Israel, Gaza, and Moshiach

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Israel, Gaza and Moshiach

By Rabbi Dovid E. Eidensohn

The recent fifty day  terror from Gaza is entering a truce period; nobody knows for how long. Unlike previous Israeli wars, this time no conclusive battle was won. The enemy wasn’t surrounded and broken. And unlike other wars, at this point there is no clearly established end to it all. Indeed, Israel is surrounded now on three side by Islamist countries and groups who have heavily armed soldiers who want to kill Jews. Hamas is on the West of Israel in Gaza. Hezbalah is in the North in Lebanon. And very recently, Islamists have conquered Syrian territory up to the Israeli border and artillery fire has landed in Israel. And such is the tenor of things, that these three groups are considered moderate relative to the latest Islamist extremes, now conquering Iraq and Syria to make a Moslem state that will promote the destruction of anyone who is not their kind of Moslem. Iran is working on an atomic bomb and once they or other Islamists get ahold of such weapons, some of them will surely plan to use them to destroy Israel. The wealthy oil states can surely buy an atomic bomb from North Korea to use on Israel.

Let us look at the basis for Israel in the first place, and how the Gaza war may change it. During the Gaza war, one of the senior ministers in the Israeli government pronounced that Israel was founded to conquer its enemies, unlike in previous years when Jews were helpless. What do people think about that now? A senior rabbi of the past generation once met with the Prime Minister of Israel, who told him that now, with the Zionist dream, Jews no longer live in fear. The rabbi pointed out the enormous Arab population whose religious enthusiasm to destroy Jews has not waned at all. Three hundred million Arabs surround Israel and they are always starting this and that war to destroy the Jewish state. The rabbi concluded, “You are in no different position than a Jew of the past in a Warsaw ghetto.”

Religious people come to Israel not because Israel saves us from anti-Semitism but because HaShem wants us to be in the Holy Land, and hopefully, He will protect and guide us there. Religious people, who began the recent influx in Israel in modern times during the previous centuries, came to Israel under the Turks when corruption and suffering and being drafted into the army were rife. But they came, with no questions, only faith.

Secular Zionism produced a majority in Israel of secularly oriented Jews, who saw Zionism as a cure for the anti-Semitism they suffered in Europe. They came to Israel, they fought for Israel, to save Jews from suffering and fear. In the recent Gaza War, this dream has disappeared. Nobody can pretend that Israel has the power to protect the Jews, when its army needs American missiles and America won’t deliver them if Israel does not refuse to defend itself against rockets falling in Israel by the thousands. France has declared that Israel’s security does not give it the right to bomb civilian neighborhoods, even though it is obvious that Hamas hides its fighters and rockets in hospitals, mosques, and civilian areas. England is considering limiting sales to Israel of billions of dollars of good needed by the military. And throughout the world, there is now an upsurge in anti-Semitism unlike anything we have seen in recent times.  Recently, in upper Manhattan in New York City, a gang of pro-Palestians attacked and beat a man with a yarmulka while he walked with his wife. This is the production of the Zionist dream, in its present state. Religious Jews, who have never dreamed of the end of anti-Semitism before Moshiach, take all of this in stride. But secular Zionistic Jews, what is left of their dream?

Religious people come to Israel as religious Jews always came to Israel: they know the problems and they know that HaShem is there. But what about secular Jews? Why are they in Israel? Indeed, many secular Jews struggle in Israel, participate in the wars, and have one child that goes off to Asia and marries a non-Jew, never to return to Israel. Modern Orthodox Jews clamor so much to join the army and join the elite services that some military people have complained that the army will eventually have too many Orthodox officers. When I grew up the army was run by anti-religious  Kibbutzniks and communists. Today these ideals are gone.

Haredi Jews are multiplying in Israel so much that within a few decades, they will have enormous political power from the votes they can produce. Ultimately, as trends continue, and they probably will, Orthodox Jews will be the majority in Israel. When Rabbi Elyashev passed away recently at the age of 102, a secular paper noted that he left a thousand person progeny. The question is, if this is one Haredi family, what is the future in Israel?

A major Hungarian Rov wrote a book about Israel before WWII. He proved from many sources in Chazal and the great authorities of later times that Israel will be built by secular people, but gradually, they will begin the preparation for Moshiach.

The Vilna Gaon says that Moshiach will come as the sun rises, slowly, steadily, the light growing stronger and stronger, until finally, the ball of the sun comes up over the horizon and it is full day. Thus, here and there, this person, that group of people came to Israel in modern times, and finally, a state emerged with millions of people. But that state was founded on secular principles, and religious people struggled and even had some suffering. But gradually, the light of the sun shone stronger and stronger.

When I first came to Israel about fifty years ago, on Shabbos, a man passed me as I walked to the Yeshiva for dovening. He glared at me and as he passed me, he thrust his hip with its open wallet at me, to let me know what he thought about people who kept Shabbos. I went for a walk once and entered a cul-de-sac. A boy came over to me and displayed a knife. His look was that he was trying to scare me. But I had learned in a Yeshiva in those days in Williamsburg and a child with a knife was no problem. I said to him, “Why don’t you stab me?” He said, “You don’t think it is sharp?” He then sliced his hand and blood came out. Suddenly, a woman came running out of her house and raced towards the boy, shouting at him, “Come here right now.” Today, with the enormous number of Orthodox Jews in Israel, and with the failure of the original Communists and Kibbutz people to maintain their position in Israel, people have changed in how they relate to Orthodox Jews. The army, once the province of the most secular anti-religious Jews, is now filled more and more with Orthodox senior officers, such as Colonel Winter who was a senior officer in the Gaza War.

As the Vilna Gaon said, the process of Moshiach is like the rising of the sun. The light gets brighter and brighter. As the light gets brighter and brighter, those sections of Israel that are opposed to Moshiach decline. Israel in 1948 was controlled by David ben Gurion and his people who were completely opposed to religion, although they had to accept religious people in the government to make a government. In the Yom Kippur War, when Dayan and the cream of the secular politicians were found lacking as the Egyptians poured across the Canal and killed many Jews, Golda Mayer and Dayan resigned, and eventually, Begin became Prime Minister. He was the one who made peace with Sadat, the first major breakthrough for peace with the Arabs. People noticed that it was Begin, who had very great respect for religious people, and who spent his time hiding from the British in Israel in Yeshivas learning, who had made the breakthrough, not the anti-religious socialists. The sun was rising.

And now, with the Gaza War, the faith in Zionism itself is shattered, never to be rebuilt. It is true that major Arab countries are coming close to Israel because they all share a fear of the new fanatic Islamists. But the idea that six million Jews can snub the rest of the world and destroy those who shoot rockets at them has gone. Now, the sun is rising higher, and the light of Moshiach is blazing at us. We have more strength, not less strength. As for the secular Jew, he has a choice. He may have a child or so, and the child or so may or may not leave Israel and marry a non-Jew, but what is left in the world is surely not great credit to the anti-religious creed of the secular Zionist.

Thus, when HaShem inflicts great suffering, we often find within the cloud a silver lining, and that silver lining is the growing sun itself, and our hopes rise with it. The problems are not ours. The problems are the problems of HaShem, and He will take care of it, although we have to do our part. One problem we must deal with, is how to deal with secular Israelis. We must encourage them to continue as Jews despite the collapse of the Zionist dream, and to replace it with the knowledge that there is a better solution to the problem of the Jew.