This post is dedicated le'ilui nishmato shel my sabba, Avraham (Alberto) ben Yaakov Shitreet z"l. May his memory be a for a blessing.
My sabba was a relic from a bygone time. He was born in turn-of the century Palestine, in Hebron, where his father was stationed as a Turkish soldier in WWI. His family was visiting from Jerusalem, in which they lived. My sabba told of how, as a baby, he was saddled onto a donkey for the trip from Hebron to Jerusalem. He was an exceptionnaly beautiful baby so his mother placed around his neck a hamsa medallion to ward off the evil eye. As the donkey swayed back and forth, the hamsa good luck charm almost strangled him, ironisally. His family lived in Yemin Moshe, the first neighbourhood to be built outside of the walls of the Old City, funded by Jewish philantropist Moses Montefiore. My sabba used to play as a little boy in the mulino, the windmill, built in the neibourhood.
He came from a lost world. His family had come to the Holy Land 500 years prior, at the time of the Expulsion from Spain in 1492. They still spoke the Ladino language, Judeo-Spanish. In his memory, I would like to share some the fascinating history and culture of Sephardic (Spanish) Jewry.
Jews had already begun to settle in Spain during the time of the king Solomon. The Golden Age of Spanish Jewry, however, was between the 8th and 11th centuries, when Spain was under Muslim rule. Jewish intellectual and spiritual life flourished and many Jews served in Spanish courts. Jewish economic expansion was unparalleled. In Toledo, Jews were involved in translating Arabic texts to the romance languages, as well as translating Greek and Hebrew texts into Arabic. Jews also contributed to botany, geography, medicine, mathematics, poetry and philosophy.
A number of well-known Jewish physicians practiced during this period, including Hasdai Ibn Shaprut (915-970), who was the doctor for the Caliph (leader of Spain). Many famous Jewish figures lived during the Golden Age and contributed to making this a flourishing period for Jewish thought. These included Samuel Ha-Nagid, Moses ibn Ezra, Solomon ibn Gabirol Judah Halevi and Moses Maimonides.
While Jews suffered from many discriminatory measures in Muslim al-Andalus, such as being forced to wear distinctive clothing or paying a special tax, they flourished. Islamic culture also influenced the Jews. Muslim and Jewish customs and practices became intertwined. For example, Arabic was used for prayers rather than Hebrew or Spanish. Before entering the synagogue, Jews washed their hands and feet, which is a practice done before entering a mosque. Arab melodies were used for Jewish songs. Jews wore the clothing style of their Moorish neighbors, although they were not allowed to wear silk or furs.
The Golden Age came to an abrupt end in 1147 when the fanatical Almohad dynasty came to power. The family of the great Moses Maimonides (the Rambam) fled to Morroco to escape the harshness of their reign. In 1098, the Christians conquered Toledo and Jews in Christian Spain prosepered while Muslim Spain was in decline. There was tremendous pressure on Jews to convert to Catholicism and many did, although some practiced Judaism in secret. These "New Christians" proved very irritating to the Church. Jews were forced into religious "Disputations" by the Church, although skilled rabbis often embarrassed Christianity by proving the validity of Judaism. Many riots broke out against the Jews and crypto-Jews ("maranos" or "anousim") were hunted, tortured, and murdered by the Inquisition. When the last Muslim stronghold of Granada fell to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in the 15th century, they felt that this was a divine sign that Spain should be united under Christianity. The Grand Inquisitor, Tomas de Torquemada, convinced the King and Queen that the expulsion of Spain's Jews was necessary. Two influential Jews, don Abarbanel and don Soneor, offered the King and Queen an enormous ransom of thirty thousand ducats to let the Jews stay. Upon hearing this, Torquemada, who was waiting outside the door, burst into the room holding a crucifix. He placed it on the table and said: "Judas sold his Master for thirty ducats. You would sell Him for thirty thousand ... Take Him and sell Him, but do not let it be said that I have had any share in this transaction." The Jews were given four months to convert to to Christianity or to leave Spain. On Tisha Be'Av of 1492, an estimated 100 000 Jews left Sepharad, their Spanish homeland.
