Am Israel hai!

“Short, plump, with a blush on her face, a typical Dutch woman. Her lips smiled and her eyes darted from side to side, from object to object. The impression was that she was always on the alert, as if tracking the approach of the enemy. And although the smile never left her face, her eyes darted even faster, and horror sounded in a muffled voice as she spoke to me about what the Nazis had done to her. “They took my whole family. They did such things to my body, so it is amazing how I managed to keep the ability to have children. They made me afraid to love … love even my own children. “

Most of the Nazis who did all this to her were already dead when her children were born. Some were on the run. But for this woman, they will stand before her eyes until the end of her life. Just like the indelible number tattooed on her arm in dark blue ink, they will remain with her forever. “

The speaker of the conference addressed the audience with an enduring, no, irresistible sadness in his eyes. These were the eyes that saw too much and which could never unsee what they seen. The horror of the Holocaust was imprinted in these pupils, and wherever he looked, he was unable to see anything but the victims and their tormentors.

“Hitler changed the course of Jewish history,” he spoke again. “This was a turning point, and we will never be able to return to our naive faith in the Almighty. How can I trust God who has allowed this to happen to those whom He calls His chosen people? ”

Bitterness seemed to be the only core of strength in the body of this Nazi hunter. Without the rage burning in him, he probably would have turned to dust long ago. For him, the Holocaust was a proof that God does not exist, “because,” he says, “if God exists, then He is so disgusting and cruel that we will not be able to believe in Him anyways.”

We have all heard the stories of Holocaust survivors, if not from their own relatives, then in public speeches. And even if we never communicated with any of them personally, we all read books about it or saw films and museum exhibitions. The Holocaust is studied in many educational institutions. There is probably not a single city with a more or less significant share of the Jewish population, where a memorial or museum would not be dedicated to the Holocaust.

But for many, just talking about this horror is not enough. It is not enough to perpetuate the memory of those we were lost. Some are convinced that the Holocaust should become a factor in our attitude towards other people.

We belong to the same people, because this nightmare happened to us. Anyone with whom it has not happened is not just not “one of us”, but is automatically considered a suspect. We ask ourselves about any outsider: “What side would he / she take if it all happened again?”

Holocaust research focuses on why it happened and what we can do to prevent it from happening again. The main purpose of memorials dedicated to the Holocaust is to defiantly declare to the whole world: “This must not happen again.” All this is good and wonderful. Any decent person would agree with this. But at the same time, our people are constantly looking for appropriate support and assurances from the non-Jewish community that this will not happen again.

In polemics with Christians, Jews often refer to “2000 years of persecution, culminating in the Holocaust.” Some Christians, when faced with such an accusation, begin to apologize as if they had something to do with the crimes committed by the SS in the death camps.

Perhaps they think that if they do not apologize in such a situation, it will become a manifestation of tactlessness or indifference in the eyes of others.

But is it? Here are some questions to ask yourself while doing this:

Can someone who did not participate in the Holocaust ask for forgiveness for it?

Can a person ask forgiveness for something done by others?

Can those who did not suffer personally during the Holocaust forgive someone on behalf of those who were tortured and killed?

And probably the most important of all questions: Who is to blame?

In disputes, the blame for the Holocaust is often blamed on the one who was named the prince of peace. The phrase “all the last 2000 years of history has led to the Holocaust” is more than just a reference to the prejudice and persecution of Jews in past centuries. This is an open accusation against Christianity, which completely perverts the teaching of Christ and the purpose of His coming. Anyone who accepts such an accusation credits Hitler with the power to change theological doctrine.

The genocide committed by the Nazis showed us nothing new. All known world history shows how inhuman humanity can be. Prejudice and hatred are nothing new, and neither is racial or religious justifications for discrimination and even murder. The lesson that the Holocaust has taught us is that human nature does not change.

We should not be surprised by the cruelty, hatred and bestial pleasure that some feel when they hurt others. We have seen examples of all this more than once in history. Perhaps those who believed that humanity had evolved and outgrown such savagery were shocked. Perhaps those who hoped that humanity had advanced far ahead in its social attitudes and the level of scientific progress were shocked to see that science only helped haters, murderers and racists to act much more effectively.

Human nature cannot be changed by education or shared experience in social life. Intelligent Germans, who once enjoyed the company of their equally intelligent Jewish neighbors, did not particularly protest when the property was confiscated from these Jewish neighbors, when they were ruthlessly beaten, and eventually driven into concentration camps.

After the defeat of the Nazis, many Germans said, “We didn’t know what was going on.” Perhaps some of them followed the advice of three monkeys with the names “I see no evil”, “I do not hear evil” and “I do not speak about evil.” But such an unwillingness to face evil and oppose it already makes a person evil.

