Tuesday, March 26, 2002

The Lost Souls

The Lost Souls
March 26, 2002

The archangel stood, approached the holy throne, and bowed before the L-rd. Receiving permission to speak, the angel lowered his eyes to the ground, unable and unwilling to look G-d in the eye.

?My L-rd, today is the third day of the week. In one day?s time we must be ready to accept the annual Passover offering. My L-rd, it is known before You, that since the destruction of the Second Temple, almost two thousand years ago, our People have yearned to bring their offerings, yet have been unable to do so. During the centuries of our dispersion, Passover was only a ceremony, with memories, reading from our holy books, going through the motions. Now, now, Blessed be Your Name, with the return of our People to the holy city of Jerusalem, those yearnings have increased a thousand fold, yet your People still are prevented from giving their offering.

?My L-rd, on Passover eve, it is customary to recite the four questions, which ask, ?why is this night different from other nights.? My L-rd, this year your humble and lowly servant stands before You, proclaiming that not only is this night unlike other nights, My L-rd, this year is unlike other years.

?My all-knowing L-rd, in the past fifteen months, since the eve of Rosh HaShana 5761, three hundred and sixty five Israelis have been slaughtered before you. Over two hundred and fifty of them were civilians. Over three thousand three hundred and fifty people have been wounded, over two thirds of them civilians. Men, women and children, killed and maimed, their blood spilt, for the sake of your Holy Name.

?My L-rd, only two days ago two more holy Jews were sacrificed on the altar of peace. Such good and beautiful people, a woman and a man. Esther, only 23 years old, not yet married, caring for children, young children, disabled children with Down?s syndrome and other disabilities. Esther so loved her land and her people, coming to Israel from afar, leaving the comforts of America, for the soil of Eretz Yisrael.

?My L-rd, Esther was on her way to her children, the children that needed her and loved her. She was riding in an armored bus, yet the terrorist?s bullet found its way into the bus, striking her down, another sacrificial lamb, pure and innocent.

?And again My L-rd, that same night, Avi, a twenty four year old man who also worked with children, a medic in the army, a person who cared for his fellow man, living in the holy community of Otniel, so near the founders of your People in the holy city of Hebron. He too was shot down by an enemy of your People. He too tried to protect himself, clad with a bullet-proof vest and an army helmet. Yet they could not help him in his hour of need. He leaves a heartbroken widow, Daphna, his wife of only six months.

?Woe to us, woe to us, for our sacrifices are so abundant, so much blood is spilled. Three hundred and sixty five people ? one for each day of the last year, from last Passover to today.

?My L-rd, Your holy place is still in the hands of the defiled, corrupting sanctity with profanity. There are those amongst your own People who still do not understand the holiness of this site, the center of the universe, the heart of your Land, your People, your teaching.

?My L-rd, here in one hand, a bowl, filled to the brim with a drop of blood from each of the sacrifices ? please accept this as atonement, grant forgiveness, let no more blood be spilled. Let the blood of this year?s Passover offering be of a sacrificial lamb and not of sacrificial people, sacrificial Jews.

?And here, my L-rd, in my other hand, another bowl, also filled to the brim, with tears, one tear from each of the orphans, widows, widowers, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, the loved ones who have lost their loved ones. Please My L-rd, let these tears be a symbol of compassion, a sign of mercy, and let them be the last tears shed in pain, let next year?s tears be tears of joy and happiness.

?My L-rd, here lined up behind me, are the souls of the children who were to be born to Esther and Avi. Look how many there are ? their children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, a whole room of souls, who will not now be brought into Your world, for they lost their parents, even before they were born.

?My L-rd, how will Nachum Kleiman, Esther?s father, celebrate this year?s Passover? My L-rd, how will Daphna Tzabag, Avi?s widow, celebrate this year?s Passover? How will they say, as Your People recite every Passover, those famous words, ?B?damaich chai?e, b?damaich chai?e? ? and you will live in your blood, you will live in your blood. My L-rd, these people have lived, but also died, in their blood. How will they repeat these words, with a smile, or with tears in their eyes?

