The Immortality of the Jew

When I published the blog about my experience during my trip to Ostrolenka, Poland, little did I expect that it woud touch the heartstrings of the many who commented, both publicly and privately. It is hard to describe fully the emotions that I felt when we saw the first sign on the road, indicating that Ostrolenka was such and such kilometres ahead. For a moment, it was hard for me to believe that I was actually going to be in the place where my parents grew up, lived and eventually left … almost the night before the outbreak of WWII. There was an anticipation that I would find the graves of three of three of my grandparents, as well as gravestones of other members of the families of both of my parents, who had lived there for many generations. There is something that is built into the fabric of our being that longs for permanence, for an existence that continues beyond our days. Our hosts told us that the cemetery had been destroyed by the Nazis, but none of us knew the extent of the destruction or what was built over it. 

As I began to recite the traditional Kaddish prayer, wearing my father’s kippa, I was filled with emotion. I had to stop and turn away from Orit, the couple who hosted us and their son, and wait a few moments before I could continue. As I wept, they wept with me. As I was reciting the Kaddish, two girls came out from the school that was built on the site. They saw me and laughed as they passed by. The son of the couple asked passers-by where the monument was. The locals who were asked claimed not to know where it was, despite it being around the corner from where we were standing and some 40-50 feet from the corner on Yanusz Korczak Street. [His real name was Henryk Goldszmit – who would not abandon the children in the orphanage that he was the head of and went with them to the gas chambers, even though he was offered opportunities to save himself.] There is no question that the spirit of anti-semitism is alive and well in Poland and elsewhere. The son of our hosts said that he works with people who are anti-semitic. When he asked them why they hated Jews and what Jewish people ever did to them, they could not answer.

In 1898, Mark Twain’s “Concerning the Jew” essay was published in Harper’s Magazine. When his comment about the Jews not serving in the military was later proven to be untrue, he issued a public apology. In the latter part of his essay, he wrote, in part: 

“What has become of the Golden Rule?”

It exists, it continues to sparkle, and is well taken care of. It is Exhibit A in the Church`s assets, and we pull it out every Sunday and give it an airing. But you are not permitted to try to smuggle it into this discussion, where it is irrelevant and would not feel at home. It is strictly religious furniture, like an acolyte, or a contribution-plate, or any of those things. It has never been intruded into business; and Jewish persecution is not a religious passion, it is a business passion.

* * * If the statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of star dust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way. Properly the Jew ought hardly to be heard of; but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his commercial importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk. His contributions to the world`s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are also away out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvelous fight in this world, in all the ages; and has done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself, and be excused for it. The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed, and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other peoples have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished. The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?” (Mark Twain: Concerning The Jews, Harper’s Magazine, March, 1898).

Indeed, the question of the ages has been “What is the secret of the immortality of the Jew?” Clearly, we are but human, fallible, given to every vice and virtue of almost every other people on the earth, whether presently existing or in ages past. We cannot over-simply the answer, nor should we try.  Yet, a question that relates to immortality can only be answered by reference to that which “immortal”, which lives forever, which defies logic and necessitates a reliance upon faith.  

We need to wake up to reality from a Biblical point of view.  A time is coming, and it is not very far off, when the world will turn against this tiny stretch of desert land and its inhabitants and/or will idly stand by as nations gather together in an attempt to destroy us, so that the name of Israel would be no more (Ps. 83:4).  Life for the Jew will be difficult beyond our imagination.  Non-Jews who will come to faith in the Lord Yeshua, the Lord of Glory, the Holy One of Israel, during that time, will have their faith tested by the manner in which they relate to the Jew, as He stated (see Matt. 25:31-46): “***’to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’”  This statement was made by the Lord Yeshua before He went to the cross and died as the Passover Lamb that took upon Himself the sins of the world.  His “brothers” were, therefore, according to the flesh, namely, the Jews.  This is not the place to deal with the similarities or distinctions between the wars referred to in Ps. 83; Ezekiel 38:4-5, 10-12; 39:2 and Revelation 16. That is for another time.

Israel as a nation and the Jews as a people, will continue to exist. “Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for light by day, And the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; The LORD of hosts is His name: ‘If this fixed order departs From before Me,” declares the LORD, “Then the offspring of Israel also shall cease From being a nation before Me forever.’ Thus says the LORD, ‘If the heavens above can be measured, And the foundations of the earth searched out below, Then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel For all that they have done,’ declares the LORD.” (Jer. 31:35-37).  The wars seeking to eliminate Israel and the Jews are physical manifestations of the spiritual warfare taking place – the spirit of Islam against The Spirit of the Resurrected Messiah, Israel in the midst of a sea of her enemies, who seek to destroy her.  

What is the secret of the immortality of the Jew?  Simply, God!  He is sovereign in all His ways. He sovereignly chose Israel (Deut. 7:7-8) to be kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exo. 19:6).  His gifts and His callings are irrevocable (Rom 11:29).  May we examine and consider our ways and let us return to the Lord (Lam. 3:40) our God and obey Him with all our heart and soul (Deut. 30:2) and not wait for the day of our distress (Deut. 4:30).  For if our ways are pleasing to the Lord, He will make even our enemies to be at peace with us (Prov. 16:7).  And THAT will be the time for which we all yearn. This world, with all of the evil that is in it, is fading away. We have to hold on to that which is eternal and the to One who dwells in eternity. We need to see the whole picture.

