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The Jewish Perspective on "the Jewish Problem"

Rabbi Yisrael Rutman

The Jewish people today are in the grip of a dread fascination, watching in horror and incomprehension as the whole world turns against not only Israel but Jews, as well. Fifty-four years after the establishment of the Jewish State, which bore the promise of normalcy to a people outcast and persecuted for centuries, the State itself has become the target and the pretext for the most virulent anti-Semitism since Hitler.

How could it happen? What can be done? These are the questions that drum relentlessly against the consciousness of every Jew.

To begin with, we have to know that the overall shape of these developments have not been unforeseen, at least not by Jewish tradition. The Sages of the Talmud predicted that there will come a time in history in which "truth will be lost." The egregious lies and duplicity of our enemies should therefore come as no surprise. They will claim everything from the blood libel--- that Jews murder Palestinian children for their blood to make matzot on Passover---to the bizarre (yet widely believed) allegation that the September 11th attack on America was actually a Zionist conspiracy, designed to set world opinion against the Moslems. (The miraculously low number of Jews killed at the Trade Center is cited as proof. Otherwise, how would they have known to stay away on that fateful day?!)

The Palestinians themselves exist by falsehood. As Jerusalem Post columnist Jonathan Rosenblum observed, "On the day Joseph's Tomb was destroyed [by Palestinians immediately upon the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Nablus], we read in the Torah portion of Ha'azinu, 'You provoked me with a non-god...and I will provoke you with a non-nation.'...Society has turned to the worship of...the non-gods of money and pleasure." The Divine response, writes Rosenblum, has been "the creation of a nation from a 'non-nation.' During 19 years of Jordanian rule of the West Bank, no calls for an independent Palestinian state were heard because there was no Palestinian people---no unique language, no unique culture."

We are long used to the vilification of Israel in the Arab countries. The resurgence of violent anti-Semitism in Europe is a new source of anxiety. It has been building for years, as the Left-controlled media portrayed Israel day in and day out as the hated occupier, the Palestinians as the innocent and aggrieved people; David and Goliath in reverse. That this particular "David" dispatches suicide bombers wrapped in explosive belts packed with nails and screws to "cause maximum damage" to men, women and children, is somehow justifiable, whereas Israeli retaliation never is. On the contrary, the moral activists of the European Left march with placards showing Ariel Sharon with a swastika. Everywhere is the outcry of "massacre" in Jenin; although U.S. State Department officer James Burns has been there, and he reported there was no massacre.

The Torah prophesies about what will become of us in the end of the exile: "And you will become an astonishment, a proverb and a byword among all nations..." (Deuteronomy 28:37) "Byword," in this context, says Rashi, means that "they will speak about you." Indeed, the most novel headline these days is one that does not feature Israel or the Jews. And in the words of the prophet Jeremiah (24:9): "I will make them a horror for evil to all the kingdoms of the earth, a reproach and a proverb, a taunt and a curse, in all the places into which I shall drive them."

How could it happen? We can dispense here with the exhaustive (and exhausting) analyses of the experts on international geopolitics and the professional watchdogs of anti-Semitism. Jewish tradition has a different answer and a different agenda. In the plain words of the Midrash: "As long as Israel is not doing the will of the Omnipresent, the nations of the world will kill and smite them" (Avos d'Rabbi Nosson, 34). And, as the Torah itself puts it: "Why has G-d done this to this land [of Israel]? Because they have abandoned the covenant of the G-d of their fathers" (Deuteronomy 29:23).

The situation is bleak and some are in despair. A recent poll of Israeli teenagers shows that fully 50% believe there will never be peace with the Palestinians; another 45% expect it will take many years. And the unthinkable itself---that the State of Israel should cease to be---is being thought and even spoken, and not just in Ramallah, either.

But the evident futility of any practical solution to "the Jewish problem" is itself cause for hope. The Talmud (Sanhedrin 97a) states that "The Messiah will only come when the Jewish people have abandoned all hope of redemption."

Jonathan Rosenblum relates that Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky asked the obvious question: "How can loss of faith in the redemption bring the redemption? He answers that the loss of faith in the redemption refers to the belief that the redemption will come through natural means---e.g., that the world will take pity on us and provide us with a place to build a homeland. In other words, until we know that there is no other source of redemption other than G-d, it will not come. We are getting closer to that recognition every day."

Reprinted with permission from

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