The Sephardim wandered all over Europe and North Africa. Many of them settled in Venice, Morocco and the Maghreb, the Ottoman Empire, Turkey and the Balkans, and in the Holy Land. Some also settled in the New World, hoping to escape the Inquisition, although anousim were persecuted in Mexico, Brasil and other Spanish conquests. The Sephardim lived according to their unique culture and way of life, speaking the Ladino language, dressing and eating in the way of medieval Spain, and practicing various religious customs. Most of the Sephardic communities of Europe were obliterated during the Holocaust, such as the communities of Bulgaria and Greece. Before the war, 55 000 Jews lived in Saloniki in Greece. They were such a large and influential part of the city that the port would close down on Shabbat. Over 54 000 Saloniki Jews were murdered in Auschwitz and Treblinka; only a handful survived the war.
Sephardic Jews spoke the Ladino language, which was Judeo-Spanish. The Sephardi Jews preserved their special language, which was a combination of Hebrew and Spanish, known as Ladino. Ladino is still spoken by some Sephardic communities, such as those in Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria, Rumania, France and Latin America. Today the largest Ladino-speaking community can be found in Israel. One can also read Ladino in Sephardic literature.
When Jews left Spain and Portugal they continued to speak Ladino, in the same grammar and vocabulary of 14th and 15th century Spanish. The Sephardic exile communities of Amsterdam, London and Italy were still in contact with Spain and hence they continued to speak Castillian Spanish.
Exile communities in the Ottoman Empire, however, retained the 14th and 15th century Spanish and borrowed words from Hebrew, Arabic Greek, Turkish and French and diverged considerably from Castillian Spanish. There are many different Ladino dialects. An Oriental Ladino was used in Turkey and Rhodes, while a Western Ladino was spoken in Greece, Macedonia, Bosnia, Serbia and Rumania.
Today, there are about 200 000 people who still speak or understand the language in Israel, although the language is rapidly declining. My sabba used to sing Ladino songs. One of his favourites was Avre Tu Puerta Cerrada. It means 'Open Your Door for Me'. It was a love song of Spanish troubadours during the Golden Age and could still be heard sung by Sephardic women in the evening in early 20th century Jerusalem.
It is extremely beautiful. The lyrics are:
Avre tu puerta cerrada,
qu´en tu balcòn luz no hay
el amor a ti te vela,
partemos Rosa, partemos de aqui.
Yo demandi por la tu hermozura,
como te la dio el Dio
la hermozura tuya es pura,
la meresco solo yo.
Open your closed door,
because there is no light on your balcony.
Love may protect you,
let us go, Rosa, let us go away from here.
I have prayed for your beauty,
which is given to you from God.
Your beauty is pure,
it´s reserved for me.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
This post is dedicated le'ilui nishmato shel my sabba, Avraham (Alberto) ben Yaakov Shitreet z"l. May his memory be a for a blessing.
Monday, June 23, 2008
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
I recently came back from an amazing trip in Poland and Israel, to commemorate our tragic past and to affirm our glorious future. I sat in synagogues and yeshivot that once housed thousands of Jewish worshippers and students and now sit emtpy. Krakow's beautifully decorated and extremely ornate Tempel Shul is unused for most of the year. In Lublin, a city which was once refered to as the Jerusalem of Poland, if one did not know to look for a Jewish cemetary or synagogue, one would have no idea that Jews once lived there. In Poland, I noticed how easy it was to forget. In Placzow work camp, a park was created out of the mass grave. On the bones of 20 000 Jews (one of the survivors who accompanied us on our trip explained to us that her cousin of 6 was shot right were we stood), Poles sunbathe and walk their dogs. The distance between Auschwitz and Birkenau is flanked with restaurants and shops. Majdanek, certainly the most evil place on Earth, is 5 minuted from the center of Lublin. Inhabitted houses sit at the edge of the barbed wire, standing while its horrible furnaces burnt human flesh. In Warsaw, nothing of the ghetto remains besides two walls. The area was rebuilt and today is full of apartments and stores. In Umschlagplatz, the train depot from which 300 000 Jews were taken to the gas chambers at Treblinka, these tracks now carry tour trolleys and cable cars. While we emersed ourselves bitterly in the pain of our people over 60 years ago, the Poles continued their daily lives, undaunted.
On Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day, we marched the 2.5 kilometres between Auschwitz and Birkenau in solidarity of the millions murdered. At the end of the Birkenau death camp, we had a ceremony with survivors, at which the former chief rabbi of Israel and the IDF Chief of Staff spoke to us. Sitting in a cold and damp barrack, the 5 survivors who accompanied us told us their stories and experiences. One eldery woman told us that when the war finished, she would often meet with other survivors to speak about their experiences. She had always assumed that when she would die, her story would die with her. She told us that now, she has no fear of this. She knows that we will keep her story alive.
What an incredible responsibility! I am scared of this challenge. We are the first generation to live in a world without Holocaust survivors. With the ever-rising anti-semitism and alarming Holocaust denial, will we be able to stand up and set the record straight? Or will we simply let the memories of the Holocaust victims turn to dust. On our last day in Poland, we visited Treblinka, a death camp in which one millions Jews were gassed. Treblinka was completely destroyed after the war and nothing stands there besides a monument of granite slabs representing the train tracks into annhilation and tens of thousands of enormous pillars representing communtites that were wiped out. Treblinka is surrounded by a beautiful forest which the Germans grew on the ashes of murdered Jews used as fertilizer, in an attempt to cover up their horror. Standing in that awful place, I felt so alone, so empty, so forsaken. The million that were exterminated there went up in smoke and ashes. They have no tomb, no yarzheit. They had no funeral, nobody sat shiva over them or said kaddish for them. Another survivor told us how his entire village besides his family and a few other were rounded up and sent to Treblinka. He is the sole survivor of his 60 young classmates. He told us that he thinks about them every day. When he, after 120 years, passes away, will I be able to do their legacy honour? I cannot let time make their names and memories grow cold. I promise to educate people about the Holocaust, about the dangers of anti-semtism and intolerance, in the memory of the 6 million murdered Jews.
Many years after the war had finished, Simon Wiesenthal, the legendary Nazi hunter, went to visit a friend of his in New York. This friend, after the war, had moved on with his life and had become a businessman. He wanted to know why Wiesenthal did not do the same. "You're a religious man," replied Wiesenthal. "You believe in God and life after death. I also believe. When we come to the other world and meet the millions of Jews who died in the camps and they ask us, ‘What have you done?,’ there will be many answers. You will say, ‘I became a jeweler,’ Another will say, ‘I have smuggled coffee and American cigarettes,’ Another will say, ‘I built houses,’ But I will say, ‘I did not forget you’." There must certainly be great agitation in the heavens as the President of Iran claims that the Holocaust is a myth and that he will wipe Israel off the map. As anti-semitism from the Far Right and Islamofascists continues to rise in Europe and North America, we can ill afford to forget.
To the 6 million men, women and children, holy and pure martyrs, killed because they were Jews, who have vanished to the wind: I have never forgotten you.
Cross-posted to Goat's Barnyard
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Muhammad is considered by Muslims to be a perfect being and an exemplary role model. Jihadists often invoke his actions to support their attacks. As such, it is of crucial importance for the West to enlighten itself as to the less savoury aspects of this Islamic holy figure's life. In 628 CE, a group of 1400 Muslims pilgrims approached Mecca to perform an Islamic ritual, where they were met by a much larger force of Quraysh tribesmen. Muhammad originally intended to attack the city but he soon realized that his band of holy warrior were no match for the vastly superior Quraysh. Muhammad drew up a treaty with the Quraysh which guaranteed peace and non-belligerence for 10 years. This became known as the treaty of Hudaybiyyah. Two years later, when commanded commanded a band of 10 000 Muslims, as opposed to the meagre 1400 that he had 2 years prior, he dissolved his treaty with the Quraysh and conquered Mecca. From this, Islamic scholars and judges derive that it is permissible to declare a hudna with non-Muslims for a maximum of ten years when Muslims are at a disadvantage, and to violate it when Muslims are strong enough. According to the traditional Islamic view, the natural state of relations between Islam and non-Muslims is war. In fact, the world is divided into Dar al-Islam, the House of Islam, and Dar al-Harb. Muhammad declared that he had been sent "to fight until all declare that there is no god but Allah" ie. until Islam rules to world. Therefore, the reason for a ceasefire between the House of Islam and the House of War is to further to cause of jihad and Islam conquest. The medieval summar of Shafi'i jurisprudence makes the intention of the hudna clear. "If Muslims are weak, a truce may be made for ten years if necessary, for the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) made a truce with the Quraysh for that long, as is related by Abu Dawud." ('Umdat as-Salik, o9.16). It also quotes this Qur'anic verse: "So do not be fainthearted and call for peace, when it is you who are the uppermost" (47:35). Hamas does not even recognize Israel's right to exist, let alone want to lay down its arms and make peace. It has violated its past hudnas numerous times and attacked Israel when it had the chance. In January 2004, senior Hamas leader Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi offered a 10-year hudna in return for complete withdrawal from all territories captured in the Six Day War, and the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. Rantissi said the hudna was limited to ten years and represented a decision by the movement because it was "difficult to liberate all our land at this stage; the hudna would however not signal a recognition of the state of Israel." This is the strategy of those who claim to want a Palestinian state: that state will be used as a launch pad for the eventual destruction of all of Israel. Clearly, Hamas feels that it is not in a position of strength to continue its campaign of murder and terror. Instead of finishing the job, Israel is giving Hamas the chance to regroup and reorganize.