Tonight begins the Jewish New Year of Rosh Hashanah, referred to in Leviticus 23:23-25 as the Feast of Trumpets – year number 5780 according to the Jewish calendar. May you all be blessed with good health, strength, a sweet, encouraging, joyful and prosperous year. Indeed, may it be the year that we hear The Trumpet sound.

The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever. (Isaiah 40:8)

I will make you a great nation and I will bless you and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed. (Gen. 12:2-3)

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Marvin

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Eliminating a Piece of History … and Family

When our two oldest children were in 12th grade, they had the unique opportunity to go to Poland with their school and to see various concentration camps, such as Auschwitz and Maidanek. They were hoping that during their visit to Poland, they would have a chance to go to Ostrolenka, the village that my parents came from and which the Krymkiewicz family had lived in from around at least the early 1800’s (as far as we know). It is located about 100 km north of Warsaw.

Yesterday, my wife and I had the opportunity to go to, and to speak, among other things, about Messiah Yeshua in different places in Poland, including Ostrolenka (now Ostroleka). The first Krymkiewicz (now Kramer) family member to return in 80 years. The city changed a lot during this time. It was founded in the 14th century and over the next few centuries, it thrived. By the early 1900’s, the Jewish community there was the third largest in the Lomza region and had a high degree of economic and cultural achievement. In 1939, the Jewish population of the village grew to 5,000 out of a total population of 12,000.

In mid-August, 1939, my parents were able to leave Poland and made their way to America. Two weeks later, the Nazis invaded Poland and by the end of Succot, 1939, Ostrolenka was occupied by the Germans. Jews were attacked physically. Their property was taken and the Jewish community was given only three days to leave the village and cross into the area occupied by Soviet Russia. During this time of expulsion, the Jewish half of the city’s population was killed, or scattered to different areas around Ostrolenka, or sent to concentration camps. The destinations of most of them are unknown. The details of those who were shot by death squads in the streets or in forests, or who died in forced marches, or who were immediately sent to the gas chambers, were not written down. Only the testimonies of some of those who survived the war are able to put a few of the pieces together. Today, there is no Jewish presence there.

The Nazis sought to eliminate the Jews of Ostrolenka (the entire Jewish community was destroyed). The German soldiers destroyed the sizeable Jewish cemetery. Locals removed pieces of the gravestones for their personal use – insult was added to injury. The cemetery was paved and some shallow foundations were erected on the site, the construction of which appeared not to damage the underground tombs. Between the Nazis and the locals, there was an effort to eliminate a portion of the history of Ostrolenka. Years later, a memorial monument, dedicated to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust from Ostrolenka, was set up close to the place where the cemetery once existed. A school and parking area was built over most of the place where the very large Jewish cemetery of Ostrolenka once used to be. PHOTO (1) 2019-09-23PHOTO (2) 2019-09-23.jpg

Three of my grandparents were buried there and generations of my family who preceded them. Not one of their gravestones remains. A portion of my family’s history has been wiped out, as if it never existed.

The latest news of yesterday, 23 September, 2019, regarding the cemetery land that was destroyed, but still not built upon, indicates that tractors are digging in the cemetery to clear land for the preparation of a main sewer line. In the process, the  excavation of the land is uncovering human bones from destroyed graves. It has been reported in a Hebrew site that these works are part of a project being funded by the EU.  The quiet of the grave and the repose of the dead should not lightly to be disturbed. There is a sanctity to the remains of those who have gone before, who have laid the foundations of a multitude of societies, not the least of which was the Jewish community in Ostrolenka. Today, a tiny memorial remains, a part of which is made up of pieces of different gravestones, none of which are identifiable. The remains of Jewish people who helped to found, build and enable Ostrolenka to flourish over hundreds of years, along with all Jewish life in the city, literally disappeared almost overnight.

We were taken to Ostrolenka by our hosts, a Polish evangelical husband and wife, who have a genuine love for Israel and for the Jewish people. After I recited Kaddish (a prayer of praise to God, customarily recited by Jewish people after the death of relatives) in Aramaic in the place where the Jewish cemetery once stood, the son of that couple, who wanted to come with us, read the Kaddish in Polish. We all shed many tears over the loss caused by demonic hatred. Ostrolenka, indeed, all of Poland, needs to repent and ask forgiveness from God for its actions towards the Jewish people. Yes, there were righteous gentiles, who will reap the blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant. And some of them were our hosts, who said “Am Yisrael Chai. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob has called and blessed the Jewish people and He will regather them and restore them for His glory.”

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing,

Marvin

The Aftermath of the Attack on Avivim – Now What?

Is everybody happy? Well, at least on the surface of things, it would appear to be so. The Prime Minister of Lebanon, Hariri, is happy that he was able to successfully get other countries to intervene in the cross-border incident yesterday that was started from his country. He continues to try to portray himself as a moderate and a voice of reason in Lebanon. Hezbollah chief mucky-muck, Nasrallah, on the other hand, who is the furthest thing from a moderate voice in Lebanon, was able to make good on his promise to take revenge for the killing of two Hezbollah fighters in the region south of Damascus, Syria, and Israel Prime Minister, Netanyahu, was happy that the incident ended with no injuries and that Israel’s military response was both immediate and sufficient. He handled the incident yesterday in a cool and calm manner, which also helped further his image as the only player in Israeli politics who can guarantee the security of the country. So, the three of them all had reasons for being happy. Everything returned to normal last night and continues today, including the unceasing tension on the northern front.

