||Yom Kippur Drasha - Yizkor
||by Rav Ze'ev Smason
|Israel: Last Year, and in the Year Ahead
| I'd like to begin my remarks today by sharing with you a story
heard from a rabbinic colleague of mine -- Rabbi Motty Berger. Rabbi
related that a number of years ago, he became friends with a young man
had just emigrated from China to study in an American university. This
Chinese student who I'll call Wong, was a brilliant young man, but had
poor command of English. Wong dedicated himself with great fervor to
mastering English, and used American newspapers as his primary resource
gain fluency in the language.
One day, Wong told Rabbi Berger that something was bothering him.
the previous several months of reading the Washington Post and New York
Times, he had noticed that three countries constantly occupied the news
the front page; one was the United States, the second, the former
Union, and the third, Wong said, 'some country named Israel.' Being
China, Wong was well familiar with Russia, and of course knew of
was puzzled though, in not recognizing the country that the news was
constantly discussing called 'Israel.' He had never heard (Wong said)
this 'Israel' in China, and couldn't even find it on a map. Wong asked
Berger if 'Canada' was really another name for 'Israel,' since Canada
very large country by size, and it must be (Wong reasoned) that a
discussed as often as this 'Israel' must be enormous in geographical
At that point, Rabbi Berger took his friend Wong to a globe, and
him where this 'Israel' actually was located. Tucked off to the
of the Mediterranean Sea, this country was so small that it didn't even
enough room for it's name or principal cities to be written on it's
-- but had to be written in the 'blue' area of the Sea!
Wong was incredulous, and said, 'you mean to tell me that this
country is the one that is always on the front pages of the newspapers?
many people live in Israel?" Rabbi Berger said that there were about 5
million people in Israel.
Wong said, "5 million people? In my country, they recently had a
census, and found that China has a population of one billion people,
minus 50 million. Do you realize," Wong told Rabbi Berger, "that 10
many people are lost in China, then exist in the entire country of
but this little Israel is always on the front pages of the newspaper?"
The events of September 11, 2001, have understandably taken Israel
the front pages of the world news. Although we've been preoccupied
America's tragedy, I feel that it's imperative to maintain focus on
taken place in Israel over the past year, and the issues that confront
a vis Israel as we enter 5762.
Ladies and gentlemen, we dare not neglect the fact that there is a
that is going on in Israel as we sit here today in shul on Yom Kippur.
Israel is in the midst of a war of survival, a difficult war of
terrorist war of survival. There's barely a day that goes by without
being murdered, and the campaign of violence that the Palestinians are
against Israel seems to be constantly escalating.
I'd like to raise three issues with you today regarding Israel,
hope that we'll remain vigilant regarding our beloved homeland and
brethren, and know how to respond appropriately to the crisis.
Issue number one: The national airwaves and local media have
filled with suggestions that if only America hadn't been supportive of
Israel, the devastating tragedies in New York and Washington would not
taken place. Was the relationship between the United States and Israel
cause of the September 11 attacks? Perhaps some of you have
questions along these lines from neighbors and coworkers, suggesting
once again, it's 'all Israel's fault.' How are we to respond to such
Although Islamic hatred of the West is certainly based on a number
factors, I believe that it is misleading and disingenuous to claim that
September atrocities are not connected to Israel.
In an interview printed in Esquire Magazine in February 1999, none
than Osama bin Laden had this to say about the relationship of America
"The American imposes himself on everyone. Americans accuse our
Palestine of being terrorists..... At the same time, Americans defend a
country, the state of the Jews, that has a policy to destroy the future
"We are sure of our victory against the Americans and the Jews as
the Prophet: Judgment Day shall not come until the Muslim fights the
where the Jew will hide behind trees and stones, and the tree and the
will speak and say, Muslim, behind me is a Jew. Come and kill him.' "
It is as clear as day that September 11 was in very large part due
American support of Israel, and American support of Jewish values.
we supposed to say, then, when people say 'it's all Israel's fault.'
share with you how I respond to such a statement.
I ask my questioner if he supported the deployment of American
Bosnia several years ago -- "surely you remember," I tell him, "the
cleansing' and 'genocide' perpetrated by the Serbians." In most
he'll say "yes, I supported American involvement." I then tell him
his support reflected the feelings of mainstream America. We don't
necessarily see the role of our country as the 'World's Policeman' ;
Americans do feel, however, that the abundance of material blessings
granted this country morally obligates America to be the defender and
protector of the poor and downtrodden who can't protect themselves from
Israel is not simply a strategic ally that shares common Democratic
values with America; Israel is a small country surrounded by 150
hostile enemies who deny it's right to exist and would be tickled pink
it disappear. Mainstream America supports lending a helping hand to
the Bosnias and Israels of the world. US foreign policy should not --
will not -- be determined by narrow minded isolations, bigots and
anti-Semites. Israel was not the 'cause' of what happened on
rather, it was America's commitment to righteousness and ethics that
the target of that devastating attack.
A second contemporary issue on the agenda this year is the following
question; Is all terrorism equally reprehensible, or does there exist
thing as 'good terrorism,' and such a thing as 'bad terrorism'? Why
American government identified 15 terrorist organizations who will be
to a financial crackdown, but has left the 'Hamas', a Palestinian group
has committed many suicide bombings in Israel, off the list? Good
terrorists, and bad terrorists?
A related question is the following; We've heard a much in the
weeks how 'mainstream Islam decries suicide bombing. 'While many or
Muslim countries and American Muslims have decried the September 11
attacks, not a word has been said in condemnation of the suicide
that have ravaged Israel over the past year. The silence of those who
that Islam is a peace loving religion is deafening when it comes to
protesting the same tactics that have been used against Israel. We
aware of the this hypocrisy, and be prepared to point it out in
Are there bad suicide bombers, and good suicide bombers?
Finally, our response to the situation in Israel demands action,
can be broken into three segments.
When asked for his reaction to the enormous decline in tourism
visits from American Jews to Israel this past summer, Rabbi Shlomo
Efrat said "If Israel is like Disneyland, then you only go when there
weather. If Israel is a motherland, then you go when your mother is in
trouble." Israel needs our words of support, and Israel needs us
Most of you know about the recent trip that 90 year old I.E. Millstone
to Israel as a show of support and solidarity. Those 91 years of age
older are exempt. The rest of us should seriously consider a trip to
in the coming year.
The second segment of the response we need to make is to pray
this New Year, Israelis may be able to get on a bus or go buy a pizza
fear of danger. 'HaKol kol Yaakov' -- the voice of the Jew, in
our secret weapon. We believe that prayer works. We know that prayer
and that many times our prayers have been answered. Are we davening
safety and welfare of 'Achaynu Beis Yisrael' each and every day? If
not? Our prayers are necessary, and crucial. We have to keep Israel
mind, thoughts and prayers each and every day
Third and last, we have to open our checkbooks. I believe that an
excellent way to show support for Israel in this time of need is Israel
Bonds. Over the past 50 years Israel Bonds has become one of the most
important investment vehicles in the development and growth of the
Roads, water projects, airports, harbors, power plants and new
absorption are all examples of the vital work carried out with the help
Israel Bonds. By purchasing a bond, you become a partner in building
state of Israel. And at this time in particular, your support sends a
unified message of support to Israelis, and to Jews throughout the
Please give generously to our Yom Kippur Israel Bonds appeal.
In conclusion, Israel is a very small piece of real estate that
a very large part of our minds and hearts on this day of Yom Kippur.
be the Almighty's Will that the coming year bring security and peace to
world, an end to the struggles and suffering of our brethren in Israel,
may we merit to see the coming of the messiah speedily, in our days.