Thursday, May 04, 2017

They are Afraid

By Rabbi Amichai Gordin
Yeshivat Har Etzion and Shaalvim High School

They are buried in a long line that is not very straight. These people were killed by artillery fire in Jerusalem in 5708. This week I passed by the graves on Har Hamenuchot, in Jerusalem, and I tried to imagine their funerals. At the time, Jerusalem was under siege and locked in. Nobody could come in or go out. Water was provided in very measured amounts, and the small rations of food were almost at starvation level. In all of this, the inhabitants of the city were forced to bring their dear ones killed by the shells of the Arab Legion to rest. It is impossible to imagine.

At one point, a low and neglected stone made of concrete caught my eye, with the following sign on it: “This is the final resting place of the boy Shalom Bachbut... Seven years old when he fell, in Jerusalem.” I thought of his parents, Esther and Yaacov Bachbut, and how in the midst of the blockade and the despair in the city at the time they were forced to accompany their young son to his grave. My heart felt empty within me.

Several attempts to break through the blockade failed. Perhaps the people should have simply given up and left. Perhaps they should have taken a realistic view and concluded that they had no chance to survive. However, against all the odds, in the beginning of the month of Kislev, in a ceremony opening the road to Jerusalem, an anonymous messenger came to announce, “We have passed through the way, and the road is open.”

Here is the immortal poem that Natan Alterman wrote about this heroic effort of opening the road – 

“About those who broke out...”

* * * * * *

Logic decreed: “It is no use!”

Fear cried out: “Our fate is sealed!”

The reckoning of the constant war

Spit into our faces with disdain.

English armor and Arab firepower

Screamed: “You will bend your knees!”

And we barely had a dozen rifles...

But we passed through on the way!

* * * * * *

But let us return to today. Three years ago we left two of our soldiers behind in the Gaza Strip. The noble Goldin family has continued to fight with state-like responsibility in order to bring their son Hadar to rest. They do not want to repeat the Shalit deal, rather they demand that we put pressure on Hamas so that it will understand that it is not profitable for them to continue holding the bodies of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul. They do not even propose that we threaten the life of The Hamas leader Haniah if they do not return Hadar and Oron within 48 hours. The Goldins are asking for much milder forms of pressure.

The cabinet has already made three decisions about this matter. The first is to prevent the return of Arab bodies which interest Hamas, the second is to worsen the conditions of the Hamas prisoners. The third decision was to curtail the humanitarian aid that is allowed to enter Azza.

Not one of the cabinet decisions was put into effect. Nothing at all was done. This is insulting and shameful. It appears that the Prime Minister and the members of the cabinet do not really believe that it will be possible to retrieve the bodies of Hadar and Oron. They are also not willing to risk any danger by putting pressure on Hamas. They talk about the strength and the power of the IDF, and how strong we are as a country, but they are afraid to downgrade the conditions of the Hamas prisoners. They do not believe that it is possible to break out and make a new road.

* * * * * *

My dear Prime Minister, we can indeed burst out into a new path. Our situation is much better than it was in 5708. And if they, with nothing more than a dozen rifles, could make it onto a new road, we can also succeed. We can bring Hadar and Oren back without having to pay the heavy price of the Shalit deal.

We must apply pressure to Hamas, even it we have to pay a price for doing so. That is the only way for a sovereign nation with principles and values to act. Any country which is not willing to pay a price for its own values and principles is a country which has neither values nor principles.

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