Now what? Where do we go from here? Let’s keep in mind the real players in the incidents of the past week: Behind the plans and activities of Shiite Hezbollah terrorists are the Mullahs of Iran, who are financing their Lebanese proxy and supplying them with weaponry. They won’t give up on their program to increase in stature in the region, in power and in influence. And, more significantly, Iran will not give up on its goal to generate a multitude of precision missiles, primarily for use against Israel and particularly through its Hezbollah proxy.  On the other side of the literal border is Israel, who will not yield to Iran’s efforts at self-aggrandisement, nor to Hezbollah aggression towards Israel.

Again, where do we go from here? Nasrallah-la-la will undoubtedly thrust himself back into the limelight (when he comes out from hiding in his bunker to speak) and take credit for standing good on his promise. He’ll boast of the heroism of the Hezbollah and invent a few “facts” along the way, that may include injury to IDF personnel, in addition to causing serious damage to property of the IDF. Indeed, only an hour or so before preparing this post, a reporter for the Hezbollah said that the celebrations that were taking place in Beirut were because of the “victory over the Israeli enemy”, adding that  the “Hezbollah has changed the equation [and] now Israel is the one who is deterred.” Nu, this spin on reality is what can be expected by an enemy who starts a fight and then asks other to intervene to stop it, when the one it attacked fights back!

On the Israeli end, by God’s grace, there were no injuries, civilian or military. In this regard, we received a report from a member of our congregation, who was serving with the IDF in the area of Avivim yesterday, when the Hezbollah fired anti-tank missiles to the abandoned military outpost in that area. She reported that three missiles were fired at a military ambulance in which she and others were present, adding: “My team and I were in this ambulance. By God’s grace we were able to get out healthy and whole. This was truly simply a miracle that happened there! God is great!”

Israel accomplished what it wanted to do, both earlier in the week as well as in yesterday’s incident, revealing once again its ability to pinpoint the targets and eliminate them.  A senior military source said that the IDF “carried out simultaneous attacks in Syria and other areas”, as it was necessary to take such action within a limited time frame. That source added that the IDF acted “as precisely in as many arenas as we planned, including in that possible enemy reactions. We are prepared for war but do not need it, as the event we carried out in Lebanon proved.” Thus, although prepared for continued and wider and widening military action, Israel was also satisfied that yesterday’s events ended quickly and that things were able to return to “normal”. 

So, Iran is determined and will not walk away from a seeming setback in its ability to manufacture precision weapons. Nasrallah-la-la and his sizeable band of terrorists will continue to threaten Israel until push comes to shove and they will need to put their people to the test. Israel will not stand by, as it did not stand by, and allow either of them to manufacture precision weapons for use against Israel and to do so within a short striking distance in Syria or Lebanon. Israel may have to go beyond surgical strikes to demonstrate that such aggressive action planned against Israel comes with a price to pay. We should be careful not to think that “returning to normal” is the end of the story of yesterday’s incident. Realistically, it could be the beginning of a new one.

The efforts to manufacture of precision weaponry for use by Iran or the Hezbollah necessitated a re-directed planning by Israel how to deal with the threat of such missiles. Next to the problem of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, the manufacture and potential use of them now appears to rank second in the list of concerns of the Israel military establishment, particularly in “the northern front”. Additional concerns remain preventing Iran from gaining a solid foothold in enemy countries in the region, both to our immediate north and northeast, as well as to the southeast. Accordingly, Israel’s plans need to encompass all of those areas for multi-front engagement, if and when the time comes. As one senior security source stated: “In light of developments and situation assessments, it was decided three months ago that the precision missile project would be given high priority, because of the immediate danger it poses. The military echelons were informed of this decision…We cannot afford to be surrounded by thousands of precision missiles that could land and harm the State of Israel.”

Yes, we’re happy. Because this is a day that the LORD has made. We WILL rejoice and be glad in it.

“To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his.” (Job 12:13)

“Give [our leadership] wisdom and knowledge, that [it] may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?” (2 Chronicles 1:10)

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Marvin

Cross-Border Live Fire

In his speech yesterday, Hassan Nasrallah, the head of the terrorist organization, Hezbollah, said that his organization would respond to Israel’s destruction of precision missiles supplied to the Hezbollah by Iran through Syria. Of course, it was not described that way by Nasrallah.

Irrespective of the wording that he used, the Hezbollah fired anti-tank missiles into the north of Israel in the region of Kibbutz Avivim, located slightly to the N.W. of Safed, which is slightly to the N.W. of Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee (see photo).Israel_outline_northeast Bomb shelters in certain northern areas were ordered to be opened, roads to the north were closed and the IDF returned artillery fire to the points in Lebanon where the the missiles launchers were located. The Hermon Regional Council instructed residents to pay attention to the news media.

Cabinet Minister Yoav Galant said in an interview over Army Radio: “If we get to the point where they fire on Israeli cities and try to harm civilians and children, we will return Lebanon to the Stone Age, and everything resulting from it.” As of this writing, the Israeli Airforce responded against two areas in southern Lebanon, which were also areas of heavy fighting during the Second Lebanon War in 2006. An Israeli commando unit is now operating on the northern border with Lebanon.

As of a few minutes ago, the Prime Minister of Lebanon, Saad El-Hariri requested the United States and France to intervene to stop the escalation.

