Sunday, September 26, 2010

My Rosh Sermon on Israel

For Zion's Sake I will not be Silent.

Rosh Hashanah 5771

Rabbi Jonathan Ginsburg

Skokie Ill

Shana Tova

The opening words of today’s Torah reading _Adonoi Nisah et avranham__ God tested Abraham. And from that moment until this, all of us know that personally in our lives as individuals and together as a people, we face tests. One of those great, historic tests of our people has come right now. I know there are a lot of different views out there about Israel, but I’m the rabbi, it’s my pulpit, I’ll tell you what I think. Of course you can have your own thoughts. Of course I’m right.

When God promised Abraham over 4,000 years ago that we were going to be a great people he promised that it was based also on acquiring the land of Israel. We jump ahead to today’s Haftarah, about the prophet Jeremiah many hundreds of years later. Jeremiah too says there’ll be a great future because we’ll be restored to the land. From that moment to this. From Abraham to this… 4,000 years, we’ve been a people intrinsically intertwined with the land of Israel. There has been not one moment in all of that history when we have not cared and dreamed and prayed for the land.

As we think about that today we know we face a great test. I want to talk to you about that test and that test is called the Israel Test. What George Gilbert this non-Jew says in his book is “so goes Israel, so goes all of Western civilization”. I want to explain why I think that is true. Because there is a world-wide effort today to delegitimize and therefore destroy Israel. It has initials, it’s called BDS. B stands for boycott. D stands for divest. S stands for sanctions. And that’s just the beginning –there is a world-wide effort on the part of hundreds of millions of people to destroy the State of Israel.

We also face not only that boycott, divestment and sanction effort, but one of the most tyrannical regimes in all of history will soon acquire nuclear weapons if that haven’t already. Yesterday it was revealed that there was a brand new secret site that they spent 100 million dollars protecting in Iran and that they will soon have nuclear weapons. They have the missiles that can reach Israel and all of Europe and soon here. And if you think that the Time Square bomber who failed will fail next time with a dirty bomb from Iran, or God forbid that gas main that blew up and destroyed who knows how many homes near San Fransisco, when that’s a dirty bomb from Iran, we know what the consequences will be.

Politicians think “ it’s the economy stupid” and it is for most people, we know that that too will pass. That America will eventually be restored to growth. But this is not something that we can say this too will pass. This is the most serious issue of our time. President Bush should have done something about it, he didn’t. President Obama should do something about it, he’s not going to. Iran is going to get nuclear bombs, there’s no containing it. We’re in for a different kind of world. Every single Arab country is begging us to stop it and we are not.

But that’s not the only issue that Israel faces. Of course what gets the most media play is the issue with the Palestinians. The rabbis of Chicago were just invited to attend a briefing with the local AIPAC Midwest director. He presented us with such a long list of threats that Israel’s facing right now that we all just turned to each other and said “when do we get the good news?” There wasn’t any good news. There’s going to be a real concerted effort in the United Nations to deny the best democracy in the world next to the United States, a place in the United Nations. Twenty-two tyrannical Arab regimes and sixty-five Muslim nations are going to lead the charge to really deny Israel a place at the United Nations this fall. We’ve got Iran and its surrogates Hezbollah and Hamas. Hamas we know shot 8,000 missiles to Israel. Hezbollah was revealed a couple of days ago has 15,000 missiles on the southern border where Israel vacated. Plus another 40 or 50 thousand missiles in Lebanon, violating the UN sanctions, aimed right at Israel. These peace talks, Abbas who is supposed to be our partner in peace said two days ago, there is no compromise. “We are going to send 5 million refugees to the land of Israel. I will not allow a Jewish state.” He won’t allow a Jewish state!!!. And he is supposed to be Israel’s peace trading partner. And Turkey, which for 70 years has been a secular country with very good relations with Israel. The last 8 years, under the radar screen, they have become an Islamic republic, an Islamic regime. They stirred up this whole flotilla event this summer as you know, successfully making Israel look like the bad guys when it was a set up al along. . And they are now pretty firmly in the Islamic camp.