?My L-rd, every Passover night Your People participate in a Seder ? in the order of the night, reading theHagada, the story of the redemption, thousands of years ago, from Egypt. This is the story of liberation, preceding the receiving of the Torah, preceding the entrance into the Homeland, Eretz Yisrael. My L-rd, they received Your Torah and they are in the Land, but where is the freedom, where is the liberation? Why must Your People ride in armored buses, with bulletproof vests and helmets, which don?t even protect them? Is this the sign of a free, liberated People?

?My L-rd, this Passover night, when You recite Your own Hagada, when You make Your own Seder, please, my L-rd, place these two bowls of blood and tears on Your table before You and sit with all these souls, the lost souls of Avi and Esther, and promise them that next year there will be no more lost souls, that there will be no more blood, that there will be no more tears, that next year?s Seder will celebrate the true and final liberation, the redemption of the Jewish people in their Land.

?Thank you, my L-rd.?

With blessings from Hebron.

Tuesday, March 19, 2002

Breaking the Chain of Pain

Breaking the Chain of Pain
March 19, 2002

It was one year ago, that hideous day, when an Arab terrorist sniper lined up his scope, pulled the trigger and ended the life of 10 month old Shalhevet Pass, hy?d. Shalhevet?s murder touched the lives and hearts of tens of thousands of people around the world and in Israel. Messages of condolences poured in from all four corners of the earth. The pain of an infant?s needless and brutal slaying sparked an outcry that knew no borders, no boundaries. People of all races and religions expressed their sorrow to Yitzik and Oriya Pass, Shalhevet?s bereaved parents.

What can one say to two young people whose first-born child is so abruptly taken from them? Is there any consolation? Yitzik and Oriya, despite their pain, despite their loss, resolved to overcome, to rise above their private suffering. They did not leave Hebron. Rather they continued their lives and were blessed, thank G-d, with a second child, again, a little girl, who they named Renana Nechama. In Hebrew, Renana means joy andNechama means comfort. Their comfort, their condolence, is reflected in the continuing of their lives, in their new-born daughter, in their joy , living in their homeland, living their faith. The word Shalhevet means flame. The initials of Renana Nechama ? in Hebrew Nun ? Reish, is the word Ner, which means candle. Renana Nechama, a tiny candle, the continuance of Shalhevet?s flame.

Last week, while in a parlor meeting in the United States, a woman raised her hand and told the participants, ?Only a few weeks ago I was visiting in Hebron. I was introduced to a young woman, with a baby in her arms and was told her name was Oriya Pass, Shalhevet?s mother. This woman was sitting at the playground, very close to where her first child was killed last year, sitting underneath those very hills, Abu Sneneh, where the terrorist sniper shot from. She sat there with her child, showing no fear, no apprehension. What faith, what unbelievable conviction!?

Shalhevet?s murder could have been a turning point, an event, as tragic as it was, that could have changed history. Unfortunately, there were hearts sealed to the unfolding catastrophe, hearts of people who had and still have, the power and ability to stop the bloodshed. Rather than attempt to bring an end to the terror and warfare, our so-called leaders remained blind to the reality of Arafatism ? an attempt to annihilate the State of Israel. The result of this blindness has been the murder of hundreds - men, women and children - and the wounding of thousands of innocent people, whose only crime is continuing to live as Jews in Israel.

As we approached the first anniversary of Shalhevet?s murder, it was decided to express our grief, not as an individual community, rather, as an expression of the anguish of thousands who have lost loved ones in the past year and a half. On Wednesday afternoon Hebron is initiating a march to awaken those still slumbering ? saying to all that we live in Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel). The march will leave from different parts of Israel and meet in Tel Aviv at the Dolphinarium, site of one of the most horrific terror attacks resulting in the death and injury of dozens of Israeli youth. Speaking at the Dolphinarium will be Yitzik Pass, Shalhevet?s father. From there the procession will continue to the Peres Center for Peace, established by the instigator of Oslo, Shimon Peres, who is personally responsible for much of the devastation. Speaking there will be Hebron community director Noam Arnon. The procession will then leave Tel Aviv for Jerusalem with everyone meeting early in the evening at the Kotel ? the Western Wall. There we will conduct a special prayer service, asking the L-rd in heaven to protect his flock, to bring wisdom to our leaders and to bring an end to the current madness.

In this way we wish to articulate our hope that the chain of pain will be broken and that our prayers will be answered.

Anyone desiring to participate in Wednesday?s march may get more information by calling 1-800-400-456 in Israel or at our web site ? in English at ShalhevetMarch.htm and in Hebrew at Aeroim.html.

