Counting Israel’s blessings

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The Haggada reading that “in every generation there are those who rise against us to destroy us” will undoubtedly sound a responsive chord amongst Israelis especially at those Seders marred by the absence of a family member killed or maimed by terror or war.

We have undergone almost three painful, bloody years during which the prevailing euphoria relating to the “irreversible peace process” has been shattered and exposed as a cruel illusion.

Indeed under threat from chemical/biological attack, our children were obliged to take gas masks to school, a chilling reminder of the terrible horrors Jews underwent during the Holocaust.

And those who foolishly believed that anti-Semites had become an extinct species received a rude shock upon hearing echoes of medieval libels accusing the Jews of instigating the war in Iraq and being the source of all the evils in the world.

Beyond that, many Israelis, convinced that our current challenges are simply insoluble, have become reconciled to the gloomy belief that we are destined to remain eternally “a people that dwelleth alone.”

But gloom and doom is not the message of the Festival of Freedom. Pessah conveys rebirth and liberation, and it is appropriate on this Pessah to acknowledge that we have much for which to be grateful.

First, we should give thanks to the Almighty that by virtue of the determination and encouragement of the coalition led by the Americans, we have just witnessed the destruction of the greatest regional threat to our physical existence the evil regime of Saddam Hussein who aspired to fulfill Hitler’s dream. This victory will bring about the most far-reaching change for the good in the Middle East since World War II.

Secondly, we should also give thanks to the Almighty that He hardened Arafat’s heart just as He hardened Pharaoh’s heart against Moses’ plea to “let my people go.”

For had Arafat accepted prime minister Ehud Barak’s offer in the summer of 2000, he would now be reigning supreme and calculating his next step in the process of dismantling the Jewish state and dismembering the Jewish people by stages.

Instead, despite the enormous sacrifice in blood Israelis have endured, we can now say we are winning the war.

Most Palestinians have come to the realization that Arafat has led them to disaster; that armed conflict has provided no dividends, and that the only way to overcome their self-inflicted suffering is to end the terror.
With that, the process of reconciliation to the legitimacy of Jewish sovereignty in the region could begin.

THUS, SETTING aside the Europeans and the uncertainties associated with the road map, there is unquestionably light at the end of the tunnel this Pessah. Israel is now more secure than at any time since the outbreak of the intifada.

So yes, it is time to cease being masochists by constantly placing so much emphasis on our shortcomings. Instead we should remind ourselves and, more importantly, tell our children at the Seder table that the rebirth and liberation of our Jewish nation is itself a miracle of our times and that we are the most blessed and fortunate Jewish generation after 2,000 years of bitter exile, persecution and extermination.

Let us tell the defeatists and pessimists to focus on all the empires and civilizations that preceded us and sought to destroy us. They are no longer. Yet we are here in our ancestral homeland.

Just 60 years ago our people were being led like sheep to the gas chambers. Could our grandparents during those terrible times, even in their wildest dreams, have conceived of a Jewish people remotely comparable to what we have become?

To have risen like a phoenix from the ashes of the Holocaust and resurrected statehood after an interval of 20 centuries is surely no less of a miracle than the Exodus.

ISRAEL IS undoubtedly the most outstanding success story of the 20th century. We have evolved into a nation which is nearly 10 times more numerous than the brave Jewish community which, at its birth, triumphed against the combined armies of the Arab world. We have become a proud independent state with an army capable of defending our people against the forces of all in the region who would seek to destroy us.

We have absorbed millions of Jews mostly from communities in distress and from lands of oppression, including a million from the former Soviet Union, a community that even many of our own Jewish leaders had written off.

We converse in the language of our ancestors and we have developed vibrant religious and cultural streams. Even now, during our current painful economic crisis, we sustain a modern economy and a hi-tech establishment second only to the US.

And, yes, we can take pride in the fact that despite being the only nation whose very existence has been constantly challenged by its neighbors for over half a century, we created and remain the one and only democracy in this region. And beyond that, despite living continuously under the shadow of war and brutal terror, we have still retained our intrinsic Jewish values, our humanity and our compassion.

More than any other country we continue to take every precaution to minimize killing civilians innocent or otherwise frequently at the cost of the lives of our own soldiers.

In a word despite the libels directed against us, even today with all our shortcomings and limitations, we have every reason to take pride in the fact that we are or lagoyim a light unto the nations.

Therefore, on this Pessah when we celebrate our liberation from oppression, we have much for which to thank the Almighty, for once again we have been “delivered from those who sought to destroy us.”

We should also remain steadfast in our conviction that He will enable us to continue overcoming our challenges and create a just society based on eternal Jewish values, one in which we and our children will live in peace and security.

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