The action is still ongoing. When you receive this, please take some time to pray regarding the situation, for wisdom for the leaders of Israel and strength and protection for those who are on the front lines at the moment, protecting the civilian population of Israel.

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing,

Marvin

Multi-Front Rumblings

Multi-Front Mumblings

It’s been a while since I’ve written. The intention does not always line up with the time availability. As the Scottish poet Robert Burns once wrote in 1786: “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley.” No, things don’t always work out the way we plan. Well, the summer is fading and challenges both old and new face our country.

The up-coming election

Much of the last few months have focused on politics: Israelis will be going to the  polls on 17 September, for an unprecedented national election for the second time in one year. For many reasons, this could be one of the most significant elections for this young country since the early 1980s, when Menachem Begin was elected. We are reminded daily by the media of how many days remain until the election and what the pollsters are saying. The country appears to be as divided as it was before the earlier election, but is leaning towards another victory for the Likud party (headed up by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu). However, even if we work on the presumption that Netanyahu’s party will succeed to get the most votes, they will be far short from what is necessary to form a new government. For this, he will need the assistance of other parties, all from the political right, to form a right-wing coalition government. This will be a replay of what occurred following the last elections, only with the players slight re-aligned. Still, if all of the political parties (and their leaders) that were potential coalition partners in the last election remain in the picture after the next election, the problems that prevented the formation of the government earlier in the year will still exist. The big question is how many seats the “right” will get, again presuming a Netanyahu victory. It needs to be at least 61 to be given the nod to form a new government and probably closer to 70 in order to overcome the issues that prevented the formation of a coalition government the first time around and delay potential prosecution on various criminal charges that loom large in the question. It’s been said that politics makes for strange bedfellows. We’re beginning to see some of that take place. More on these issues to follow.

To Allow Entry or Not to Allow Entry – that “was” the Question

As has been widely reported in world-wide media, about two weeks ago, Israel refused to allow entry to the country of two US Congresswomen – Rashida Tlaib from Michigan, and Ilhan Omar from Minnesota. They were not an official, government-sponsored delegation, but were on a personal mission to condemn Israel and further BDS efforts to promote Israel’s destruction. Ironically, Israel’s democracy allows its elected members to the Knesset to speak against it and even call for its termination. Would the U.S. allow members of its Congress to call for the destruction of America? Such efforts would be immediately condemned on both sides of the Congressional isle, accompanied by calls for removal of those “representatives”. 

In this particular situation, “the Squad”, as these two women, along with two others, have come to be known, have made it their mission and goal to challenge Israel’s right to exist, something they would not even try to do regarding the United States. They seek to be playing both sides against the middle – advocating the demise of an American ally, while giving the appearance of doing so as a patriotic endeavor.

Israel was in a no-win situation regarding the Tlaib and Omar fiasco. Are we as a country strong enough to absorb their baseless, un-factual diatribes? Of course, we are. Should we have allowed them to come in after all? The jury is still out on that one and opinions here and in the U.S. are divided. Still, it is the right of every sovereign nation to determine who will be allowed to enter its borders and it is within the proper exercise of

The Dry Bones Blog-19 August, 2018
The Dry Bones Blog-19 August, 2018

that country’s discretion to determine whether that person is friend or foe. In this case, the determination is clear. The purpose of their trip was to meet with Israel’s enemies and not with any officials of the Israeli government. Tlaib’s protestations that Israel prevented her from seeing her grandmother was nothing but another fiction, whose bubble was popped when she was offered that opportunity by the Israeli government, but decided not to accept it. 

Israel took a firm stand to refuse to allow supporters of the BDS movement to spew their antisemitism and hostile, false accusations against Israel and to do so on Israeli soil. Some viewed our decision as being undemocratic and a slap in the face to the U.S. government. Fear should not be the basis of our national policies. We did what was right, even if it ruffled the feathers of politicos on both sides of the Big Muddy. The split that was created in US-Israel relations as a result of refusing entry to Tlaib and Omar is not as critical as some would try to argue. Our relationship is based on years of cooperation and understanding. We’ve weathered other storms, particularly during the Obama years, and this one will pass as well. As we say here: “We got over Pharaoh, we’ll get over this!”

On the northern front

Tensions continue to build along our norther border with Lebanon. following Israel’s attack on the outskirts of Damascus at the beginning of this week, preventing an armed drone attack from there to points in Israel. Between Saturday and Sunday of last weekend, there were two military actions: one against the Iranian Revolutionary Guards cell on the outskirts of Damascus and the other, inside Lebanon. Hassan Nasrallah, the head of the terrorist organization, Hezbollah, tried to downplay the events, particularly the successful attack on Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon and focused more on the events in Syria, while threatening retaliation. As a result of last weekend’s activities, the IDF revealed considerable details about the Hezbollah’s project to produce precision missiles, with the assistance of Iran.

The Dry Bones Blog-26 August, 2019

In a speech by Nasrallah today, he indicated that a response from the Hezbollah can come from anywhere in Lebanon. He asserted that even though the Hezbollah does not have a factory for the production of precision weapons, the organization has enough of them for any confrontation. 

As mentioned in prior posts, the next war will be a mess, with a potential for a multi-front war that includes Lebanon and Syria in the north, now possibly joined by Iraq, and Hamas from the Gaza Strip. The IDF has responded to the threats from Nasrallah, saying that it is prepared for any scenario. In the meantime, the IDF closed off the air space over the Golan Heights, which, apparently, will remain closed at least for the next week. It has also moved tanks and artillery to points north. This is a time for cool heads to make decisions here. A small spark can create a major conflagration.