I do not want to say that all Germans agreed with the atrocities that were happening, or that only Germans participated in them.

Romanians, Hungarians, and Poles, too, readily surrendered the Jewish populations of their countries into the hands of Nazi executioners.

In countries under occupation, the Nazis generally did not have to send units from the Gestapo or SS to search for and arrest Jews. Usually the local police willingly did it themselves. And the height of shame is the fact that, judging by the stories of some former prisoners of the camps, the cruelty of the Jews themselves towards each other in the concentration camps was no less disgusting. It can be argued that some were forced to serve the Nazi concentration camp authorities because they would have been killed otherwise. Many survived in concentration camps only because they stooped to this humiliating service, but until the end of their days they will carry this guilt and shame, realizing that others, in whom there was more nobility, preferred to perish, but not to become an instrument of torture in the hands of the executioners.

But even the noblest have a breaking point, a breaking point, beyond which nobility disappears; after all, they are only human. Unfortunately, in some circumstances, the “we are only human” factor can develop into a state of non-people.

This is precisely the circumstance that became the Nazi regime, which killed six million of our brothers.

We must try to honestly answer the question: “Is a person by nature good, although sometimes his good beginning is obscured by separate outbursts of evil, or are all people by nature egoists, but sometimes this egoism is obscured by separate outbursts of altruism?” If we honestly try to investigate this issue, perhaps we will find answers to questions about the Holocaust.

The Holocaust is considered by many to be an unprecedented act of brutality because it exterminated a third of our people. However, this genocide is not a unique historical phenomenon.

According to some testimonies, the Pol Pot regime destroyed a third of the Cambodian population, and dealt with them in approximately the same ways – only this time, compatriots killed their own compatriots.

Stalin, according to various estimates, starved to death about 20 million people.

And what about the Kurds or Shiites in Iraq, or the starvation of the Christians of South Sudan at the suggestion of the Muslim north?

Hardly a decade passes without someone committing genocide against someone.

It is truly sad that human nature has not changed at all since the beginning of our history. In the Torah, in the book of Bereshit, it is told how Cain, the son of Adam, killed his brother Abel out of envy. We do not like to admit that since then people have not become more virtuous, but our unwillingness to admit the obvious does not change objective reality in any way. Despite the outer veneer of education and sophistication, we have not become kinder to each other in this century than in any of the past. Most people are still ready to take up arms, both individually and society as a whole, against anyone or anything if they see it as a threat.

No, the Holocaust was not unique either in the number of victims or the scale of the genocide. What makes it stand out from a number of similar tragedies is the thoroughness with which the Nazis documented the entire process, thanks to which the media were able to tell and show in newsreels and photographs if this inhuman horror and cruelty. The Holocaust was unprecedented precisely because it was covered in great detail, causing universal horror and disgust throughout the world.

The very information about him was so blatant and unbearable that it caused an immediate reaction everywhere.

Aversion to the atrocities that befell Jacob’s descendants temporarily dampened widespread, unrelenting anti-Semitism and provoked some reaction from both Jewish and non-Jewish community.

The shock of what happened made the world realize that the Jewish people need their own country.

In 1947, the shocked UN decided to provide Jews with such a refuge in Israel, the land of our ancestors. Many refugees and Holocaust survivors poured into the newly formed state.

The memory of the Holocaust gave the Jewish people new motivation and strength. More than ever before, we have felt the need to defend and defend our Jewish heritage. We awakened a dormant devotion to our values ​​and began to cultivate it in our children. Many of those who lived in more prosperous parts of the world rushed to actively help Israel. Some of us made aliyah (emigrating to Israel), while others contributed to the development of our new homeland by donating funds, working in temporary jobs in Israeli kibbutzim or serving in the Israeli army.

The Holocaust has made an indelible impression on our people. He left us not only a memory of unheard-of horrors, but also lessons to be learned and truths to be understood. Some of these lessons are scary, and some of the truths make us uneasy.

And yet, we need to get to know them, not remain in the dark.

For example:

The minority – no matter how organized, highly cultured, ready to resist and determined to survive – cannot stand up to the majority, which is no less determined to destroy it.

Democratic ideals and human rights can easily be thrown aside by a state whose citizens believe that a group of people living within its borders is a threat to them.
While we respect the memory of those killed in the Holocaust and do our best to ensure that this never happens again, we must gradually let go of what for many has become an unhealthy obsession with the past. For example, on a poster advertising one of the Jewish schools, they thought of placing a photo of a mountain of corpses, under which they wrote: “Don’t let your children forget your heritage.”