Hamas is not a "resistance" movement, nor does it represent the legitimate political will of the "Palestinians". It is an anti-semitic terrorist movement with the genocide of the Jewish people and the destruction of Israel at its core. The Hamas Covenant spells out its goal quite clearly: "Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it." With such an enemy, there can be no real peace. Hamas is using the excuse of a ceasefire, which it has no intention of respecting, to prepare for more deadly attacks against Israeli citizens. The Covenant quotes the hadith of the Sahi Bukari and Sahi Moslem, making its plans for the Final Solution known. "The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him." This is an organization that sponsors and carries out murderous attacks on Israeli cafes, restaurants, schools and public buildings. When an Arab gunman massacred Jewish students studying in a yeshiva, in cold blood, Hamas organized parties in the streets, gave out candies, danced and celebrated. This are not people but animals, pure and evil. With them there can be no compromise. Israel must not be in the habit of negoatiating and dealing with Jew-murdering thugs. They deserve no sympathy and should not be given any legitimacy by making deals with them. According to Israeli law, it is forbidden to aid Nazis and anyone guilty of "crime against the Jewish people", defined as killing Jews, causing serious bodily or mental harm to Jews or inciting hatred against Jews, among other things, is subject to the death penalty. (Nazis and Nazi Collaborators (Punishment) Law (Amendment) 5723-1963). Hamas's goal is the eradication of the Jewish people, young and old, religious and secular, Zionist and non-Zionist. It seeks to wipe the Jewish nation off the face of the Earth and has tried to do so through suicide bombings, shootings and other terrorist attacks.
Evil cannot be tolerated or negotiated with. Evil can only be destroyed. Israel must hunt down and eliminate Hamas members and supporters. Now is the time, since Hamas is feeling weak and strained. Jew-haters can be shown no mercy or respite. The hudna is a sham and only serves to advance the cause of jihad and the ultimate destruction of Israel. Israel's leaders are fools indeed if they think that they can appease those who wish to murder us. We must follow the dictum of the rabbis: "If somebody comes to kill you, rise to kill him first."
Cross-posted to Goat's Barnyard
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Saturday, June 7, 2008
I see that you're in an uproar again. Israel is building homes in East Jerusalem and you are not happy about it. Its really amazing, given your reputation as being slow-moving and inefficient, at your speed if the Jews are the culprits. Nothing escapes your watchful eyes, does it? And yet, what brings about this newfound rapidity and resolution with regards to Israel? You seemed to sit around on idly while thousands were being slaughtered in Rwanda and as thousands continue to die in Darfur. But no one will ever accuse you of ignoring the situation in Israel.
Dear World, why did you not jump and issue condemnations when Hitler marked the Jewish people for destruction? And where were you when the Jews of Europe were burnt and suffocated? Why did you shut your eyes to the cries and pleas of the oppressed and close your doors to them? When the St. Louis, bearing refugees escaping the Nazis, came to your shores, you could find no place for these Jews and delivered them into the hands of their tormenters, directly to the gas chambers. And when the Jews of Rome were deported right under the Pope's windows, why did you keep quiet? You flew bombers over Auschwitz but destroying the gas chambers in which 12 000 Jews a day were murdered never seemed to be a priority. You closed every avenue of escape and looked on apatheticaly as the Jews were rounded up from every corner and humiliated, tortured and massacred. A conspiracy of silence abandonned the Jews to their fate. But thankfully, 60 years later, you have regained your voice.