“I will defend this city and save it, for my sake and for the sake of David my servant!” (Isaiah 38:5)

“Yet their Redeemer is strong; the LORD Almighty is his name. He will vigorously defend their cause so that he may bring rest to their land, but unrest to those who live in Babylon.” (Jeremiah 50:34)

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Have a good week.

Marvin

When I thought there were no more tears … I was wrong!

A siren sounded last night, signalling the beginning of Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism. This morning, another siren sounded for two minutes, as Israel came to a standstill in honor of honor of 23,646 soldiers who had fallen and 3,134 victims of terror. People stood in silent remembrance in the streets, in office buildings, in homes and in public transportation. Even on the highways, when the sirens sounded, cars pulled over to the side, people exited their vehicles and stood until the sirens faded. This is always a tough time for most Israelis, but extremely so for those who lost loved ones through military conflict or terrorist activities. And every year, the number increases. 

I left work early today, so that I could watch and listen to some of the stories that would still be broadcast over Israeli TV. All “entertainment” programming was cancelled until sundown tonight. By this time of the day, after watching documentaries and news clips and after listening to the songs and music, some old and some newly written in commemoration of some of the fallen, I thought that my tears had dried up. I was wrong. There was one segment that was put together towards the end of Memorial Day that dealt with the stories of three “lone soldiers” , who were killed in the 2014 Gaza War (Tzuk Eytan). One of stories caused tears to well up, as if they were stored away and kept for this moment. They flowed as my mind and thoughts were brought back to remembrances of the funeral that I attended in Haifa for one of the soldiers.

The following is a portion of the blog that I wrote almost five years ago, related to that event:

Israel mourns for her sons.
This past Saturday night, after the Shabbat was over and we began a new week (“there was evening and there was morning, one day), Israeli troops were battling in Shejaiya, one of the major Hamas, terrorist strongholds in Gaza. An armored personnel carrier (“APC”) was struck by an anti-tank missile, killing First Sergeant Nissim Sean Carmeli and others. They were among the 13 of the soldiers, all members of the elite Golani unit, who were killed that night.

Four Israeli soldiers had already been killed. But, the news that an additional 13 were killed throughout the night of fighting was a jolt to the nation. It was a major loss for a small country like Israel. Everyone felt the pain of loss. Slowly, the identities of the slain soldiers were released and they included two who also held American citizenship, Max Steinberg, 24, originally from Woodland Hills, California, and Nissim Sean Carmeli, 21, who had lived in South Padres Island, Texas, where his parents still reside (note: they have since returned to live in Israel). Both Steinberg and Carmeli were considered as “lone soldiers”, meaning, generally speaking, that they do not have parents to go home to when they are on a break from the army.

Efforts were made by some to portray Shejaiya as a peaceful “neighborhood” community until the present fighting erupted. In reality, however, Shejaiya is one of Hamas’ active locations, from which over 140 rockets were fired into Israel in 13 days. The openings to at least 10 terror tunnels are located there, tunnels that Hamas used for the purpose of smuggling weapons, for launching missiles at Israel civilians and for infiltrating into Israel to attempt to slaughter civilians communities and to kidnap Israelis. Rocket launchings against Israel took place from a mosque, a hospital and a children’s playground, while a rocket facility was also located in a cemetery – all within the confines of Shejaiya. Notwithstanding Israel’s attempts to reduce the number of civilian casualties, the residents of Shejaiya were ordered by Hamas not to leave and were used by Hamas as human shields.

The above is mentioned as background information. The fighting in Shejaiya continues, along with the missiles fired from Gaza.

The funeral of Max Steinberg is set for tomorrow, Wednesday, on Mt. Herzl, in Jerusalem. The funeral of Nissim Sean Carmeli took place Monday night, in Haifa.

“Lord, please stir the hearts of people to attend the funeral.”

When I heard that Carmeli’s funeral was going to take place in the Military Cemetery in Haifa, I knew I needed to go. I was not related to him and never heard of him until Monday. But, it was important for me to be there. This was reinforced when the evening news said that a message was sent out over the social media, saying that Sean (as he was referred to by his friends) was a fan of a certain Haifa soccer team. Inasmuch as he was a “long soldier”, those who published the notice said that there was a concern that there would be a light turnout for his funeral and urged fans of the same soccer team to attend. The funeral was originally scheduled for 9:00 p.m., but for various reasons was changed to 11:00 p.m. The evening news showed a photo and shared a little background information. My heart was broken and I didn’t even try to hold back the tears. He was just 21, older than my youngest son and younger than my oldest son. His parents were arriving from the U.S.

I left for the funeral at 10:00 p.m., a 10-12 minute drive. I prayed as I got into the car, “Lord, please stir the hearts of people to attend the funeral. Let them come and honor this son of Israel as he is laid into the ground. Let his family know that although he was considered a ‘lone soldier’, he was not alone.”  When I arrived in the area, the police had already set up barricades and cars seemed to come from every direction. It took me half an hour to find a space at a distance of a 20-minute walk from the cemetery. A few people here and some there, we were all headed in the same direction. As we got closer to the cemetery, the crowds grew larger.