Jewish education and schools are certainly important for the development of our children. But to promote the idea that the Holocaust is the main legacy that should be passed on to Jewish youth is somehow not very fair in relation to these very young people.

In April 1992, the Los Angeles Times published an article by Ephraim Buchwald entitled “The Holocaust Kills American Jews.” Buchwald wrote:

“For Jews living in the post-Holocaust era, nothing is more holy or more acutely perceived than the memory of the six million martyrs of the Nazi genocide. The bitter question: “Where was God?” can be heard by them more likely not as a theological provocation, but as a reflection of the ongoing pain of overwhelming losses. After all, what could be more important than honoring the lost — other than efforts to secure a future for those who wish to remain Jewish? We have every reason to continue to obsess over the Holocaust … but we pay a heavy price for this obsession. It is killing American Jews. The obsession with victimization leaves no room for the joy of faith and is rejected by many. “

Or maybe we are looking for an answer, understanding, solution and healing from the horrors experienced by six million of our brethren in this century in the wrong place?

Remembering the Holocaust is necessary, but obsession with the past is unhealthy and leads to self-destruction. Wouldn’t it be better to take action in support of national minorities now, in the present, and look for light and understanding that will help preserve our people in the future?

While unsuccessfully trying to find an answer to the question of the Holocaust, some Jewish theologians have concluded that the God of Israel is dead or never existed at all.

But if the God of Israel never existed, if He never called the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the children of Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel and Leah to be His people, why then fight to remain Jews? Why put so much effort into clinging to a national identity that, throughout history, has tended to bring us more pain than good?

The answer is that the God of Israel does exist. God is not dead, and the Lord was not exterminated in the gas chambers. For reasons we do not know, God chose us to be a separate people, chosen to serve Him and glorify Him among the nations. For reasons that we mortals cannot understand, God allowed great tragedies to befall our people, not the least of which was the Holocaust. And yet, despite our enemies, the One, who made us a people through Abraham and Sarah, has kept us as such throughout the centuries. And we can trust that He will continue to preserve us, as He did in the past.

How then should we react to the Holocaust? We can shake our fists for a long time and shout: “This must not happen again!”, But to whom are we shouting this? The ghosts of Hitler, Haman, Pharaoh and other dead people who once wanted to destroy the Jewish people? To our detractors today?

We have no reason to believe that the potential enemies of our people today or in future generations will be more humane or moral than in the days of Hitler or Haman. And we certainly won’t defeat them with our slogans.

Or will we argue with history and take comfort in the false hope that humanity has become so much more perfect that no society will accept and close its eyes to genocide, or, using a more modern term, “ethnic cleansing”?

We Jews do not have the power, numbers, or ability to fend off anyone who wants to destroy our people. Who are we going to deceive if we believe that we have the power to overcome what we were unable to prevent in the past?

There is a better slogan than “This must not happen again!” – and this is a statement, not a denial, a declaration of a fact that cannot be denied or ignored. This slogan is “Am Israel hai!” Which means “The people of Israel are alive!” Because our God lives, and we, as a people, continue to live, despite our countless potential destroyers.

Every year on Purim we celebrate the deliverance of our people. We rattle with rattles and stamp our feet when pronouncing the name of Haman, but we know perfectly well that this holiday is not dedicated to his nefarious plan, but to the preservation of the people of Israel despite their evil deeds.

What about Moses? When he was a baby, his mother had to hide him from the murderers – the servants of Pharaoh, who commanded the destruction of every Jewish newborn male. But Moses was not the only one who survived. Despite the Pharaoh’s plan, the Jewish people continued to exist at the time of their release from slavery. And God commanded us to celebrate Pesach, so that we remember the bitter times of Egyptian slavery and tell our descendants the glorious story of God’s deliverance.

God wants us to remember Purim, Passover, and the Holocaust. But the reason we should remember them is not so that we can shake our fists at the gentile world and try to force or shame them so that they would abandon any further attempt to destroy us. God wants us to remember that no matter how hard humanity tries to resist His will, which created us, no matter how the enemies of the Jewish people seek our destruction, we will still survive. God will not allow the destroyers to achieve their goal. We mourn the loss of a third of our people. But shouldn’t this grief be a reason to thank God for saving the other two-thirds?

We continue to live and even prosper in lands far from our homeland, although we continue to be persecuted. Attacked from without, weakened by sin and unbelief from within, we still continue to live. The reason we are still alive is not because we are so smart or so strong. And not in anyway because of our special piety. We, Jews continue to live because our God continues to reign and because the One who promised Abraham and Sarah a glorious future will certainly fulfill His promise at the end of time.

Jewish survival is always in jeopardy, but our God lives. So, am Yisrael hai!

Author – Moishe Rosen /