Dear World, why did you abandon the inhabitants of the fledgeling State of Israel to the Arab onslaught, determined to drive its people into the sea? Could you not find one word of condemnation for their genocidal rhetoric and intentions? And when close to a million Sephardic Jews were expelled from lands in which they had lived for millenia, where were you? Could some of your sympathy focused on the "Palestinian" refugees, displaced by their own accord, have been directed towards the expelled Jews? Or did Jewish suffering not move you? When the Jordanians bombarded and besieged Jerusalem, you had nothing to say. For the first time in thousands of years, Jerusalem's Old City was empty of Jews. Jews were forbidden access to their holiest of sites. As the Jewish Quarter in the Old City was made judenrein, synagogues desecrated and Jewish gravestones used as latrines, you held your tongue. Luckily, you do not make the same mistake today.
Dear World, why, when Stalin and the Soviets, closed off the portals of escape from their Communist prison and tried to suppress Judaism, were you deathly silent? When the Iron Curtain fell, trapping millions of Jews, you did not stand up for their freedoms. You had your own problems and the troubles of a few Jewish dissidents in Siberia did not trouble you. You were unswayed by the cries of "Let My People Go!" coming from the Soviet Union and worldwide Jewry. Why should you care if some Jews were forbidden to go to Jewish school, lay tefillin or keep their holidays? And yet, these things disturb you greatly if performed in Judea and Samaria.
Dear World, when the Arabs tried to annhilate the people of Israel in '67, '73 and all the subsequent wars and terrorist attacks, could you not lend any support to the Jews? Not a helping hand, a smile, a kind word. You were too busy ranting and raving about the "Occupation", "apartheid", "the refugee crisis", "land-for-peace" and all the other code words for the Final Solution. World, you find in yourself the strength to protest whenever Israel's defense accidentally killed an Arab civilian. Strange that your voice seemed to disappear when Israeli teens were blown to smitherenes in a discotheque in Tel-Aviv or when terrorists massacred families celebrating the Passover holiday in a Netanyah hotel. You were sure to denounce Israeli "ethnic cleansing" in Gaza, but said nothing about the constant barrage of rockets falling on homes, schools and businesses in Sderot. When Israeli yeshiva students, aged 14-20, were gunned down in cold blood studying Judaism's sacred texts, there was no solidarity or sympathy. Instead, you issued cold rationalizations and understanding of the terrorist's motives. As Iran's president is publically vowing to wipe Israel off the face of the Eart, you lull us to sleep and complacency.
Dear World, you have proven too many times in the past not to have the best interests of the Jewish People at heart. In fact, some may say that you are downright hostile to us. It is odd that you perk up every time Israel defends herself, a Jew build a home in Judea and Samaria or wants to pray on the Temple Mount. Millions can be denied civil rights in China or Saudi Arabia, women condemned to death for being raped in Iran, blacks slaughtered in Darfur and crisis in Burma, but you can only blame the Jews. Dear World, we have learnt better than to listen to you. You will not be happy until we are wiped out, dead, destroyed.
Well world, that is not an option.
A Proud Jew
Cross-posted to Stop Raping Israel, Goat's Barnyard and Jewish Vengeance
Friday, June 6, 2008
The 'Why do the Hate us?' club has a new member. Rabbi Menachem Froman, chief rabbi of Tekoa, explains that since Hamas is a religious movement, rabbis can use their status to negotiate with them. You heard correctly. The basis of this claim is that Hamas hates secular Israel but will respect fellow religious leaders of another Abrahamitic faith. This claim has been repeated many times before. Dinesh D'Souza, in his book 'The Enemy At Home', he argues that "the cultural left in this country is responsible for causing 9/11 … the cultural left and its allies in Congress, the media, Hollywood, the non-profit sector and the universities are the primary cause of the volcano of anger toward America that is erupting from the Islamic world." The Islamic world views the West as a land of debauchery, immorality and sin and for that reason they must impose Islam's purity.