It was already packed when I arrived. I ended up close to the place where the service was being held, but I couldn’t see anything. I really didn’t need to see the event. I’ve seen too many of them. I’ve listened to too many eulogies, with the broken hearts of family and friends and the messages interrupted by crying. I’ve listened to too many fathers reciting “Kadish” (Aramaic for “holy”, a hymn of praises of God that is part of the Jewish prayer service, as well as at funerals). I’ve heard too many local officials and politicians praising a deceased person, whom they never met. I didn’t need to see the ceremony. There were loudspeakers that would broadcast the event. I looked around and saw that people were still coming, a seemingly never ending stream of people. Some tried to get closer to the platform and managed to slightly push (but, not offensively) others to get to a better vantage point. There were no arguments, no shoving and no yelling. Just a multitude of people, coming to pay their respects to Sean. There were men and women, soldiers from every type of military unit, those with rank and those without, police, teenagers and septuagenarians, religious and secular, Jew and non-Jew, all who came “from Dan to Beer Sheva” to respect and honor and pay their last respects to a “lone soldier”, who united a nation. He was everyone’s son, everyone’s brother. He gave his life so that we, as a nation, would live. A national hero, who was not known, except by a handful of those who came. When it seemed that there was no more room to move forward, people somehow still managed to work their way towards the front.

As the vehicle bringing the coffin arrived at the entrance to the cemetery around 11:30 p.m., the person in charge of the funeral service requested that the crowd “make a path” for the coffin and family. Within seconds, people moved to the sides, clearing a path for the pallbearers and honor guard. It was like watching the Red Sea being divided, only with walls of people, instead of water. We were about 8-10 rows deep and although I couldn’t get close to the platform where the service was to be held, I was in the front row of the wall of people. I saw the dignitaries pass by, followed by the pallbearers with the coffin, draped with the Israeli flag, followed by members of Sean’s family. The crowd, which had kept their conversations on a low volume, was visibly moved. Crying could be heard from many. The heat and the long wait began to take its toll on some and the paramedics were kept busy, taking care of some who became dehydrated or who passed out.

The ceremony continued. The coffin was lowered into the ground and covered over. Wreaths were placed on the fresh grave by representatives of two municipalities. Eulogies were given. The command “fire” was sounded three times, as the flash from the rifles punctuated the night. The ceremony was over and people began to make their way to the exit, slowly, with a sense of walking together as family. In the midst of the multitude, I met a brother-in-the-Lord, an Arab-Israeli, native of Haifa, who pastors a Messianic Jewish congregation here. We’ve known each other about 30 years and joked as we walked, saying that we tend to meet each other most of the time while attending a funeral. His children all served or serve in the IDF.

It was reported that over 30,000 people had attended the funeral of someone they didn’t know, someone that they wanted to honor, someone who enabled Israel to demonstrate how much it is a community that values life and mourns with those who mourn. We wept yesterday many times during the funerals held for our sons who were no more. We wept for a “lone son”, whose death while defending this country drew us together as his family. We will weep again tomorrow for our other sons. 

As of this writing, 28 of our sons have given their lives during the 15 days of this latest war. All who serve give something, while some who serve give everything. May their memories be blessed.

As the TV segment dealing with the deaths of the three lone soldiers concluded,  the mother of one of the other lone soldiers said that while she was attending the funeral of her son, she asked herself how it was that so many people were in attendance, people whom she didn’t know and who did not know her son personally. The response was, “He was everyone’s son.” That’s the spirit of the nation, the spirit that unites, that encourages, that says we can, despite all the odds.

Hollywood can’t compare to real life. Every year, we see, hear or read stories about those who were killed by war or terrorism. In Israel, every such loss is like losing a member of the family and every effort is made to go behind the numbers and show the victims as individuals. The tears that flow from these stories can fill the Sea of Galilee! They touch the lives of families in every strata of society. These are the true reality shows that make an impact on our hearts, our minds and our memories. We don’t need a history class to remind us of national tragedies, or of attempts to destroy us as a people throughout our Biblical, and more modern, history. We need a release from the tears of the past, as well as from the present. So it is no major surprise that Memorial Day is followed immediately by Independence Day, a time to celebrate new life, a new beginning – as a people, as a nation, as families and as individuals. 

At sundown today, we switched gears. Our national day of mourning turned to joy, as we began to celebrate our 71st year of national independence. Celebrating life is part of our national DNA. It is part and parcel of our national resiliency. It causes us to try to turn sorrow into joy and crying into laughter. It enables us to look with anticipation to the future and not to dwell on the difficulties of the past. It is engrained in the attitude that allows us to keep going forward and to see the good even in a bad situation. It appropriates the understanding that a cheerful heart is good medicine (Proverbs 17:22). So, when we have an opportunity to celebrate, we take it seriously.

Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30.5).

Rejoice with us! Celebrate with us!

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Marvin

Am Yisrael Chai!

“In every generation our enemies rise against us to destroy us.”The Dry Bones Blog-30:04:2019 (from the Passover Haggadah, the booklet that is used to guide participants in celebrating the Passover Seder) And so, in every generation, each of us needs to consider himself as though he had survived the Holocaust.

 

There always will be those who do not want to remember that the Holocaust is a fact of history. For some, like Iran and other anti-semites around the world, it is a matter of willful denial. For others, remembering that the Holocaust really happened is too painful for them, either because it brings back memories of what they, themselves, went through, or because it generates anguish and thoughts of what others went through, during a time when the morality and conscience of the world sunk to an all-time low.