With blessings from Hebron.

Tuesday, March 5, 2002

Take to the streets

Take to the streets
March 5, 2002

I write this article from New York. When I arrived, on Friday morning, on the way from the airport to our Brooklyn office, I passed a movie theatre, which made me feel right at home - they were screening three movies about Israel. One was called "Return to never-never land," the second was called "the Big Fat Lie" and the third, "Once I was a soldier." 

An apt way to remember my homeland.

Since arriving, over the past few days, I've had discussions with numerous people, some of whom were in tears, having the identical question on their lips: What are we going to do - why isn't anyone doing anything? 

It's not easy to sit in Hebron or Jerusalem, or anywhere else in Israel, hearing the constant news - another terror attack, another killing, an entire family wiped out, babies and children among the victims. As hard as that is, it's even more difficult to hear the news from afar - in my case, in New York. First, all the time you feel like you're sitting on pins and needles - what's happening now? Then, there is a sensation of impotence, almost an inability to grasp what is happening. The feeling is horrific. 

Today, it seems that the question is not: why isn't Sharon doing anything? The question is, what can we do to force Sharon to do something? It would be presumptuous of me to say that I have the answer - I don't know anyone who has The Answer. However, I do have an idea. A couple of weeks ago, former attorney general Michael Ben-Yair called for massive civil disobedience by soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces, calling on them to refuse to serve in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, in an attempt to force Sharon's hand and determine government policy (note, only, that Ben-Yair, while in office, indicted Moshe Feiglin and Shmuel Sackett for sedition, due to their calling on the Israeli public to practice civil disobedience in response to the signing and implementation of the Oslo accords). Based on Ben-Yair's present call for civil disobedience, aimed at soldiers and reservists, I think we should utilize the same practice. The time has come to take to the streets. 

After each terrorist attack, spontaneously, thousands of Israelis around the country must take to the streets, marching down major thoroughfares, protesting in central intersections, in short, closing up the country. The demonstrations need not last for hours at a time - each protest should be for maybe an hour or two - but they must consistent and they must be nationwide. Sharon and his puppet government must know that for each drop of Jewish blood spilled, life will not go on - another basketball game or football game broadcast on radio and television doping the minds of the masses. Thousands of people, expressing their horror, will close up the country - whether in the morning, afternoon or evening - until the government decides on the inevitable - the dismantling of Arafat's terrorist regime, the expulsion of the terrorist leadership and the return of Israeli forces to all cities in Yesha (Judea, Samaria and Gaza). 

There need be no forceful confrontation with Israeli police, for the simple reason that the sheer numbers of people protesting, in so many different parts of the country, will prevent the police from even attempting to stop the demonstrations. It is also essential that the protests occur, not only in the vicinity of the actual attack, but all around the country, thereby uniting the Israeli population against continued massacres. We are one people and when a child is killed in Jerusalem, the pain reaches Metulla and Eilat equally. Sharon must know that the entire country will boil over, until he gives the orders. 

It is possible that this is not enough. It is probable that the Israeli public will not be able to convince the government, despite mass demonstrations - mass civil disobedience. Therefore, I call on all of you, outside of Israel, to take part in saving our land and our people. We are one people, whether in Jerusalem, New York or Melbourne. During a time of war, we must come together, because our common fate is at stake. For example, can you imagine the impact of the following scenario: airplanes full of Jews fly into Ben Gurion airport. The doors open and passengers flood out. However, rather than entering the airport building leading to passport control, hundreds of people run out to the runways, preventing airplanes from taking off, closing the airport. Sound crazy? Well, it has already been done. Not exactly that way, but it was only a few months ago that the Israeli Histadrut national union, led by Amir Peretz, a member of Knesset, closed the airport during a work dispute. If, for more money, Israelis can justify closing the airport, how much more so to save human lives? 

Of course, it's impossible to guarantee that these actions alone will 'save the situation,' but, usually, one act leads to another and, when people finally start to wake up, the ball will start to roll. Then, with our doing, and with G-d's help, those in leadership positions, with the real ability to give the orders to bring this war to a victorious end, will do so, realizing that the entire country, the entire people, stands behind them, alleviating their fears and worries. 

Israel is supposed to be a democracy - the time has come for people's voices to be heard.