A few hours after I posted War and Lunch I received a lovely and generous note from A Simple Jew, complimenting me on the post, urging me to keep blogging, and drawing my attention to this recent article which I find indescribably moving.
Archives for February 2005
Karen and I are invited to a Shabbos lunch at one of our closest friends in Beverly Hills. Present are three couples from our shul. We are all Orthodox, we are all reasonably successful professionals, all thoughtful and decent people. Of course, as it always will, conversation invariably turns to Israel, to the most recent homicide bombing in Tel Aviv. Attitudes vary. Some at the table believe that there is hope, that with the death of Arafat, the Palestinian terrorist leader, a window of opportunity has opened for peace. Others scoff at this idea. One man says: “I’ve seen this movie before. I know how it ends.” Another man counters: “No, this actually looks different.” Someone says, “Well what can we do if not negotiate, we have no choice.”
I have deliberately said nothing, but this last comment sets me off, for in a sense this is the most dangerous attitude that one can hold. To believe that you must talk in civilized tones with those who have vowed to butcher you is the height of folly. This kind of thinking has led to the current situation on our university campuses where Jihadists run the so-called “Middle Eastern Studies” departments. Jewish academics have thrown up their hands and said, “What can we do, it’s freedom of speech. We have to engage in dialogue with these people.” The result is that our elite campuses have schooled a whole generation in Wahaabist propaganda. Polite anti-Semitism is no longer polite. It is the most virulent Jew hatred this country has ever seen. You do not talk with these academics, you do not give them tenure, you make sure thay are not hired, you charge them with inciting hatred, you sue them for libel, you hit them where it hurts: in their pocket books. And you certainly do not send your children to these universities and pay the salaries of these crypto Jihadists.
Here is what I say:
“There are conflicts which are, by their very nature, insoluble. We who are middle class people have spent our whole lives learning to compromise, to negotiate, and so it is beyond our imagination that others do not follow this social model. But the world is and has always been filled with people who reject all compromise. In the American Civil War, the South was dedicated to slavery. Only force of arms could break that ideology. And to break the backbone of the sessionist movement, Lincoln understood that he had to smash the civilian infrastructure that gave it suppport. Hence Sherman’s march to the sea. The Southern civilians who had been shielded from the battlefield were made to suffer for their evil ideology. It was Sherman and his well disciplined army that broke the South and ended the war. If not for Sherman, America would be a Balkanized land. In World War II, America fire-bombed Dresden. We dropped two atomic bombs on Japan. Certain conflicts will only end when civilians are made to realize the fruits of their support for evil.”
There is a long silence at the table. I often have that effect on nice Shabbos lunches.
“But the Palestinians already suffer terribly,” says one woman.
I know this woman well; she is bright, she is a good person, perhaps too good.
“No, the people of Darfur in the Sudan suffer at the hands of the Janjaweed Arabs. The Tibetans suffer at the hands of the Chinese. The Tutsi minority suffered at the hands of the genocidal Hutu in Rawanda. The Cambodians suffered under the evil rule of Pol Pot. The Palestinians are the most well financed group of so-called refugees the world has ever seen. Ninety percent of the population have televisions. They have their own newspapers. There is no starvation. They receive billions in foreign aide. Excuse me, but standing on line at check points hardly qualifies as extreme suffering.”
“I’m sorry,” the good lady says, “but I don’t think we have to stoop to their level.”
I nod my head and sigh. This woman is a good friend. She is a fine lady who supports the arts, works in social services and has raised devout and sensitive children. But when it comes to war, her decent sensibilities become a deadly liability.
“This is an existential conflict,” I finally say. “The Arabs are quite clear on their genocidal intentions; they have no qualms about teaching it to their children in grade school, putting it out in their newspapers, on television. They have built a society whose blood lust has not been seen since the days of the Aztecs and their human sacrifices. Why don’t you want to believe the Arabs when they say that they want to destroy Israel, eliminate the Jews? They say it from Damascus to Paris”
She is appalled. “Do you advocate killing civilians?”
“I’m saying this: do you prefer dead Jews or dead Arabs?”
“I can’t belive that’s our only choice.”
“That’s what they used to say to Winston Churchill in the British Parliament when he warned of the Nazis. They literally used the same language. Hence Chamberlin’s Peace in Our Time.”
“Times have changed.”
“Not really. You see, the truth is, not one major conflict has ever been ended by a signed treaty. It has always been force of arms. Because some societies are simply so evil that they must be reduced to ashes. After the ashes, there is hope.”