But, the long and the short of it is that the Holocaust stands as a scar on the heart and a wart on the hide of humanity that cannot be removed. The best way to cope with it, and to learn from it, is to never forget it. That’s why Israel has a day a year specifically set aside for the remembrance of the Holocaust. That day began last night (1st May, 2019) and continued until sundown tonight. The media was filled with stories that would cause tears to flow out of a stone. The radio played songs that wrench the heart.

Holocaust Remembrance Day here is marked by a ceremony at the Holocaust Memorial Museum, Yad Vashem. Memorial flames are lit by Holocaust survivors, who share incredible stories of suffering and pain, heroism and escape, survival and victory over overwhelming odds, in brief before he or she takes the torch and lights the memorial flame. Unlike the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is set worldwide on January 27th, the date of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp, Israel’s Day of Remembrance coincides with the date of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (according to the Hebrew calendar), an event that symbolizes the heroism and the indefatigable spirit of the Jewish people. Although tremendously outnumbered, the uprising was able to last for 27 days. When it was over, 13,000 Jews were killed and the approximately 50,000 ghetto survivors were sent to nearby death camps.

The hatred of Jews, coupled with the weakness that accompanied our exile and the seeming indifference of the world community, all united in Nazi Germany and became fertile ground for what was labeled “The Final Solution of the Jewish Question”. The danger was not realized by the Jewish people, until it ws too late. The British would not allow us to enter our ancient homeland, the countries of the so-called, enlightened western world, closed their doors to us. We were trapped and when the smoke and dust cleared from the ovens of the death camps, six million Jews had been killed. European Jewry had been decimated.

History not only repeats itself, sometimes it grows progressively worse, particularly when it comes to the history of the Jewish people. The Emperor Constantine legitimized Roman Christianity, but it was about 50 years later, in 380 C.E. when the Emperor Theodosius made it the official religion of the empire. The Jews had to convert or leave. In short, they were told: “You can’t live here as a Jew.” Following the Crusades and in the same year that “Columbus sailed the ocean blue”, Spain expelled the Jews. In short, they were told: “You can’t live here.” And, during the 20th century, Nazi Germany undertook to complete the process with the Holocaust. In short, the Jews were told: “You can’t live.” Throughout our history, there have been overlapping aspects of “Jews are Not Allowed” (Juden Verboten)

But, neither Constantine, nor Theodosius, neither King Ferdinand, nor Queen Isabella, neither Haman, nor Adolf Hitler and his henchmen, had the final word. We live, we live here and we can live here as Jews. That is God’s call, not man’s.

Out of the ashes and thorns of the Holocaust, the land of our forefathers was reclaimed. The early settlers and those who survived the death camps and the forced marches, the beatings and the humiliations, worked and planted and built. Families grew. Agriculture grew. Industry grew. Technology grew. The barren desert was turned green. And the world has been blessed because of God’s plan for the Jew. He will bless those who bless His people. Not because we are bigger or better, because that is certainly not the case (Deut. 7:7-8). It is because God is sovereign in all his ways and is faithful, even when we are not. will not allow those who touch the “apple of his eye” (Zech. 2:8) to get away without punishment (Deut. 32:7-10).

I grew up with stories of relatives who perished in the Holocaust, aunts and uncles, cousins and more distant relatives. I heard the expression “Never again!” time and time again. But, that brief statement needs to go beyond the rhetoric of politicians. It cannot be reduced to amere slogan, however convenient it may be. It much become a part of our mentality and a way of life. When enough people say it and mean it, they will do something about it. Anti-semitism cannot exist in a vacuum, but only when there is fertile ground for its seeds.

It is true that Israel has a strong military. But, what do we have that we have not been given by the Holy One of Israel. We should recognize His hand in our establishment, in our development and in our successes. It is His blessing that enables us to survive and to prosper and to be a blessing to others. I cringe when people talk with misplaced pride and make vows that they, themselves, are not able to fulfill, particularly when those doing so are politicians and leaders of Israel, who speak on behalf of the nation and as their representatives. With two of my children having completed their service in the IDF and the third presently serving, I, too, am confident that those who wear the uniform will continue to perform their assigned tasks honorably, to serve and to defend this nation and its inhabitants. And, to the extent that it depends upon them, they will act to insure that “NeverAgain!” is a meaningful statement.

But, if our trust is in the strength of our flesh only, then our trust is misplaced. We did not succeed against the Arab countries because of our courage or strength. Indeed, we were tremendously outnumbered and under considerable military disadvantage. We succeeded because God pulled us out of the ashes of the Holocaust and fought for us, just as He did when He brought us out of Egypt. Woe to us if we rely on man and make flesh our strength and turn our hearts from the LORD. (Jeremiah 17:5)

We have not yet reached the point when nations “will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they learn war.” (Isaiah 2:4; Micah 4:3) We live in a world that has failed to learn from its past failures and that is, once again, increasing in anti-semitism and in acts of hatred, vandalism and violence against Jewish people. The prophets speak of a time when Israel will once again suffer and when two thirds of the nation will perish, while one third will remain, to be refined and tested by God, so that they will call upon His Name. (Zechariah 13:9) God is consistent in His ways. He tests us to humble us, to know what is in our hearts and whether we would be obedient to His commands (Deut. 8:2).

