Friday, August 4, 1995

A Time to Cry - A Time to Laugh

The past week has been extremely turbulent.  The struggle over the Dagan Hill in Efrat, and the addition to Beit El,

climaxed with the arrest, detention and release of Efrat's Rabbi Shlomo Riskin.  Rabbi Riskin, having left the Lincoln Square Synagogue pulpit in Manhattan, for the Biblical landscape of the Judean Hills, is never far from productivity, or controversy.  He was instrumental in initiating and building Efrat, and has developed wide- ranging educational institutions of the highest quality.        Never known as an extremist, Rabbi Riskin's political ideology is not necessarily definable.  In the past he might have been called "dovish," leaning toward the "religious left."  However, this week the Israeli news media proclaimed "The leftist Rabbi is arrested."  According to news reports, Rabbi Riskin may be charged with inciting and insurrection for his role in the demonstrations on the Dagan Hill in Efrat.      The other major event has been slightly overshadowed, but it must not be forgotten.  Rabin's minister of communications, Shulamit Aloni, decided that the time has come to impinge on freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of thought.  She instructed her cronies to impound the transmitters on the Arutz 7 broadcasting ship.        For those of you who may not be aware of the significance of Arutz 7, a little background.  Israel Broadcasting, better known as "Kol Yisrael" or the Voice of Israel is run the elite left, people who generally regard "settlers" or religious Jews, or both together, as the dregs of Israeli life.  They have done their best to propagate these views in whatever ways possible, utilizing their control of the media to the best of their advantage.   A number of years ago, led by Rabbi Zalman Melamed from Beit El, a new, "religious/right-wing radio station was founded.  Being unable to receive a license to broadcast, the station operates and transmits from a ship, outside the legal waters of Israel.  The station could conceivably broadcast illegally from within Israel proper, as do many other pirate stations, but prefers not to publicly disobey the law.  Therefore, the ship.  The costs involved in maintaining a ship are enormous.  However, the listening audience is very large, thereby attracting major commercial investors that help to defray the costs.  The public-at-large, appreciating the importance of the station, also contributes generously to its continued operation.       Arutz 7 broadcasts Israeli music, offers short lectures and classes dealing with Judaism and Eretz Yisrael, and provides news services unbiased by the Israeli left. In short, Arutz 7 is a major source of discomfort to the Rabin-Peres-Arafat triumvirate.  So Shula decided to come to their rescue.  While the radio station was temporarily closed down and in the docks for repairs, Shula's goons invaded.  The transmitters were impounded and two men were arrested.  Democracy in action.      On Sunday we will remember the destruction of the first and second Temples by fasting, reading from the Book of Lamentations, and reciting memorial dirges.  It may seem difficult to mourn the destruction of something that hasn't existed for almost 2,000 years, but actually it's not.  For mourning is an act of sorrow for something or someone who is lacking from our lives.  Even if it is difficult to imagine the lack of the Temple on our lives, we don't have far to turn.  We just have to look over the horizon to Rachel's tomb or a little farther south, to the Caves of the Patriarchs, or perhaps we don't have to go anywhere - we need only look toward the remnants of the Western Wall that once surrounded the Temple - what is to be of them?  Will we, you and I, still be able to visit them next year at this time?  Try to envision, as horrible as it may sound, a negative response.  How will we feel, as a nation, seeing an enemy army force guarding the entrance to Temple Mount-the Western Wall in Jerusalem,  or to the Caves of the Patriarchs in Hebron?  Isn't it enough to make you cry?  That's the way, even more so, that we should feel on the 9th of Av, Tisha b'Av.      Why do we have Tisha b'Av?  Why were the two most important, most central foundations of Jewish life destroyed on or about the same day, hundreds of years apart?  The Bible tells us of 12 spies, sent by Moses to investigate the Land of Israel, to determine how best to conquer it.  Ten of these spies reported back to Moses and the People of Israel that Eretz Yisrael was unconquerable.  Rather than risk their lives, or their position as leaders among their peers, they preferred to stay in the desert.  They preferred the desert to Eretz Yisrael.  They managed to convince the rest of the nation that their way was right - Eretz Yisrael was dispensable.  This day, the day that Am Yisrael wept about having to enter Eretz Yisrael was declared to be a day of "crying for all generations." The date was the 9th of Av - Tisha b'Av.  On Tisha b'Av we despaired of Eretz Yisrael.  How history repeats itself?!        We are promised that the days of mourning and fasting will be transformed to times of happiness, to holidays. But this won't happen without a major effort on our parts.  We must be convinced, and we must convince our friends and neighbors of the importance and significance of Eretz Yisrael to the Jewish People.  We must all get up and DO - And in the words of the great sage Hillel, "If not now, when?" 

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