On Holocaust Remembrance Day, It’s Time for Jews to Resist Martyrdom

For too long we have developed a surrender mentality

An Israeli relative of Holocaust victims lays a flower at the Hall of Remembrance where the names of major death and concentration camps are written during a ceremony marking the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem on May 5, 2016.

An Israeli relative of Holocaust victims lays a flower at the Hall of Remembrance where the names of major death and concentration camps are written during a ceremony marking the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem on May 5, 2016. (Photo: GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images)

A few days ago, after spending Passover in Israel with my family, I brought my eldest son close to me and placed my hands on his head. We had traveled to Israel to spend the holiday with him because the IDF, where he is a combat soldier, would not let him leave the country. It was amazing for our family to spend a full week together when most of the time we get 10 minutes to speak to him from the field.

Knowing he was returning to the Golan Heights, where he is just across the border from the Iranian-funded monsters of Hezbollah, I invoked God’s blessing upon him: “May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord shine his light toward you and be gracious to you. May the Lord give his countenance toward you and grant you peace.”

I reminded my son that Chassidim never say goodbye, because they are constantly in the process of meeting. It was much harder for his mother to say goodbye to her son and see him off in his olive green uniform.

But as he departed I grabbed him by the shoulders and said to him, “There are three levels in devotion to a cause. The first is—God forbid—to die for a cause: martyrdom. The Jewish people have had way too much of that already. You must stay as far from that as the sun is from Pluto. The second—much higher—is to live for a cause. But the third and the highest are not just to live but to fight for a cause. And you are a part of it.”

For too long we Jews have developed a surrender mentality.

A new kind of Jew is now inhabiting the earth. It is the Jew who is fed up with being subject to a hatred he has never earned and malice he does not deserve. It is the Jew who knows he has done nothing to warrant the world’s enmity. It is the Jew who knows he killed no one’s God, stolen no one’s land, poisoned no one’s wells, drank no child’s blood and is the victim—rather than the perpetrator—of genocide.

For too long Jews have developed a surrender mentality.

If six million Jews die, it must be because we were sinful. We didn’t observe the Sabbath. God punished us.

If Israel is hated around the world, it must be because it’s doing something wrong. It’s occupying another people. It stole the land from the Arabs, making them pay for Jewish suffering in the holocaust by colonizing a darker skinned people. And if Jews are blown up on buses or stabbed in the streets of Raanana, it’s because of the West Bank settlement policy.

John Kerry said so himself, as did Peter Beinart in a debate he and I had in Tel Aviv.

But we dare never remain passive. Our organization, The World Values Network, pummeled Secretary Kerry in a full page ad demanding he stop justifying terrorism against Israelis. We exposed Mr. Beinart for the lie that Israelis die because of Jewish olive groves in Beitar.

I just published my new book The Israel Warrior, invoking all of us to take a new path.

When six million Jews die the Israel Warrior shakes the foundation of the heavens demanding divine justice. We are guilty of no sin. We deserve long lives. And we demand that the God of Israel protect us.

When Jews living peacefully in their ancient homeland are targeted for murder, the Israel Warrior builds a defensive army to protect life.

Yes, I know, it was the Jewish people who gave the world the notion of peace. I am well aware Judaism says that peace, not war, is life’s highest value and that God’s very name is peace.

But as King Solomon said so wisely in Proverbs, For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven… a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.”

On this Holocaust Remembrance day, just 71 years after the crematoria were silenced, we declare that so long as Iran is allowed to threaten the Jewish people with annihilation, there can be no peace. So long as Hamas fires rockets at Jewish nurseries, there can be no peace. So long as the Palestinian Authority incites its citizens to stab pregnant Israeli women on the streets of Jerusalem there can be no peace. And as long as BDS calls for the economic destruction of the Jewish states on the world’s campuses, there can be no peace.

 

We uphold life, we fight for life, we cherish life.

Throughout the world there is a global onslaught against the Jewish people. Israel, the Middle East’s only democracy, has remarkably become the single most hated country on Earth. The Israel Warrior takes no pride in having to fight. He, like King David before him, prefers a harp and lyre to a sword and shield. He, like the Maccabees before him, prefers to light candles to dispel the darkness then fling arrows at invading Greek armies. The Israel Warrior does not today—and has never in the past—erect a monument to a military victory, the way that Rome did with Titus’s and Constantine’s arch.

But for all his reluctance to fight or revel in the glory of combat, the Israel Warrior will not shirk from a battle that is imposed on him. He will fight back. Jews will not glorify martyrdom. They will not walk into gas chambers.

I showed Samantha Power, the American Ambassador to the UN, that her famous advocacy for R2P, Responsibility to Protect, has its foundation not in the Christian New Testament, which encourages a love for one’s enemies, but in the Hebrew Bible, specifically in this week’s Torah reading, where it states clearly, “Thou shalt not stand idly by the blood of thy neighbor.” (Lev. 19:16)

Last week I traveled to the Golan Heights, the Valley of Tears, where we were escorted by Israel’s greatest living war hero, Avigdor Kahalani, who led the fight in this—one of the greatest tank battles in human history.

The War broke out at 2 p.m. Israeli time on Judaism’s holiest day. Four hundred Syrian tanks faced 40 Israeli tanks in his sector alone. Mr. Kahalani summoned his soldiers and told them they are the only obstacle standing in the way of Syria taking over all of northern Israel. Then, before he left, he told them, “You must eat, you must break your fast,” and with that he took a bite of an apple. Because in Judaism everything falls before the value of human life.

We uphold life, we fight for life, we cherish life.

Most of the men he spoke to would be dead 48 hours later. But Israel, through their sacrifice, would live.

Shmuley Boteach, “America’s rabbi,” is the international best-selling author of 30 books, winner of The London Times Preacher of the Year Competition and recipient of the American Jewish Press Association’s Highest Award for Excellence in Commentary. He will shortly publish The Israel Warrior’s Handbook.

On Holocaust Remembrance Day, It’s Time for Jews to Resist Martyrdom