By Rabbi Mark Hillel Kunis
Senseless terror attacks have paralyzed Israel. The CEO of one of Israel’s retail fashion chains said: “There have never been such tough months as September and October in the fashion market.”
Business is off as much as 40 percent. The malls and restaurants 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 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, Oct. 22, about the fear that gripped him when he heard a series of police sirens and a helicopter from his office in Beit Shemesh. Two terrorists had tried to board a school bus, but the quick-thinking driver had closed the door and driven away.
Still, a Jewish teenager was stabbed.
The next day, a mother and her two young daughters were attacked with a Molotov cocktail while driving near Beit El. The car turned over, but they survived.
A friend told me that his daughter in Israel is blowing all her student money on cabs because it’s the only way to be safe from the stabbers.
Israel Defense Forces troops have been advised that wearing a uniform off-duty is not the best idea because soldiers are targets. Was this part of the Jewish dream of an ancient homeland — that Israel’s courageous defenders must be afraid within their own borders?
Author Naomi Ragen, coming to Atlanta for the Book Festival of the Marcus Jewish Community Center, writes in response to the murders of Eitam and Naama Henkin, shot in their car in cold blood by Palestinian terrorists while their four terrified little boys watched 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 supports only “peaceful resistance,” but his official media call on Palestinians to resist Israelis with knives or stones. Palestinian clerics pull out knives during sermons to encourage their followers to slit Jewish throats. Meanwhile, Abbas’ brother-in-law was in a Tel Aviv hospital for heart surgery.
Every day Jews are stabbed, slashed and shot on the streets of Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh, Tel Aviv and Beersheva. Every day the world lies about “violence on both sides,” as if Israel is calling for Jews to stab Palestinians. Even Secretary of State John Kerry has blamed Israel for the murder of its own citizens.
There can be only one conclusion: Jewish blood is cheap and getting cheaper.
All this weighed heavily on my heart as I reviewed Lech Lecha, in which G-d challenges Abraham to leave his country for the Promised Land.
These verses stood out: 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 who bless you and him who curses you I will curse”; and v’nivr’chu v’cha kol mishpchot haadama, “and all the families of the earth shall be blessed by you.”
We the Jewish people have blessed the world. Just consider the Nobel Prize winners in the past 100 years. More than 22 percent of the 800-plus laureates are Jewish, although Jews make up less than 0.2 percent of the world population. Jews have won 41 percent of the Nobel Prizes in economics, 28 percent in medicine, 26 percent in physics, 19 percent in chemistry and 13 percent in literature.
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 cellphones and advanced computer chips. Let them live without Google and Facebook.
Let them see that the lives of Palestinians under Israeli rule are far superior to those of Arabs in any other Arab nation.
Let them at least consider G-d’s promise to Abraham: Va-avarcha m’varchecha um’kalelcha a-or, “and I will bless those who bless you and him who curses you I will curse.” This promise forms the basis of evangelical Christian support for the state of Israel.
It’s a fact of history. We speak of the “glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome.” But the glory and grandeur soon departed after the Greeks and Romans turned against us. Soon after Spain expelled its Jews, the sun began to set on the Spanish Empire. Holland welcomed Jews who were expelled from Spain and Portugal and 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; over the next 350 years, England went through one crisis after another. After Menasseh ben Israel, a rabbi from Holland, met in 1656 with Oliver Cromwell, who agreed to let the Jews return, England experienced steady growth and created the largest empire in the world.
In modern times, the Iron Curtain of communism began to fall when Jews sought their freedom.
G-d’s promise still stands: “And I will bless those who bless you and him who curses you I will curse.” May G-d continue to bless His people and all who bless her, and may peace and security come soon to His Holy Land.
Rabbi Kunis is the spiritual leader of Congregation Shaarei Shamayim.