A Letter from Naomi Ragen in Jerusalem
Today is the Tesha B'Av, the Ninth Day of Av, on the Jewish calendar. It is the day that commemorates the destruction of the first and second Temples in Jerusalem. It is also the anniversary of many disasters throughout Jewish history, such as the issuance by Ferdinand and Isabella of the order expelling Jews from Spain in 1492; and the outbreak of World War I (which led over the next 30 years to the destruction and near annihilation of the Jewish communities of Europe). According to Jewish tradition, the Ninth Day of Av became the day that G-d chose to punish Israel because it was the day that the spies sent by Moshe Rabeinu (Moses our teacher) to scout out the Promised Land returned with an evil report, saying that the Land could not be conquered from its Caananite inhabitants. There is a further tradition that the reason for the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E. was "sinat chinam," senseless hatred among the Jews of that time.
Perhaps, then, it is a sign of forthcoming redemption that today as I write Israeli soldiers (Jews, Christians, Druse and Bedouin Arabs), and civilians as well, are demonstrating their love for the Land by laying down their lives to defend it from those who would destroy the third Jewish commonwealth there. And, in repudiation of "sinat chinam," we find a nearly unprecedented unity of purpose and love within Israel and among Am Yisrael, the Jewish people worldwide, in the midst of this crisis. Visitor after visitor, and long-time Israeli citizens, comment that they have never seen such unity in their memory.
However, for a moment this week, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert sounded a sour note, fortunately quickly remedied. With that background in mind, I post this letter sent by Israeli novelist Naomi Ragen (photo above left) to her e-mail distribution list. (HT: A Hedgehog Blog reader.)
THIS IS A TERRIBLE WAR
From Naomi Ragen, 3 August 2006
This is a terrible war. It is a war aimed at Israel's heartland, it's civilian population. A war in which thousands of rockets filled with thousands of tiny metal ball bearings aim to rip apart the soft flesh of our people.
A war aimed at our hospitals and summer camps and shopping centers and apartment buildings.
Israel is a strange country. It is the only place where the people mourn the deaths of soldiers more than civilian deaths. Because the death of a soldier is the death of our children, our future fathers and mothers, our brightest hopes. Nothing tears at the heart of our people more. At this time, when our soldiers are being called up to the front in the thousands from all segments of the population, all parts of the nation, we as a nation embrace them collectively, as one, holding them close to our hearts, the way a mother embraces her beloved, only child.
This is why Mr. Olmert's remarks to the press yesterday that victory in Lebanon will create "momentum for pullout from the West Bank" were so devastating to the unity of our people, and the morale of our soldiers, many of them from the townships slated for destruction according to the plans for the next insane pullback. How is a mother supposed to feel from such a town when she sends her son off to war? And what of the son? As he puts his life on the line, will images of the bulldozers that ripped through Gush Katif only a year ago go through his mind? The destroyed synagogues, the rubble of homes and industries? And all for, what? The renewed fighting in Gaza? The rockets that now fall in Ashkelon and Ashdod?
Already, the response from the front has been alarming. Reservists are calling for putting down their arms, asking if a Hezbollah victory is needed to save their communities from Mr. Olmert's plan....
Thankfully, Mr. Olmert seems to recognize how tremendously destructive his words have been to the national morale. He contacted Effie Eitam, identified with the settlers' struggle, to apologize and to assure him that there is no such link between the war effort and future political moves. Mr. Eitam, a former general in the IDF who lives in the Golan Heights, has been consulted by the administration often concerning the war effort. As one would expect, Mr. Eitam has made every effort to help the administration calm fears and assuage the anger of Mr. Olmert's ill chosen words.
As I sit here fasting and praying, on this, the 9th of Av, the most fearful day in the Jewish calendar, a date when horrible disasters have befallen the Jewish people because of disunity and causeless hatred, I can only pray that this terrible mistake will not crush the spirit of the nation or its resolve to prevent the kind of disaster which has destroyed our nation in the past. We have come such a long way. Only sixty years ago, our nation was helpless. Anyone could strip a Jew of his rights of citizenship. Anyone could throw us into cattle cars, starve us, torture us, murder us, plunder us, throw our children into ovens. There was no one to intervene on our behalf. Even those who fought against the Nazis and their collaborators, did so not for us, but for themselves. They could not spare a single bomb to derail the trains to Auschwitz. Only a little while ago, the planes of the Israeli air force flew over Auschwitz, a stirring symbol of empowerment for the Jewish people. We must not forget that. We must never forget that as we fight now, for our beautiful little country, our beautiful, priceless miracle, the Land of Israel.
May God forgive us our sins against Him and against each other. May He protect our soldiers, our people, our land.