JUST BEYOND THE BORDER

I very much doubt that any of you reading this article will be surprised to learn that an Israeli grassroots initiative is underway to raise 600,000 Israeli Shekel or $150,000 dollars  in order to purchase emergency aid including food, medication and supplies for refugee Syrian children. Within the first forty- eight hours after launching the campaign, over a quarter of a million shekel or over $60,000 dollars was raised from over 1,600 donors.
As much as digging deep into our pockets whenever disaster strikes seems to be part of our Jewish DNA, perhaps some introspection is in order to find out why we behave the way we do:
Without even realizing it, Jews proudly espouse the adage that life is not fair – in the very best sense. Whereas most others resort to this adage in order to lament, Jews subconsciously celebrate the fact that life is not fair. Jews instinctively realize that had the tables been turned and Israel found itself with thousands of refugee children as a result of civil war, our Arab neighbors would be dancing in the streets and firing rifles in the air to celebrate. Jewish reaction to the suffering of children and other human beings – including enemy children and other human beings is to figure out how much aid is needed and what is the best way to provide that aid. When disaster strikes an enemy, Arabs celebrate; Jews calibrate. It’s as simple as that.
There’s a fabulous phrase in the Torah that most Jews are completely unaware of. Yet, for us Jews, it is second nature. Hagar and Ishmael are driven way by Abraham. Ishmael is about to expire from thirst. There are those who question Divine intervention at that point, in that there is no question in their mind that today’s world would be so much simpler had Ishmael been left to die in the wilderness. But rather than simply tell us that HaShem heard Ishmael’s cries, the Torah reports that HaShem heard Ishmael’s cries where he (Ishmael) was at the time. Ishmael was saved irrespective of the type of person he would grow into as an adult; Ishmael was saved because he was a child on the brink of death. Money is being raised for victims of Syria’s civil war irrespective of the fact that quite possibly some of the recipients of this emergency aid may one day become terrorists or at the very “least” enemies of Israel; money is being raised for victims of Syria’s civil was because they are children who are suffering.
It is the Book of Proverbs (Sefer Mishlei) that teaches us not to rejoice at the downfall of one’s enemy. Most see this as a most obvious teaching. Perhaps the Book of Proverbs falls short. Perhaps the Book of Proverbs should have also taught us not to cry at the downfall of one’s enemy. Sympathy or even empathy is totally useless when others are in need, especially when they are in harm’s way and are crying out for help. As beautiful as shedding a tear may be and as heartwarming as an embrace may be, hold back the tear and save the hug until after medical aid is administered, those in harm’s way are given nourishment, wounds are tended to, bathing takes place, clean clothes are provided and the victims are safe and secure from harm including the scorching heat of summer and the dreadful cold of winter. What so many seem to fail to understand is that in a crises situation, motion trumps emotion.
My yarmulke goes off to those responsible for this initiative. At present, they refer to their campaign as JUST BEYOND THE BORDER. My fervent hope and prayer is not that more Israelis and Jews throughout the world come on board and participate and donate – of that I haven’t the slightest doubt. My hope and prayer is that Syrian communities throughout the United States, Canada and Europe go just beyond the border and begin to help their own people as well.

ODIOUS HOLOCAUST COMPARISONS

Opinions are gratuitously offered causing tempers to flare as to whether or not this country should open its doors to Syrian immigrants. Such behavior on our parts is to be expected. After all, this is what makes this country the great democracy we know it to be. I would sincerely hope that each person has his or her specific view regarding the matter. What I strenuously object to however are reckless comparisons where Syrian refugees are likened to European Jews prior to and including World War II. Before using the Holocaust as a measuring rod, one would do well to seriously consider the following:
Were Jews seeking asylum during the Third Reich a result of insurgent Jews rising up against a ruthless Jewish dictator as is the current situation in Syria? Doesn’t strike anyone strange that the very same countries who up until now have adopted an attitude of what goes on in any Arab country is an internal matter and who are we to express an opinion, much less become involved, are suddenly responding to the Syrian crises on the most dramatic fashion? Is it possible that these countries are seeking expiation (soul cleansing) for having turned a blind eye as well as a deaf ear to European Jews Jews hoping to flee for their lives three quarters of a century ago? Does it make sense for these countries to bend over backwards for Syrians because they once turned our back on Jews?
Of the precious few Jews who were allowed into this country as well as into England during the nightmare years of 1939-1945, how great was the threat of Jewish terrorism? Were there any bombings here in these United States or in England by terrorist Jews who conveniently slipped through the cracks while other oppressed, downtrodden and bedraggled Jews were spared the death sentence from a megalomaniac who was meticulous in his eradication of Jews? For that matter, was daily life interrupted in England or these United States by Jewish terrorist cells operating out of the Warsaw Ghetto blowing up office buildings at Piccadilly Circus or Columbus Circle or planting bombs on passenger trains leaving Victoria Station or Grand Central Station, carrying innocent Britons and Americans?
Before resorting to the Holocaust comparison, has anyone stopped to consider that while Lebanon and Jordan are opening its doors to Syrian immigrants, there are twenty other Arab countries that make themselves totally oblivious to the plight of their Arab brothers and sisters?
Correct me if I’m wrong, but during the Holocaust there wasn’t a single Jewish country that remained indifferent to the plight of the millions of its people going up in smoke in the crematoria of Europe, in that there was no Jewish country that existed at the time. Recall if you will, the lengths that the Jews of pre-state Israel went to, as they attempted to smuggle shiploads of Jewish refugees into the country only to have the British intercept the vast majority of these ships and reroute the passengers Detention Camps in Cyprus (if the immigrants were lucky) or send them back to Europe.
If you wish to make the case that this country should open its doors to Syrian refugees, that is your prerogative. If you wish to make the case that this country is under no obligation, legal, ethical or otherwise to take in Syrian refugees, you have that right as well. Remember one thing however. The Holocaust is sui generis. It defies comparison. So, don’t ever make the claim that the plight of Syrians fleeing their homeland is no different than the Jews fleeing the Nazis. Ever!