And as we move forward from this we think about all the vicious anti-Semitic lies. You may know the book, “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” which was a vicious lie about a Jewish about to run the world. It’s now in Arabic and is one of the bestselling books if not the bestselling book in the Arabic world. And regularly there are Arabic leaders that talk about the Medieval blood libel that Jewish children chew Christian and Arabic children’s flesh and use it in our matzo and the most vicious lies told regularly in that part of the world.

Now why is that? Well there are actually Jews that say it is Israel’s fault. “If we only had better pr.” Now I don’t know what you think but I think the only thing Israel could possibly do to solve these problems, and it wouldn’t even solve them, it is simply to close shop and leave. As long as Israel’s there, there is nothing Israel can do. There is no amount of pr that can turn the tide of those who simply want Israel gone.

GAZA: Think about Israel’s simply moving out of Gaza and saying “here take Gaza make a country”. And what did Gaza did besides build luxury homes with American dollars? They shot 8,000 missiles at Israel. Until Israel’s mothers and daughters finally said to their boys, “protect us”. So Israel went in door to door with booby-trapped homes and tried to save every Arab life that they could and still the world responded with an inditement of Israel for war crimes. The chief British military officer who watched it eye to eye said “no country in the history of the world has fought more honorably and nobly as the Israel soldiers did and still their accused of war crimes”.

And so it’s not a question of pr, it is a question of simply those people, not all of them but a lot of them, don’t want Israel there. They’re very clear about that and it’s simply a question about whether the Jews are going to pack up and leave or stay and live in the land that God promised us. There is no nation in the world that has a better claim to that land than the Jewish people. Or to any land. What claim do we have to this land that we are standing on right now? What claim? What claim does Germany have to their land? Or Syria have to their land. Or France have to their land? The Jews have the best claim there is. The claim of God, the claim of the bible, the claim of 4,000 years of history, the claim of international law going back hundreds of years. And yet there is this effort. Israel alone singled out among all the nations of the world for this kind of relentless abuse.

So why is this happening is a good question. Why have Jews always suffered? I don’t know the answer to that, but I’ll give you a couple of theories.

1. First of all, in this brilliant book “The Israel Test” and the other main book out this year by Dan Senor called “A Startup Nation” they both talk about the phenomenal economic miracle that is Israel. And let me just give you a couple of quotes. Here is what Gilder says, “The real case for Israel is as the leader of human civilization, technological progress and scientific advancement. Google, Cisco, Microsoft, Intel, Ebay, the list goes on. The best kept secret is that we all live and die by the work of our Israeli teams. It’s much more than just outsourcing, call centers. What we do in Israel is unlike what we do anywhere else in the world. As a result of this technological leadership Israel has been the second fastest growing Western economy in 1990.” The Western economy that is growing faster than Israel right now, you won’t believe it, the West Bank. The West Bank has 8% growth last quarter, Israel has about 4.5% and the U.S. is 1.6. And so for all the suffering we here about, we know the reality. But Israel is the economic miracle. It’s leading the world in innovations. We’re going to have great emission electric cars in 20 years. You wanna know why? Because Israel is setting up their whole country right now as an experiment to do electric cars. If there’s gonna be enough water in the world to drink in 20 years, you wanna know why? Because of the breakthroughs in Israel in water desalinization projects. The people are gonna have enough food to eat in the next 20 years, you wanna know why? Because of Israeli agricultural botanists creating all sorts of innovations in agricultural development. The cell phone in your pocket, the computer on your desk, they wouldn’t be what they are without Israel. And the medicines in your medicine cabinet? It’s when people talk about boycotting Israel that you may have seen these lists which say okay do you really want to boycott Israel? Toss out your medicine, your cell phone, your computer, your electric cars, your water and the list goes on and on and on. Israel is a miracle today. It’s gonna save the world if it simply had enough time and energy to do so. People are jealous of all this. Simple as that.

2. And of course there’s the plain old anti-Semitism. I just saw this joke I had to tell you. A man on a beach in Paris sees a little girl about to be destroyed by a pit bull. So he grabbed the pit bull and has to kill the pit bull sadly to save this little girl. So all the people rush up and say, “Oh what a wonderful man, you must be a Persian. And I could see the headline – Persian saves little girl from mad dog. He says “I’m not a Persian” Well then the headline will say – Frenchman saves little girl from mad dog. He says, “I’m not a Frenchman” Well then it will say – European saves little girl from mad dog. I’m not a European. “Then what are you” “I’m an Israeli.” Well then the headlines gonna say – Man kills little girl’s pet dog.