Luckily, the dessert tray arrives and everyone gladly digs in. I look down at my hands and see that they are shaking.
In Israel, during the 1950’s, a lovely young Jewish woman and her boyfriend slung their backpacks over their shoulders and headed out for a hike in the rugged Judaen Hills. They never came back.
The young lovers were murdered by Arab terrorists.
The brother of the young woman was an Israeli soldier. But he was no ordinary soldier. Though still a young man, he was already a legendary warrior in the IDF. Friends with Ariel Sharon, he helped found Paratroop Unit 101, the first Israeli anti-terrorist unit.
The soldier’s name was Meir Har-Tzion. Knowing that he would never receive permission to do what he had to do, Har-Tzion went off on his own to avenge the terrible double murder. Single-handedly, methodically, Har-Tzion back-tracked the terrorist murderers — and killed them all.
Of Meir Har-Tzion, Moshe Dayan said: “He was the bravest Jewish warrior since Bar Kochba.”
In 1956 Har-Tzion was severely wounded in action and resigned from the IDF. Har-Tzion’s position as a patriot and a warrior is beyond question. Try and imagine a combinatioon of Daniel Boone, George Washington, Audie Murphy and Patton, all rolled into one, and you will begin to comprehend Har-Tzion’s stature in Israel.
Meir Har-Tzion has remained mute on political issues since his early retirement. For over fifty years this great warrior has steadfastly refused to use his lofty position in the pantheon of Jewish warriors to comment on the political scene.
Meir Har-Tzion has broken his long silence. He has chosen to speak of the Gaza disengagement plan.
In a stunnning interview Har-Tzion has condemned this course of action and has even called on Israeli soldiers to refuse their orders.
The importance of Har-Tzion’s comments should not be underestimated. Har Tzion has been a close friend of Ariel Sharon for over fity years. He has steadfastly stood by his old friend. But now, the two old warriors stand on opposite sides of a yawning chasm.
I must admit that I am not all that comfortable with the idea of soldiers being urged to refuse orders. An army depends upon a clear chain of command. Yet, the Gaza plan is by its very nature, an entirely different beast. It gives legitimacy to the odious notion that it is acceptable for land to be Judenrein. No one has ever explained to me why it is okay for 1.5 million Arabs to live in Israel with all the benefits of full citizenship, yet it is not okay for even one Jew to live in Arab countries. How did this notion gain such wide acceptance — among Jews no less? It just goes to show that if you repeat an idea often enough, no matter how stupid and illogical it is, simply by reason of repititon it begins to sound, well, reasonable. This is known as the “Big Lie.”
The Arab totalitarians have cleverly disguised and packaged their Jihadist war of genocide under the appealing and romantic banner of a national freedom movement. Naturally, the American elite has fallen for it with characteristic naivete. You can usually count on the educated classes to behave with incredible stupidity. The Europeans are, as always, a useless bunch of cowards bent on a policy of appeasement. At last, they have discovered a popular and efficient way to express their pathological hatred of Jews–through their Muslim population.
In less than one generation, the banner of Islam will fly over the EU, of this I have no doubt. And so, only two nations on this earth have the strength and the will to resist the jihadists: America and Israel. And so, though I fear Islamic facists, I fear a civil war among Jews even more. I ask myself: Is Meir Har-Tzion’s statement the opening salvo in this conflict?
Karen Adds: Robert’s sentiments were bolstered by the speakers at a forum we attended last night sponsored by Stand With Us. There were no easy answers, just a clear demarcation of the Muslim world’s intent, and wonderment for the Western world’s passivity and appeasement.
Writing about Ariel zt”l brings me into contact with people from all over the world. Most wrenching is when Karen and I hear from other parents who have lost children. Some parents write to us privately, sharing their memories in profound and moving detail. Others want the Seraphic Press audience to meet their children here on this blog. Recently, Mildred Nashofer, mother of the extraordinary Rachelle ob”m, sent me a deeply moving letter along with two novels, now out of print, that Rachelle wrote before she died. Mildred has asked me to share the following with you.
Rachelle Nashofer was born in Brooklyn on November 23, 1959. At a very young age, it was determined that Rachelle had an extremely high IQ, and as a result she was admitted on a full scholarship to The Hebrew Institute of Long Island. Rachelle was also the recipient of a full scholarship to Machon Gold Seminary for Women in Israel.
Rachelle always enjoyed writing and she composed poems and songs from her earliest years. At the age of 16 Rachelle began writing her first novel, The Eyes of Tomorrow, published in 1986, Aegina Press.
