one landed near a Kindergarten. So, what is Israel to do? Just allow the attempted invasion to be successful? To welcome the pretty kites and balloons into Israel?!
As the IDF has said before ‘The primary mission of the IDF is to prevent thousands of Gazans from infiltrating into Israeli 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 are 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.’
The BBC then tells us ‘The vast majority of the Gunshot wounds have been to the lower limbs’, with no information telling us why! We know it is because the IDF wants to minimize casualties, even though the people storming the fences are not innocent bystanders but potential terrorists.
Why report in such a way, without even trying to paint the true picture of the reason for the situation?
Of course we are saddened by any suffering, any pain and we wish that these people did not have gunshot wounds – but then tell them and Hamas to stop trying to attack the Jewish state! Tell them to stop firing rockets and missiles into the Jewish state. Tell them to stop attempting to build terror tunnels into Israel to murder and kidnap soldiers and civilians.
The thing that frustrates the BBC and many of the mainstream media is that they cannot cope with the Jewish people being strong and firm. The picture of a rag tag bunch of people burning tyres and hurling stones against the might of the IDF puts the BBC and the like firmly on the side of the ‘poor Palestinians’ who stand no chance against the IDF.
How much nicer was it when us Jews were poor, defenceless and alone – then you could feel for us, then we didn’t upset you, then you could support us. However you didn’t, you watched as century after century we were butchered, slaughtered, burned and gassed. We had nowhere to go, no one to help us, we wandered the planet just trying to find a place where we could call home and live our lives in peace as Jews.
Then, 80 years ago this September, began the systematic destruction of a people, our people, never before seen in history.
As the smoke of war cleared in 1945, six years later, as the Russians entered Auschwitz, and the British, Bergen Belsen, slowly people began to understand the enormity of what had happened.
A third of world Jewry had gone up in flames.
The six million included the remains and ashes of six people, who were murdered by the Nazis and their allies.
We don’t know who they were, we don’t know when they died but we do know why they died – for the simple crime of being Jewish and we know no one was there to save them.
Finally 75 years later they are being buried according to Jewish Law in a world where we finally have a place that we can call home, finally we have a nation state with a strong army that will protect not only its citizens but will be there for Jews all over the world.
Rav Soloveitchik in his work ‘Kol Dodi Dofek’ spoke of six knocks on the collective door of the Jewish people calling us all to awaken to our responsibilities as Jews and reach for greatness.
These knocks were the six miraculous events accompanying the establishment of the State of Israel.
The fifth knock says Rav Soloveitchik was attitudinal, as the international community realized that with the birth of Israel the Jews had a homeland and Jewish blood could no longer be shed freely and without fear of retribution. You hijack our people – we will fly across the world to rescue them. You kill our athletes – we will come after you – we are Israel.
There is a new reality in the world – and some people, would love to turn the clock back.
On September 4, 2003, something occurred which sums up all that I have been saying so far.
On that date, the Israeli Air Force carried out a ceremonial flight over the Auschwitz-Birkenau site in Poland. Three F-15 jets took part in the sortie, flown by six aircrew members whose relatives had been murdered in the Holocaust.
On board the jets, the crew members carried Yad VaShem witness pages with the names of Jews who were murdered on the same date, 60 years earlier – September 4, 1943.
One of the pilots was Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, who was a former head of the Israeli Air Force. Another pilot was Brig. Gen. Avi Maor, formerly commander of the Ramon Air Force Base.
“I decided that this would be the most proper way [to visit Poland],” he told the IDF Website, “because it represents the state of Israel and the Jewish people in a different way. Not just ‘what was done to us’ but presenting the national strength and the fact that Israel is a strong state with a strong army.”
The jets took off from the Polish Air Force base at Radom. When they flew over Auschwitz-Birkenau, Delegation Commander Eshel spoke on the radio: “We, the Air Force pilots in the skies of the camp of horrors, rose up from the ashes of the millions of victims. We carry their silent cry; we salute their bravery and promise to protect the Jewish nation and its land, Israel.”
On the ground below, 180 officers and NCOs under the then Maj. Gen. Ido Nechushtan, watched them.
“The day of the flight was crazy,” Maor recalled. “In the pre-flight briefing, we sat in the cold and shivered. To be honest, I think that the trembling was not from the cold, but from excitement over what awaited us on that fateful day.”
“From the moment of takeoff everything was very technical, just like any flight. Only a year later, in a meeting we held, we discovered that we had all had the same experience right after flying over Auschwitz. We were in twin-seater planes and we usually talk a lot during the flight. That second, we all went silent. A thunderous silence, as if something heavy had fallen through the air and we all understood exactly how great the occasion was.”
Maor flew his last IAF flight in 2012. Looking back at all his career flights, including combat flights in which he shot down enemy jets, “I have no doubt that this was the most meaningful and successful flight in my life.”
The Mizrachi magazine for Tu BiShvat which is being distributed this Shabbat across the UK reminds us of the miracle of our return to Eretz Yisrael and the marvel of the rebirth of the Land itself, producing forests, vines, flowers and fruits in celebration of its children finally returning home.
So BBC and the world – Baruch Hashem we have returned to our land!
Baruch Hashem we are strong, willing to fight to protect our people!
Baruch Hashem we have laws of combat based on Jewish values that make sure the IDF behaves in a moral and ethical way as we fight an enemy that wishes us all to suffer the same fate as those in the Shoah.
From the moment we left Egypt in this weeks Parsha, nations have tried to destroy us. Beshalach is just the first – the Egyptians and Amalek, there have been so many over the ensuing 3500 years. Now it is Hamas and Hezbollah.
As we said at Kriat Yam Suf 3000 years ago ‘Tvemo v titaemo, b har nahalatcha…hashem yimloch l olam vaed’ ‘You will bring them and implant them on the Mount of Your heritage, the foundation, of your dwelling place that You, Hashem have made, the sanctuary, my Lord that Your hands established. Hashem shall reign for all eternity.’
Our strategy has to be the same as it always was – pray to Hashem to save his people and fight both with weapons and words to defeat our enemies. And continue to our destiny of the Geulah Sheleimah – the final redemption.
I will leave you with the words of Colonel Ofir Winter who led his troops into Gaza in 2014.
Dear officers and soldiers, it is our great honor to command and serve in the Givati Brigade at this time. History has chosen us to be the vanguard of the offensive against the brazen terrorist enemy who never ceases to insult, scorn and revile the God of the armies of Israel. We have prepared and readied ourselves for this moment, and we undertake this mission as emissaries, in complete humility, knowing that we are risking our lives in order to defend ourselves, our people and our homeland.
We will act together with determination and strength, initiative and cunning. We will take the fight to the enemy. We will do everything we can to carry this mission through to the end in order to destroy the enemy and abolish the threat to the Jewish people. We will act and do everything possible in order to bring back our boys unharmed.
I trust each and every one of you to act in this spirit – the spirit of the warriors of Israel who lead their regiments into battle. This is spirit called “Givati.” I raise my eyes to the heavens and call out together with you: “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one.”
Hashem, the God of Israel: Please grant our efforts success. We are going out to battle for the sake of your people Israel against an enemy who reviles your Name. On behalf of all the troops of the IDF, and the commanders and soldiers of our unit, I ask that what is written in the Torah come true for us: “For it is Hashem your God Who is going with you; He will fight for you against your enemies and He will deliver you. (Devarim 20:4) Amen!
BBC take note – we are the Jewish people 2019, not the Jewish people 1939.
We will never forget our history – but we will fight with all the fibre of our being to make sure history never repeats itself.
God bless Israel and Chag Tu Bishvat Sameach