Today is Yom HaShoah V’HaGevurah, which is Hebrew for “A Day to Remember the Holocaust and Resistance”. If you think it doesn’t sound that great in either language, you’re not alone.
It’s both ironic and paradoxical that it was Hitler’s drive to rid Germany and Europe of all Jews that pushed them to fight for independence from a world that was willing to stand by as they perished from Earth.
Hitler formed alliances of convenience with the Arabs, especially Saudi Arabia’s ruler, Ibn Saud, whom Hitler generally held in disdain. With a shared interest in driving Jews into oblivion, Hitler and the Arabs made for strange bedfellows, but did as much to create the State of Israel as David Ben-Gurion.
As the hostilities of WWII came to an end, the world came to know the extent of the horrors of Hitler’s “Final Solution”. Jews emigrating to the homeland provided them by the League of Nations under the Palestinian Mandate of 1920 adopted the philosophy, “Never Again”.
Recent events in eastern Ukraine turned “never” into “now” and gave pause to those who don’t seem to get how history repeats itself.
In case you were sleeping last week and missed it, Jews exiting a synagogue in Donetsk, Ukraine were handed leaflets telling them they had to register all their property and pay a registration fee.
Whether the leaflets were legitimate dictates of the Ukrainian government or a political ploy of Russia-supporting militants is irrelevant. 1938 redux was a blast from the past all too real for Jews around the world and especially those in Eastern Europe.
Jews who spend their days hiding the fact that they are, in fact Jews suddenly realized that it COULD happen again. Many may come to realize the futility of trying to outrun the essence of their existence. Even if their kids’ names are Todd and Patsy.
The above which brings to mind the son of some friends of mine who was dismayed when his Jewishness was prematurely revealed to his classmates. An errant professor, attempting to bond with the graduate student through their shared 6,000 years of history said that he was glad to have a fellow Jew in his class.
The son, who shall remain nameless wanted to postpone his outing as a Jew until he could substantially establish himself as a substantial person. Kind of like a black kid going to class with a bag over his head until everyone had the opportunity to fall in love with him before discovering the color of his skin.
For some there’s a guilt about being Jewish. Or maybe it’s shame.
It started 600 years before the birth of Christ, when the Kingdom of Judah was conquered by Babylon and the First Temple was destroyed. Some Jews remained in Babylon, many fled to Egypt, starting what became known as the Diaspora. 700 years later, the Romans destroyed the Second Temple and Jews scattered across the globe, thus establishing themselves internationally as outsiders.
Persecution followed, across the Middle Ages to the Spanish Inquisition to the Holocaust. It’s not easy being a Jew and for some, it’s overwhelming.
Jews often criticized comedian, Jackie Mason, saying that he was “too Jewish”. I never heard anyone say that Richard Pryor or Eddie Murphy were “too black”.
The rewards of being “God’s chosen people” haven’t always been…..rewarding.
Ethnic cleansing is so cliche and tawdry a term, yet it bespeaks something seemingly intrinsic in the dark side of all of us. We like us, we hate them. We’re most comfortable with those most like us, uncomfortable with those who are not.
How many people in this country hate Obama simply because, he’s not like us?
The pamphlets handed out in Danetsk last week may be nothing more than a political dirty trick, but they should serve as a reminder and a warning.
A reminder of the evil potential of mankind and a warning that it COULD happen again.
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