From Jewish history we learn three essential lessons: Those who threaten to wipe out the Jewish people mean what they are saying. Sometimes we must assume significant risk in order to defend ourselves. We must remain united.
Last week, we read the Purim story and told it to our children. The story is ancient, but also as contemporary as today’s headlines. Several elements of the story ring true now, as Israel faces threats from far – an Iranian regime determined to destroy the Jewish State – and near – terrorists from Gaza set on killing civilians and disrupting normal life in southern Israel.
In the Megillah, we learn of an evil person who sought to destroy our people. Then we discover that the one person who could change the Jewish people’s fate was reluctant to intervene with the authorities because she knew that her life would be endangered if she did. We realize that we sometimes have to take risks to defend the Jewish people. And we learn that the Jewish community must fast – or act – in unity to save ourselves. The three lessons.
Mordechai tells Esther, “Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the King’s palace any more than all the other Jews, for if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arrive for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. But who knows whether you have come to the royal position for such a time as this.”
Esther replies to Mordechai, “Go gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan and fast for me. Neither eat or drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise and so I will go to the King, which is against the law and if I perish, I perish.”
Whether in Haman’s Persia or 15th century Spain, in Nazi Germany or the Mullah’s Iran, in Gaza or southern Lebanon, those who say that they will destroy the Jews are never bluffing.
Over the weekend, southern Israel endured nearly 200 terrorist rocket attacks, sending hundreds of thousands of civilians into bomb shelters, closing schools and houses of worship and disrupting life with terrifying moments of uncertainty and dread as explosions erupted above. On several trips to Israel over the last few years, I have met children in Sderot and Beersheva who have been traumatized by rocket attacks. Last August, I visited damaged homes and saw the physical and psychological toll these attacks have on the residents there.
This weekend’s rocket attacks came after IDF forces killed a terrorist commander, Zuhair al-Kaisi, who had been planning attacks against Israel via the Sinai Peninsula. Kaisi’s thwarted operation, designed to disrupt or end the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, would have killed scores of Israeli civilians. Israel had to stop the attack and the mastermind behind it, and it succeeded.
The rockets, and those who launched them, have the backing of leaders more than a thousand miles away in Tehran. There might be no greater danger to Israel – and to the Jewish people – than a nuclear-armed Iran.
Last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came to the United States. He spoke of Israel’s desire for peace, and its commitment to defend itself – by itself, if necessary – against any threat, including a nuclear-armed Iran.
Israel is taking the necessary military actions to keep its people safe. But what about the Jewish community in America? How can we advance the security of our people? We are like Queen Esther sitting in the royal palace, a place of relative privilege and safety. We must rouse ourselves to take action when our people are threatened.
What can you do? First, educate your friends about what is going on in Israel right now. Educate your friends about the threat Iran poses, not just to Israel but to the United States and to global security.
Second, attend the upcoming New England AIPAC Annual Leadership Dinner on May 6 at the Westin Copley chaired by Sidney and Judy Swartz and Jeffrey and Debbie Swartz, and featuring Elliot Abrams and Dennis Ross. There is no better way to show support for Israel at this critical time than to be present and supportive of AIPAC as it works to bring Israel’s message to the U.S. Congress.
Israel’s people continue to work and pray for peace. There is ample basis for hope. Indeed, a recent piece in the Boston Herald by our friend Jeff Robbins makes a compelling case for hope.
Jeff points out that even in the darkest time there still is reason to believe that we will find partners on the other side and that the possibility of peace still exists. In the end the Jewish community seeks peace for its children and an opportunity to create a Jewish renaissance, in the words of the Megillah, “filled with light and joy for the Jewish people and for the whole world.”