This is ludicrous. Islam does not hate the West because of its abortion on demand, MTV or premarital sex. Islam wants to subjugate the West because of its Judeo-Christian foundation. The Qur'an mandates Muslims to conquer non-Muslims not because they are immoral but because they are non-Muslims. Jihadist ired is focused equally on G-dless Hollywood, church-going Poland, Bible-thumping Texas or morally relativist Sweden. Rabbi Froman's argument misses the point. Hamas is not committed to Israel's destruction because its Jews break shabbat or eat pork. Islamic fundamentalists cannot accept an independent Infidel, especially Jewish Infidel, state in the heart of the Arab world. The Hamas charter relates the words of Muhammad as recorded by the Sahi Bukhari: "The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him." Nowhere in this verse does it say that religious Jews will be spared this longed-for genocide. As evident by the targets of terrorist attacks, Hamas and other terrorist groups attack secular and religious Jews. Teenagers studying in a yeshiva and worshippers in a Meah Shearim synagogue have been attacked just as teenagers in a discotheque erev shabbat. Islam's anger will not abate as long as we insist on being proud and free and refuse to submit to dhimmitude.
It is frequently said that Islam is a fellow Abrahamitic religion with Judaism and Christianity. That is really a misnomer. According to Islam, it is the only Abrahamitic religion. Abraham was a Muslim, thereby making Judaism and Christianity illegitimate. "Ibrahim was not a Jew nor a Christian but he was (an) upright (man), a Muslim, and he was not one of the polytheists. Most surely the nearest of people to Ibrahim are those who followed him and this Prophet and those who believe and Allah is the guardian of the believers." (Qur'an 3:66-67) All of these calls for universal love and brotherhood are completely silly. Islam has no such pretensions. It believes itself to be the only religion of Abraham and that all others are deviant. It does not view itself as one of three brother religions which share beliefs and values but rather as a ruler and conqueror over these false faiths. We cannot expect Hamas or al-Qaeda to accord a rabbi any sort of respect since he is following a corruption of Allah's original message. Islam holds that the Torah originally contained references to Muhammad's coming but that the Jews conspired to "extinguish the lights of Allah".
Rabbi Froman's suggestion is not only idiotic but dangerous. Think about the horror that the Jewish world felt as it saw Neturai Karta members clad in chassidic garb shaking hands with Iran's president at his Holocaust-denial hate-fest. Neturai Karta is a fringe group with several hundred supporters. Imagine the incredible amount of legitimacy that would be bestowed upon Hamas if well-respected rabbis met and discussed with them. It would be tantamount to negotiating with murderers. This suggestion perpetuates the theme of Western or Israeli guilt in terrorist attacks. Islam is responsible for terrorism, not its victims. Even if Israel became the most observant and moral country (speedily in our days, amen!), Arab and Muslim hatred would not be reduced one iota. It is not our secularism or immorality that is to blame but the very text of the Qur'an. Once they tear out the offending passages, I'm sure my rabbi would happy to give their imams a call.
Cross-posted to Goat's Barnyard
Monday, June 2, 2008
The Holy Land: full of synagogues, history, scenery, McDonald's cheeseburgers, discotheques and Gay "Pride" Parades. The rampant secularism promoted by a small but influential minority of extremists has long been a point of contention for more traditional and observant Jews. Many often bemoan the lack of observance among some Israelis and their pitiful ignorance of Judaism. Coupled with successive self-loathing, post-Zionist governments, many religious and nationalist Jews no longer identify with the State of Israel. One reaction to the Disengagement from Gaza in summer 2005 was to disengage from the State. In certain synagogues, the Prayer for the Welfare of the State of Israel was omitted and the blue and white flags taken down. In the minds of many, Zionism is associated with the post-Jewish "new Jew", with secularism, with clubbing on Erev Shabbat and land-for-peace deals.