And so we think about the way in which the world distorts the reality, the anti-Semitism that seems to be in play here. Israel is not perfect. I mentioned on Erev Rosh Hashanah some of the severe problems in Israel. And life is not perfect. War is messy. In fact, one of my favorite perspectives on this from Rabbi Yitz Greenberg who said something like “I think it’s fair to say that the Israeli army engages in a moral way 5% better than the rest of the world, but if it was 10% Israel would not exist. And so it’s a very difficult thing when you’re trying to defend your daughters and your wives and your mothers in a real world which is messy.

Now some of you may have seen this week the story in Time magazine. I wish I had a better cover for you but I got so mad that I ripped it in half. But if you’ve seen it it’s a blue cover with a Jewish star and it says Why Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace. Now, a lot of people are not going to read the article. They’re going to see this anti-Semitic headline. Of course the author got it completely backwards. Israel doesn’t care about peace? They gave 25 thousand square miles to Egypt and their oil wells for peace. They have peace with Jordan. Do you think tomorrow if Israel laid down its weapons there would be peace? There would be genocide. If the Arabs laid down their weapons tomorrow, what would there be? There’d be peace. Who doesn’t want peace? And the article goes on to use the most classic anti-Semitic lines imaginable. What is the most classic anti-Semitic line that we hear today? He Jew'd you down. Jews and money right? You know what this article is about? It says that Jews in Israel are so rich, they do want peace. Can you imagine? The Jews in Israel or so rich, they don’t want peace. That is what that article is about. Classic Anti-Semitism. The implications are overwhelming.

And you know a new thing happened this last month. Something that’s been below the radar screen that none of us have thought about but turns out to be a reality. That one of the most powerful lobbies in America, the always accuse the Jews right, turns out to be the Arab lobby. A new book by a man named Mitchell Bard called The Arab Lobby, the invisible alliance that undermines America’s interest in the Middle East. And he talks about what happens when you have ambassadors for 65 Muslim countries and all of their officials, you have ambassadors for 22 Arab states and all of their officials. They’re promised huge parachutes when they leave the foreign service. The president of the United States who leave office, they’re libraries are funded to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars by Arab money. Saudi Arabia gives 20 million dollars for a center at Harvard and the list goes on and on and on. So Mitchell Bard is saying that the Saudi’s have had huge influence on the American culture and American life and it’s something that we simply have not paid much attention to.

3. But finally, I want to mention something that didn’t really dawn on me until I read this interesting book actually about science and paradigm shifts. This book was basically was about how when science has a particular paradigm of what’s true, whatever facts scientists come up with they fit in to that paradigm. And it’s only when there is a paradigm shift like to Euclidian geometry or Newtonian physics that the scientist are able to break through and see the truth. And the paradigm shift has changed about Israel. It clearly has. There was a time, a short time when the world said about Israel, “Oh those poor Jews, they deserve their homeland, they got slaughtered by the Nazi’s”. But what is the paradigm shift now? “Oh those mean Jews, they beat up those poor Arabs”. Have you seen a map of Israel lately? How small it is? Have you seen how wide it is? If you give up the West Bank which Israel is probably going to do if there’s peace and Gaza, Israel’s nine miles wide at one point. We used to have a map of 10 Israel’s fitting into Minnesota. Hundreds of Millions of square miles of Arab land, a billion Arabs, a billion Muslims and Israel is the bad guy simply trying to live in peace.

But we never despair. What do we do? We’ve been around a very long time and the good news is we’re not alone. We’ve got a lot of friends that understand the significance of Israel, the importance of Israel and the rightness of Israel. We’ve got to join hands with them. You know there was a very disturbing article during the summer by a guy named Beinart in the New York review of books. His thesis was that young Jews have turned away from Israel. And the way in which we should get them back is by turning away from Israel too a little bit so that we can win them over. And that was a very upsetting article and people debated hotly. Well guess what? He’s completely wrong. It’s not the facts. I know Brandeis sounds like Barnhart but there was a Brandies study out more recently which shows that whatever drop there is in allegiance to Israel among young Jews is explained simply generationally. And it will change over time. That actually when you ask most Jews do they feel the significance of Israel in their hearts, in their lives, does it make a difference to them, do they care if it exists or not, do they care if it’s healthy? Most Jews say yes. Now whichever one’s say no that’s an issue. And hopefully we can correct that through education and programs like birthright.

