LECH L’CHA 5776
Senseless terror attacks—like the stabbing of children and the elderly—have paralyzed Israel and its economy. The CEO of one of Israel’s retail fashion chains said: “There have never been such tough months such as September and October in the fashion market.” Business is off as much as 40%. The malls and restaurants throughout Israel are almost empty. In previous Intifadas, Palestinians were trying to blow up as many Jews as possible, so if one stayed away from crowds one could feel relatively safe. Now Israelis are afraid to leave their homes and walk in the streets for fear of random stabbings.
Rabbi Tuly Weisz wrote me Thursday:
As I entered my office in Beit Shemesh—not far from Jerusalem—this morning, the usual quiet was pierced by an unusual noise in our residential neighborhood. The sound no father wants to hear in the morning: a police siren, followed by another, followed by another, followed by the sounds of a helicopter overhead.
I quickly called my wife Abby who was dropping off our kids at school.
“Is everything ok?” I asked nervously.
“Didn’t you hear?” Abby replied, “two terrorists tried boarding a school bus nearby.”
My heart stopped. The violence and terrorism that has been plaguing Israel over the past several weeks had struck our own neighborhood and the intended targets were children.
Thank Gd, the quick thinking school bus driver closed the door and drove away without any of the children being harmed, however, a Jewish teenager was stabbed before the Beit Shemesh police arrived and shot the terrorist as he tried entering a local synagogue.
Yesterday, a mother and her 2 young daughters—one in car seat—were attacked with a Molotov cocktail while driving along Route 60 near Beit El. The car turned over but—thank Gd—they survived and are being treated for their burns.
A friend told me that his daughter in Israel is now blowing all her student money on cabs because it’s the only way to be safe from the stabbers.
IDF soldiers have been advised that wearing a uniform off-duty is not the best idea because soldiers are instant targets. Was this part of the Jewish dream of an ancient homeland—that Israel’s courageous defenders must themselves be afraid within their own borders?
Renowned author Naomi Regan—coming in a couple of weeks to the Jewish Book Festival in Atlanta for her new book, The Devil in Jerusalem—writes in response to the murder of young parents Eitam and Naama Henkin who had been in their car on their way home from a festive reunion—shot in cold blood by Palestinian terrorists as their 4 terrified little boys sat watching from the back seat: It is hard to explain to anyone who doesn’t live in Israel and travel these roads every day what such news brings: grief, fury, fear and a fierce desire for a response that will deter the next such heinous and inhuman act.
Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas has taken pains to tell the world that he only supports “peaceful resistance,” but his official media calls upon Palestinians to resist Israelis with knives or stones. And so Palestinian Authority clerics unabashedly pull out knives during sermons encouraging their followers to slit Jewish throats. All this while Abbas’ brother-in-law was in a Tel Aviv hospital this week receiving heart surgery!
Every day now Jews are stabbed, slashed, shot, and murdered on the streets of Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh, Tel Aviv and Beersheba. And every day the world lies about “violence on both sides,” as if Netanyahu and Israel are calling for Jews to take knives and stab Palestinians. And, as I pointed out last week, even Sec. of State John Kerry blames Israel for the murder of its own citizens. There can be only one conclusion: Jewish blood is cheap and getting cheaper by the day. As Shmuley Boteach wrote: “I know of no other ethnic or religious group on Earth who face daily incitement to genocide with the world making not even a peep of an objection.”
All this weighed heavily upon my heart this week. And as I was reviewing this week’s Torah portion the opening verses (Gen. 12:2-3) where Gd challenges Abraham to leave his country and to come to the Promised Land of Israel caught my special attention. V’escha l’goy gadol, “and I will make of you a great nation; I will bless you, and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing.” Va-avarcha m’varchecha um’kalelcha a-or, “And I will bless those that bless you and him who curses you I will curse;” v’nivr’chu v’cha kol mishpchot haadama, “and all the families of the earth shall be blessed by you.”
Yes we, the Jewish people have blessed the world. And it’s not just that we taught the world about Gd and monotheism and gave them the Bible. Just consider the list of Nobel Prize winners in the last 100 years. Nobel Prizes have been awarded to over 800 individuals—more than 22% are Jewish although Jews comprise less than 0.2% of the world's population! Overall, Jews have won a total of 41% of all the Nobel Prizes in economics, 28% in medicine, 26% in Physics, 19% in Chemistry and 13% in Literature. We are blessed and have truly blessed this world!
If the Palestinians want to rid themselves of all traces of Jews—as they say they want—let them try to live without the blessings we have brought to the world. Let them live without the Polio vaccines and all the advancements in medicine we have made. Let them live without their cell phones and advanced computer chips. Let them live without Google and FaceBook. The blessings Jews have brought them is incalculable. Let them see that the lives of Palestinians under Israeli rule are far superior to that of Arabs in any other Arab nation.
And if they can’t bring themselves to express any appreciation, let them at least consider the words of Gd’s promise to Abraham: Vaavarcha m'varachecha umkalelcha a-or, “And I will bless those that bless you and him that curses you I will curse.” It is this promise which forms the basis of much of the Evangelical Christian support for the State of Israel. Type in the words of this promise on an Internet search engine and you’ll see how many Christian websites pop up. If you are our friend, you’ll be blessed, Gd promises; if you are against us you’ll be cursed.
Sounds strange, even parochial? But it’s a fact of history. We speak of the “glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome.” But that glory and grandeur soon departed after the Greeks and Romans turned against us. Similarly, soon after Spain expelled its Jews, the sun began to set on the Spanish Empire. After Holland welcomed Jews that were expelled from Spain and Portugal in the early 16th century it rose to become a world power. It was the same story for Turkey.
In 1290, King Edward I issued an edict expelling all Jews from England and then over the next 350 years England went through one crisis after another. After Menasseh ben Israel (prominent rabbi from Holland of Rembrandt fame) met with Prime Minister Oliver Cromwell in 1656 with Cromwell agreeing to allow the Jews to return, England experience steady growth and created to largest colonial empire in the world.
In modern times, the Iron Curtain of Communism 1st began to fall when the Jews sought their freedom.
My friends, Gd’s promise still stands: “And I will bless those who bless you, and he that curses you shall be cursed.” May Gd continue to bless His people and all who bless her and may peace and security come soon to His Holy Land. Amen!
Rabbi Mark Hillel Kunis10/23/15