In the 2nd century BCE, the oppressed Jews led a revolt against the mighty Seleucid empire. After 7 long years of intense struggle, the people of Judeah drove out the cruel Greeks and rededicated the Holy Temple in Jerusalem to G-d's service. To commemorate this amazing victory, the holiday of Chanukkah was established. What began as an idealistic revolt in the name of religious freedom and self-determination soon became corrupt. Subsequent Hasmonean rulers, descendants of the brave revolutionaries, were more interested in pride and greed than in perpetuating the ideals that their fathers had fought for. Divided into squabbling religious sects, the Jews fought amongst one another and internal hatred weakened them. Ironically, while the early Hasmoneans fought against assimilation and suppression of Judaism, the later Hasmonean kings brought Roman influence into the the Land and assisted greatly in its Hellenization. Eventually, through a combination of civil war, corruption and obsession with materialism, the Hamonean kingdom was brought to an end by the conquering Romans. 70 years of Jewish independence was crushed by Roman legions. Despite the complete assimilation in the final days of the Hasmonean kingdom, Jews until this day observe the holiday of Chanukkah and sing Hallel to remember the miraculous victory. Even when the rulers of the independent Judea brought in foreign philosophies and cultures and tried to erase Judaism, nobody even suggested that Chanukkah be abolished.
Some religious Jews who support the IDF and our Jewish brethren in the Israel tend to shy away from the word "Zionist" as they associate it with the secularism of the early Chalutzim and Zionist leaders. It is not common knowledge that a hundred or so years before Herzl, great rabbis such as the Baal Shem Tov or the Vilna Gaon were encouraging their disciples to make aliyah so as to build up the Land. Zionism did is not a 19th century imperialist movement or a new ideology founded by Herzl or Weitzman. Zionism has its origins in G-d's promise to Avraham Avinu that to his descendants He would give the Land of Israel. Zionism is the thrice-daily prayer for the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and our declaration at the end of our Pesach seder. It is the dictum of our Sages that living in Israel is equivalent to the entire Torah. Zionism is the essential component of Judaism which teaches that Jews must form a G-dly society in the Holy Land. By rejecting the so-called "Zionists", these people are perpetuating the sin of the Meraglim who slandered the Land and caused Israel to wander in the desert for 40 years.
When asked if they recite Hallel on Yom HaAtzmaut, some will jokingly reply that they follow Ben Gurion's custom: they don't say Hallel, but they don't say Tachanun either. Behind this witty quip is the insinuation that because the State was founded by secular Jews, it is worthless. Little do they know that oftentimes, the most lofty of ideas has very humble origins. The Moshiach's ancestry, that of the most noble king ever to rule Israel, will be descended of the debauchery of Moav which was conceived through incest, and from the adultery of David and Bathshevah. G-d conceals the Redemption through natural and ignoble means so as to confuse the klipah. As king Chizikiyahu lay on his deathbed, the prophet Yishayahu came to visit him. He explained to him that his death had been decreed for the sin of not having children. Chizikiyahu protested and defended himself by saying that he had known through prophesy that his children would be wicked and that he prefered not having them. Yishayahu answered him: "Why do you involved yourself with the Merciful One's matters? You must do as you are commanded and the Holy One, Blessed be He, will do as He sees fit." Why should these "super-frum" Jews involve themselves with G-d's matters? Let them fulfill the mitzvah of the conquest and settling of the Land and let HaShem do as He sees fit. Do they really imagine the Moshiach to come to a deserted and empty land? Rather, every single house built and tree planted in Israel hastens the Geula.
The State of Israel, Reishit Tzmichat Geulateinu, the Dawn of our Deliverance, has certainly fallen short of the promises of the Neviim. However, it is out of the husk of this secularism that our redemption will sprout. Just as I will continue to light Chanukkah candles even though the Hasmonean kingdom eventually persectued the rabbis, I will continue to dance on Yom HaAtzmaut and thank G-d for His miracles. The proper response to such secularism is not to isolate ourselves but rather to get involved and to change the State from within. Any Jew who accepts G-d's promise to the Avot, who affirm's the central mitzvah of the settlement and conquest of the Land, who prays for G-d to return His people to Israel and who proudly declares every Passover, "Next Year in Jerusalem!", is a Zionist. Zionism cannot be separated from Judaism just as Israel cannot be removed from the Torah. Israel does not depend on the religiosity of its people or leaders but rather on HaShem's promise to avenge His great and holy Name that was desecrated among the nations. And HaShem is a G-d who keeps His word.
Cross-posted to Jewish Vengeance