But we should never take Jewish support for Israel for granted and I’ll tell you why. I want to take you back to October 6, 1943. What was the situation that American Jewry faced on October 6, 1943? We were beginning to learn about the devastation of the Holocaust. So you know what happened that day? Four hundred rabbis went to Washington to try and beg President Roosevelt to do more to save Jewish lives. And you know, they didn’t get heard by him. Do you know why? Because Rabbi Steven Weiss said, “it’s a bunch of riff raff. They’re just causing trouble. Don’t Listen”. And so he never heard those 400 rabbis. They were turned away and we know what happened. Now it’s not their fault, it’s not his fault that 6 million Jews died. But what would have happened had they had an audience with the president and maybe perhaps something else would have been done. And today we have Jewish organizations that pretend to be pro Israel and pro peace, but are funded largely by enemies of Israel and work against Israel’s interests constantly.

So what do we do besides join hand with our friends? I want to tell you a little story about a friend of mine sitting here in the 3rd row who doesn’t live in Indiana but she got wind of an election going on in Indianapolis between a man who was backed by Louis Farrakhan he’s a Nation of Islam man named Carson. He’s the guy who claimed, turned out to be a lie, that racial epitats were shouted at him as he walked through a line at a Tea Party rally. . He got in because his grandmother died. He filed for her seat and nobody paid attention. And now we have a Farrakhan backed Muslim in the U.S. congress. And nobody would listen as she tried to raise a ruckus about this election. Doesn’t live in Indianapolis but was worried about this man and the seat he holds. Turns out he’s got an urbane sophisticated opponent, also an African American running against him, but nobody would pay any attention. But she’s a force of nature and pushed and pushed and pushed to get a hearing and I don’t know what’s going to happen but here’s one human being who said we’ve got to do something about this. This is a test for us. We have to awaken and be more politicaly active. The Arab lobby sure is.

I remember those nations who claimed neutrality in World War 2. Think about that for a minute. These are nations that could not decide who was right, Hitler or the U.S. A nation who says, I can’t figure out who’s right so I’m gonna stay neutral. Now even though that’s not why, they didn’t want to get run over by Hitler, imagine staying neutral in a situation like that. Well isn’t that what happens if we sit on the sidelines here because do you think that the enemies of justice and rightchousness and peace are sitting idly by? Do you think that they will do nothing while we do nothing? No. They work every minute on trying to perfect ways in which to hurt us and Israel. I talked to young guys who were spending their lives trying to figure out ways to help the CIA and the state department and congress tighten up our rules so things like the shoe bomber and the Time Square bomber and Al Qaeda getting here and infiltrating don’t happen.

But it takes all of us. There’s something called the Israel Project and you know what they found? It makes a huge difference if you talk to your neighbors. I know it may not seem like much, but every time you talk to your friends and make Israel’s case it actually makes a big difference statistically. Because then they maybe turn around and talk to somebody else and it’s something that we can do. How about getting educated about Israel. Sometimes you see these people and say oh Israel’s so nasty, Israel’s so this, we don’t have the information. Well you know what? It’s so easily available. I’ve got a website that is I got mad one night so I made a new website trying to figure out something to do. I’ve also created a blog that says And to counter the lie of the suffering gazans. I have 40 vieos on youtube on various aspects of the conflict. Watch them. youtube seach JewU Israel. And you know what? There are thousands of websites and thousands of blogs and thousands of organizations.

