LET FREEDOM RING, LET THE WHITE DOVE SING

Although not intended as such, the chorus of the song “Independence Day” recorded by Martina McBride, rings just as true today, as the first time I heard it on WABC radio, a quarter of a century ago: “Let freedom ring, let the white dove sing. Let the whole world know that today is a day of reckoning.” With Israel celebrating seventy-one years of independence on the 9th of this month, perhaps a perusal of the above lyrics, which are admittedly taken entirely out of context, would tastefully set the tone for Israel’s upcoming celebration.

One of the most popular parks in Jerusalem, bears a decidedly American name. Although, referred to as Gan HaPa’amon or the Garden of the Bell by its residents, Liberty Bell Park serves as a reminder of the unshakable relationship that exists between these United States and Israel. Dedicated in 1976, the year of our bi-centennial, Gan HaPa’amon boasts a replica of the Liberty Bell proudly displayed in downtown Philadelphia. But Gan HaPa’amon boasts so much more. It boasts the shared ideal of liberty. Both Israel and the United States deal with minority populations in a far better fashion than most other countries in this world. And even though Israel’s democracy is based on a parliamentary system as opposed to the American presidential system, both countries are intent on letting freedom ring – not just for the rest of the world to hear, but also to  remind its citizens and leaders, that freedom is our most precious commodity, as well as our most sacred creed.

The first time the white dove was introduced to us, it was speechless. And with good reason. It had an olive branch in its mouth. Yet, even without any olive branch, I cannot help but feel that the white dove would have been speechless. After all, the white dove, had little, if anything to say. For the white dove, it was a “wait and see” situation. The white dove couldn’t possibly have presumed to know what would come forth from Noah’s ark, especially on a figurative basis. And even though it may not have been a pretty sight to behold, the white dove kept its eyes open. Many a tear may have had to fall, as the white dove witnessed both disappointment  and disaster over the centuries,  but the white dove refused to look away. And then, seventy-one years ago, this month, the white dove blinked hard. It couldn’t believe its eyes. After two thousand years of uncertainty and wandering, a Jewish homeland rose from the ashes of the Holocaust. It was then that the white dove began to sing. The white dove has been singing ever since.

“It is a nation that dwells in solitude and is not be reckoned among the nations” (Numbers 23:9), said Balaam. However prescient Balaam may have been, he was not speaking from a political point of view. He couldn’t have been speaking about nations of that time, because in Balaam’s Israel, Israel did not exist as a political entity. It was seventy-one years ago, that the State of Israel emerged as a political entity. May 14th, 1948, therefore, was a day of reckoning among nations. Military analysts at the Pentagon reckoned that Israel wouldn’t last more than a month, before having to surrender to the surrounding countries with better equipped and better trained armies. Military analyst reckoned wrong. As a teenager, I asked the principal at the Jewish Day School – he had arrived from Israel a year earlier to take the position – what he reckoned Israel would do with all the land that was now theirs, after the Six Day War. He reckoned that Israel had no need for that land. He too reckoned wrong. American Presidents over the last half century have felt it their duty to come up with “peace plans.” When it came to Israel, they, along with their Secretaries of State, also reckoned. Yet, none realized, that Balaam, under HaShem’s direction, provided us with the immemorial words that Israel “is not to be reckoned among the nations.”

As freedom continues to ring, and the white dove continues to sing, let the whole world know that when it comes to Israel, there is  no reckoning. And let us join together in wishing our Jewish Homeland, continued bracha (blessing) and ongoing hatzlacha (success)!

THROUGH FIRE AND WATER

Over this past week, I’ve received over a dozen emails from various Jewish websites reporting on the fires in Israel. Without fail, each of these websites was sure to include a donate button to be activated by the reader. Even though I have no idea how successful these organizations will be in raising money, I do know of other donations that have been forthcoming.

I know that countries such as Cypress, Greece, Croatia, Italy and Turkey have sent firefighting planes as well as firefighting teams to Israel. Even Russia and the United States, the two world superpowers, have stepped up with the latter dispatching a 747 supertanker to help douse the flames. Why, even the Palestinian Authority has dispatched some of its firetrucks to assist Israel!

I know that this is one instance where the pagan prophet Balaam, hired by King Balak to curse Israel was dead wrong. Balaam’s prophesy “…it is a people that dwells alone, not reckoned among the nations” simply does not hold water when it pertains to the out of control conflagration threatening Israel.

Could Israel have handled the situation single-handedly? Undoubtedly, yes! But it would have taken much more time, at a much higher cost to the nation, with many more innocent lives being jeopardized. Could one have envisioned such a scenario with all these countries arriving in Israel to be of assistance during the first few decades of Israel’s existence? Highly unlikely! Perhaps then, a shehechiyanu is order – the short five word version beginning with the word shehechiyanu itself.

I know that there is a sermon in here somewhere. Despite horrific instances spanning two millennia, where our people have met their death through fire courtesy of the enemy, we are a people whose existence is defined by fire. Every Friday just prior to sunset, fire fills our homes to announce the arrival of Shabbat.  Just as each Saturday night, fire fills our homes to announce the beginning of a new work week. In a little over three weeks’ time, Jewish homes throughout the world will light up for eight consecutive nights. While I in no way wish to diminish the latest dangerous threat to confront Israel, fire is seen much more often by Jews as a blessing rather than a curse.  And seeing foreign firefighting aircraft over Haifa as well as other parts of the country responding to Israeli command is a blessing!

I know that there is a silver lining to the acrid clouds of smoke descending upon Israel. Believe it or not the Biblical quote: “Cast your bread upon the waters” is one of ours. It is taken from Sefer Kohelet or the Book of Ecclesiastes. For the longest time Israeli rescue teams have been among the first to arrive and lend a hand in other countries when disaster strikes.  This might very well be the first time where the “debt” is being repaid, with other countries lending a helping hand to Israel. It’s nice to see a positive spin on the aphorism “what goes around comes around”.

May Israel never find itself in such a position again.