Despite the many denials by so-called leaders and populace, the Holocaust is, and will remain, not only part of history and part of the present. Its shadows reveal the dried tears of those who never had a chance to say “goodbye” to their loved ones. Israel has 190,000 survivors of the Holocaust, whose average age is 82. The numbers are dwindling and before many more years, there will be no one who will be alive, who will be able to personally attest to the fact of the Holocaust and its atrocities.

Millions of names are still missing, of parents and children, of entire Jewish communities that were destroyed (by the way – one of those communities is Ostrolenka, Poland, where my parents were from, who were able to leave in 1939, just before Germany’s invasion of Poland; many of my relatives never made it out and are listed among the 6 million who perished). There is no substitute for the culture, for the values, and for the talents that are gone. They remain as an open wound. We will not stop searching for every scrap of information, for a name yet to be identified, for a photograph that has been blurred. A third of our people, six million, were murdered just because they were Jews.

We cannot turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to the lessons of the Holocaust, nor can we compromise on our moral responsibility to warn of the dangers that are becoming increasingly evident in our own day. Anti-semitism has reared its ugly head and some individuals, cultures and nation states think that it is beautiful. Attacks upon synagogues and other religious establishments are on the rise. Attacks upon individuals are reported, but not prosecuted. Entire communities are afraid to say something that may not be “politically correct”. Anti-Semitic cartoons that are both repulsive and sickening adorn the pages of internationally-syndicated newspapers, allegedly permissible as part of the freedom of the press. The rise of the internet has given impetus to this sickening disease, with which many want to voluntarily become afflicted. 

Whatever happened to our sense of morality, our sense of outrage, our sense that something is seriously and dangerously wrong? How long do we need to wait before we wake up to the realization that we are asleep in a cesspool of our own making, due to a reluctance to call the child by its name and to say “no more, no, never again”?

Martin Niemöller, a German Lutheran Pastor, wrote a poem about the cowardice of the German intellectuals, following the Nazis’ rise to power and its incremental purging of people groups. The most famous portion of it is:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Again and again, our “world leaders” think that reliance upon ourselves both defines us and will protect us. We, too, have not learned from our past, which cries out to us to “trust in the LORD; He is [our] help and [our] shield.” (Psalm 115:9)

 The nation came to a standstill for two minutes, as sirens wailed from “Dan to Beersheva”. Cars stopped on the highway and people got out to devote moments of silence in memory of those who perished in the Holocaust. Ours is a constant blending of past and present, which helps us look to the future. If only our eyes were lifted heavenward, the future would look all the more bright.

Lessons to be learned from The Holocaust

There are many lessons to be learned from the Holocaust. But, it is impossible to do a proper treatise in this post. Nevertheless, what must be clearly understood is that defending our nation and our citizens is an essential priority. However, before the defense is factored in, we must have a greater understanding that there is a nation that hascome home after two thousand years. Just as the children of Israel eventually learned that Egypt was not their home, so we must ask the question whether we can truly be “at home” living outside of Israel. A few years ago, there was a popular song here that included the refrain, “Ayn li eretz aheret” – “I don’t have another country”. I realize that the return to Zion is a touchy issue for many Jewish people around the world. The early Zionists called for all Jews to return to their ancient homeland. But, only a few responded and came, while most remained in the Diaspora. I often wonder how things would have turned out if the Jews of Europe had responded more positively to the Zionist call. Now, with anti-Semitic incidents increasing to daily events all over Europe, as well as in North America and in other places around the world, I again wonder how many continue to think that what happened then cannot happen again now. I also wonder whether the time has come for “the wandering Jew” to stop wandering.

Another lesson to be learned from the Holocaust is that we cannot rely on the other governments of this world to step in and defend Israel when it is at risk. While this has a ring of truth to it militarily, it would appear obvious that it can also be applied to the diplomatic sphere. The world stood by as Hitler’s efforts to bring about the “final solution” of the Jews became more effective. Even now, the world looks on, while Iran laughs as it continues to progress towards the circle of nuclear countries. Where is the outcry when Hassan Nasrallah says that he has over 100,000 missiles pointed at Israel? We have no indebtedness to the world and, therefore, the world cannot tell us how we should act or what we should do to protect ourselves and our families from those who seek to do us harm. Nor should we allow the nations of the world to dictate policy for us regarding our national homeland.

We have a God Who rules the nations and He alone should place a lamp to our feet and a light to our paths.

Before closing this post, I want to explain the title of it, “Am Yisrael Chai!” – the Nation of Israel is Alive! In 1983, during the Eurovision song contest, the song entry by Israel was “Chai”, meaning:  “Alive”. The contest that year took place in Germany. The song and the presentation, including the color of the clothing were filled with symbolism. The greatest achievement and message was that we sang that we are alive on the soil of the country that sought to finalize the efforts to eliminate our existence. You can watch the song presentation here. The word “am”, means not only “nation”, but also “people”. So, our song had a double meaning, that the nation and the people both live.

We ARE “Alive!” Yes, we are alive, but our existence, successes and blessings must be rooted in God, the Keeper of Israel, the One Who will neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psalm 121:4).

“Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for light by day And the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar ; The LORD of hosts is His name: ‘If this fixed order departs From before Me,’ declares the LORD, ‘Then the offspring of Israel also will cease From being a nation before Me forever.’ Thus says the LORD, ‘If the heavens above can be measured And the foundations of the earth searched out below, Then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel For all that they have done,’ declares the LORD.” (Jer. 31:35-37)

Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.

Marvin