And if you think you’re just one person, that you can’t do it yourself, join a cause. Yesterday I talked about Rabbi Levine, today I’m gonna talk about Rabbi Weissberg. He’s being honored on Sunday at Touhy and Albany at 11 o’clock. They’re naming a street for him. You know what they should name a city for him. Twenty-eight years ago he started this group called Protect our Heritage. It’s the Midwest’s biggest pro Israel group today. They actually raise money and they seek out candidates for office and they say if you are pro Israel we’ll help you. You can join with groups like that. AIPAC is a membership based organization which tries to lobbey for Israel. We’ve got lots of people here in Zionist organizations and every time you join a Zionist organization that helps. How many Haddasah members do we have here? How many Namah members do we have? How many Ort members do we have? Now there agendas are not always political. But, activities like that plus the political activities do make a difference. And I think it’s time to say to our congressman “I know the economy is very important and I know it’s probably issues 1, 2, 3, and 4 but what are you going to do about Iran? I went to a fundraiser for one of our senatorial candidates and everybody there was asking him about the economy and I was getting so exasperated. Not one foreign policy issue, zip like the rest of the world doesn’t exist. Well today it exists. So we can’t sit idly by.

We must transorm the BDS campaign, Boycott, Divest, Sanction to BDS Brcha=tell the blessings of Israel D Din-make the eneimies of peace accountable S while pursuing shalom.

And I know this may be offensive to some people but you know what? We’ve been good Jews for so long. You know what a good Jew is? A good Jew doesn’t cause trouble. A good Jew went to their death in the Holocaust and did nothing to stop it. A good Jew laid down and die for thousands of years through all the horrors. Well you know what, the world likes good Jews. The world did not shame us. They said, oh too bad about all those dead Jews. And you know what, once the state of Israel decided we’re not going to be good Jews anymore, we’re going to be bad Jews, we’re going to stand up and fight for ourselves and defend our daughters and defend our mothers, the world suddenly doesn’t like that. Well too bad. We’re gonna be bad Jews. We’re gonna say that we have the right to live like everyone else on this planet and besides that we believe that God has a special place for us. That there’s a reason for all of this suffering. There’s a reason. Because Israel is a light to the nations. I think it’s so clear based on the evidence of the last ten years how Israel can transform the world. Now these two books, The Israel Test and the book by Dan Senor disagree as too why Israel has been such an amazing nation. They have different theories. Whatever the theory is, it’s happening. And they could really save the world. I mean that little tiny country with seven million people is the second largest high tech startup nation in the world. They have more museums per capita, more books per capita, more scientific papers per capita, more poetry books per capita, more music groups per capita, but it’s the real innovations that are transforming the world. And so I want to close with just a couple of quick stories. First of all, Alan Dershowitz wrote a book called Chutzpah. In the book Chutzpah he talked about what it means to be a good Jew. Not causing any trouble and he’s got this picture of two Jews about to be shot by a firing squad, and the captain of the firing squad asked if they had a last wish. One says he’d like a blindfolf and the other shushes him, whispering, don’t cause any trouble!!!

About thirty years ago many of you gathered in this building to figure out what to do about the neo-Nazis wanting to march in Skokie-home to so many survivors. We gather today on the eve of the new Nazis about to acquire nuclear bombs and have stated the desire over and over to destroy Israel while denying the Holocaust.

One of the most meaningful 2 hours of my life occurred in 2003 when I sat around a table with President Bush and ten other rabbis at the White House. I don’t care what your politics are-you can’t helped but be moved sitting across the table from the President of the USA.We were supposed to meet for 20 minutes but he stayed 90. I knew we would probably each have a chance to say one thing to him. He spent most of the time talking about how worried he was about anti-Semitism and how he wanted to help Israel so badly. When it came to my turn I told him a story I had heard about a Jewish sergeant who liberated a Concentration Camp and came up to a starving Jew who had been liberated five minutes before . This soldier expected a hug. In Yiddish the inmate asked if he was Jewish and when he said yes, the inmate spit on him and said-you are all too late. President Bush looked at me and said-I promise you we won’t be too late. Well, the hour is very late, Iran is about to get nuclear weapons and promises to destroy Israel. Israel faces many grave tests and so do we. When the Torah tells us that 2 ½ of the 12 tribes did not care to enter the land of Israel Moses asked them Will your brothers go to war AND YOU DO NOTHING. I ask us Will our brothers face these grave tests alone and we do nothing. Let the shofar wake us up from our slumber. May it be God’s will._________________

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