Jerusalem, Present Day: No Place is Safe

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Most of us were not in Europe in the 1930s. My parents and grandparents were. Most of them did not survive. My grandmother, for instance, left one day, never to return. Her mother went after her and she also did not return.

Most of us derive our “knowledge” of the Holocaust from stories we have heard, accounts we have read in books or scenes we have seen in movies. Some of us know, or have known or met, Holocaust survivors, most of us have not.

When it began, Jews were being humiliated or beaten senselessly in the streets of Vienna, Hamburg, Strasbourg, Dusseldorf or Warsaw. Elegant women, religious men, young children, the elderly, no one was spared. They were stripped of their dignity, first as Jews, then as human beings. Then the systematic extermination began.

People gathered around for spontaneous public humiliations, cheering, participating, inflicting additional pain, laughing loudly at the people who just hours before were their neighbors, business partners, colleagues, schoolmates or even friends.

The fine Strasses of Europe’s capitals and major cities were filled with horror-stricken Jews whose lives collapsed on them one fine day. Nowhere was safe and there was no place to hide or to escape.

Alas, what took place in real time had been foretold thousands of years earlier. Deuteronomy 28 describes the scene with chilling accuracy. I have chosen only four verses (28, 34, 66, 67), and my body shivers each time I read this chapter in the Bible.

The Jews will be “smite with madness, and with blindness, and with astonishment of heart. … so that thou shalt be mad for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see. … And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear night and day, and shalt have no assurance of thy life. In the morning thou shalt say: ‘Would it were even[ing]!’ and at even[ing] thou shalt say: ‘Would it were morning!’ for the fear of thy heart which thou shalt fear, and for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see.”

Europe roared with the fires of hell that spread upward, spewing ashes of millions, consuming lives with an ever-growing appetite. The advance of evil seemed unstoppable.

Prior to 1948, there was no homeland for the Jews. Israel, their ancient homeland, was under British Mandate, and the Brits prevented the Jews from the one safe haven they should have had. America closed her doors too. No one wanted the Jews, the world allowed Germany do what was right and necessary.

Today, things are different: There is a modern state of Israel, in the ancient Land of Israel, and Jews – wherever they are in the world – know they have a place to call home, no questions asked.

Fourteen million Jews existed in 1939. Today, there are still 14 million Jews in the World. Six million perished during the Holocaust, in a systematic attempt to wipe them off this earth. Today, Iran promises to wipe Israel and her six point two million Jews off the face of the map. It seems not much has changed and history is determined to repeat itself once again.

Jerusalem, Present Day

I always enjoy wandering around in the streets of Israel’s capital city of Jerusalem. I think of things past; I witness a bustling city of many faces. I breathe the sights and sounds, smells and noises; a mix of voices, exhilarating and invigorating. I think of all the times Jerusalem is mentioned in the Bible, and in my head and on my lips I replay Naomi Shemer’s (Israel’s national song writer’s) song Yerushalim Shel Zahav, Jerusalem of Gold.

Not too many years ago it was not safe to wander around while the Arabs’ Intifada raged. Jerusalem remains strewn with memorials, scars on her most beautiful body. The Arab terrorists murdered senselessly to inflict fear and terror in people’s hearts and to stop the flow of life.

The only people who continued walking, their heads high, were the religious Jews, in their holiest city, and every-day Jewish-Israelis in their nation’s capital. They had no other choice; they were determined to fight back, not to capitulate.

This past Sunday, the first Sunday in October, at the eve of the last day of Sukkot, the Festival of Tabernacles, during which Jews are commended to come to Jerusalem to see their God at the place He has chosen to dwell, I walked from Jaffa Gate of the Old City toward Christ Church, a three minute walking distance, looking apprehensively at passersby.

Who might attack? Who may start running with a knife or a gun and try to murder and maim as many innocent people as possible?

In store fronts, selling memorabilia or cold drinks, Jerusalem bagels or other munchies, stood Arabs, residents of Jerusalem, looking somewhat bored, somewhat bemused, at those that passed.

I looked at them with obvious disgust, vowing to not approach any of them to spend money in their stores, avoiding their wares.

Just hours earlier a couple walking in the Old City was attacked. They tried to protect each other, to fight back, but the husband was subdued, stabbed so many times he died. The wife, with a knife in her shoulder, close to the neck, managed to escape, seeking refuge at one of the neighboring stores.

She was running, screaming, begging for anyone to help.

The storeowners rushed to the front of their stores, witnessed the commotion, and stood at ease: A Jewish woman, bleeding, running and begging for her life, how amusing, how greatly satisfying!

One held a can of soda, laughing. Another spat on her. A third cursed her.

Some applauded. One kicked her with utter disgust, “Filth,” he uttered, “may you die!”

Not one, not two. They all stood as one, aiding and abetting. Participating. Cheering. Taking part in Satan’s work.

The scene was taken directly from the capitals and major cities of Europe of 1939, but this is the Jerusalem of October 2015.

It took less than two minutes for the border police and other security forces to arrive at the scene, to restore a semblance of normalcy back to the area.

The shopkeepers, many young Arab males, simply turned around and continued smoking, laughing, discussing what could and should have happened to that Jewish woman.

There was hatred and spite in their eyes and voices, flowing in their blood. These Israeli citizens are filled with hatred so deep the Nazis would have been proud. Then again, their forefathers aided Hitler so there is nothing new under the sun.

Civilized people, not barbarians, would have stopped what they were doing and run out to aid the woman. Undoubtedly some would have frozen with fear or disbelief before springing to action, but normal people would have done something. Not because she is a woman, but because she is a human being, bleeding, pleading for help. But not the Arabs of Jerusalem.

One would say, protesting, “you cannot generalize” or maybe with a stronger tone, “you must not do so!” Today, in Israel, there may still be a few good Arabs, but one would be hard-pressed to find them.

There were some good Christians in Europe in the early 1940s as well. Yet so few, a breed so rare, that Yad VaShem in Jerusalem lists each and every one of them under the heading “Righteous Gentiles.”

It was not many hours before that attack that I attended the funeral of a young couple that was murdered in front of their four children just because they were Jews living in their homeland. The only reason the children were spared was the knowledge that past executions were not accepted very well when kids were murdered alongside their parents.

The account I have written, “A Blood Sacrifice,” elicited the following response from John Houk in Australia:

Ari I can’t help but think that there is more to this story. It seems intriguingly unfinished.

Undoubtedly, the story is not finished. It is only beginning. We are reliving 1939, this time around right here in the Land of Israel.

The world needs to know there is an Israel, and each Jewish person around the world needs to know that she and he has a home within her borders.

Safety will be restored. Those who stood by and chose to not prevent a crime will be brought to justice and prosecuted on criminal charges. But more than that is needed, a complete change of society’s stance, upbringing and values. There must be zero tolerance for barbarism and the Arab culture of death must be eradicated. Not only for the sake of the Jews, for the sake of the whole world.

Indeed, John, there is much more to this story, for the events unfolding before our very eyes are just the beginning of yet another end of what we have come to accept as civilization.

Also published in Israel Monitor, and published at NewsBlaze with permission.

In the series “Postcards from Israel,” Ari Bussel and Norma Zager invite readers throughout the world to join them as they present reports from Israel as seen by two sets of eyes: Bussel’s on the ground, Zager’s counter-point from home. Israel and the United States are inter-related – the two countries we hold dearest to our hearts – and so is this “point – counter-point” presentation that has, since 2008, become part of our lives.