Rachelle was admitted to Stern College where she enjoyed a reputation for academic excellence and for her involvement in a wide variety of college clubs. Among her many achievements, Rachelle left her mark by being instrumental in making sure that Stern College offered an accounting class, which she needed for the double major she was pursuing. In addition, Rachelle was listed in the “Who’s Who of Outstanding Students.”
Shortly thereafter, Rachelle became ill, but did not let her problems stand in her way. Passionately, she forged ahead, writing her second novel, The International Reunion, which was published in 2003. Sadly, the publisher went bankrupt and the book was never properly distributed.
Both of Rachelle’s novels were listed on Amazon.com. In addition, Rachelle wrote five screenplays and composed six lyrics that have been put to music and are on cassette.
In 2004, Rachelle developed severe respiratory problems and died on August 18, 2004. Rachelle’s mother, Mildred Nashofer, has made a commitment to perpetuate Rachelle’s legacy through the publication and promotion of her writings and asks interested individuals to contact her by posting comments here. If you wish to call Mildred, please write to me privately and I will send you her phone number.
I have read Rachelles two novels and they are quite good. Unfortunately, they are not the kind of material that we at Seraphic Press are publishing. I urge my readers to write to Mildred and let her know that her daughter’s story has touched them. We, the parents of children who have died, ask for one thing only: remember our children.
I am standing in the lobby of the Museum of Tolerance. Rabbi Berel Wein’s film The Story of Maimonides has just had its West Coast premiere. I wrote the script. This is a fund raiser for Maalot, the new college for orthodox women here in Los Angeles. I spent a great deal of time researching the life of the Rambam. But as a dramatist, I have to take liberties. For instance, we know the name of Rambam’s second wife, Jamila. We know that she was the daughter of Rav Mishael, Rambam’s student and secratary, but we know little else. I wrote a scene showing Rambam and Jamila “meeting cute.” I structured the scene on the classic screwball comedy model. Sitting with this audience of black hat men and WWW’s (women with wigs), I got scared, really scared that they would be scandalized. But there was laughter as the Ramban courted Jamila and I realized that men and women, no matter how religious, all recognize the central truth of their relationships and delight in seeing it played out Jewish-style in eleventh century Egypt.
Ariel was alive when I was writing the script. I asked him to read the screenplay and check the facts. Ariel labored over the script for several days. He handed it back to me, saying: “It’s very good Dad, but I think you missed some things and so I made a few notes. I hope you don’t mind.” Of course I didn’t mind. I was happy to rewrite, to make the script more accurate. In truth, Ariel had qualms where I took dramatic liberties. He worried that certain groups would object. Ariel was always more conservative than me. I explained my reasons for taking dramatic license, he nodded his undertstanding, but I never truly convinced him. Ariel was more devoted to Torah and truth than to drama.
Sitting in the theatre, watching the film, a lump formed in my throat. I knew that Karen was feeling the same thing I was: that watching this film is painful because Ariel is not here to enjoy it.
The wife of a prominent Rav from our community walks up to me and tells me how much she likes the film. Now, she lowers her voice and says: “I have to tell you something, Mr. Avrech, I read your blog every single day.”
“It’s not too racy?”
She laughs, her laughter reminds me of a teenage girl. “No, no, not too racy. I love what you say about your son and your wife.” She hurries off to her husband, a great scholar in our community. A few minutes later the wife of another Rebbe comes up to me.
“Mr. Avrech, I want you to know that I’m obsessed with your blog. I read it every day, sometimes twice a day.”
I want to ask her if she does this secretly. If her husband, a very well known Rav on the other side of town, knows about this, but I decide that it would be an unfair question. “Keep writing. I love it,” she says. And off she goes, with a quick conspiritorial look over her shoulder.
Is this blog forbiddden fruit? Does a religious woman feel as if she’s doing something wrong when she spends hours reading this blog? Is it bitul z’man, a waste of time? Perhaps the fact that my words are mostly about Ariel, my son who died a year and a half ago, takes the edge off the situation.
I look around the room, these modest women are no longer a vast ocean of featureless females. I abruptly realize that each and every one of them is a radiant universe filled with hidden yearnings, pockets of secret wishes. These lovely and modest daughters of Israel have always been the backbone of the Jewish people and here in Los Angeles, on this rainy night, I recognize their beauty and their strength. Abruptly, Karen is standing next to me. Her hair is done up in a pony tail with a black barrette. She looks much as she did when I first met her in fourth grade. My heart stutters in my chest.