This past Sabbath the weekly Torah reading (Exodus 30:11-34:35) includes the infamous episode of the Golden Calf. Only 40 days after the giving of the Torah at the Sinai Revelation, while yet at the foot of the mountain, Israel prostrated themselves before the Golden Calf. Our sages emphasize that this sin was so grievous, even today we continue to reverberate from its consequences. But Israel's blunder, however severe, was the result of the influence of the mixed multitude of many nationalities among them, who accompanied them out of Egypt (Exodus 12:38). This group was to be the cause of many disasters, rebellion and backsliding for the people of Israel throughout history, continuing until the present day. It was this rabble who incited the Jewish people to worship the Golden Calf. It was they who complained and "began to have strong cravings" and caused the people of Israel to weep at the place called Taberah (Num. 11), going so far as to say that they preferred Egyptian slavery to the Presence of God. Our sages teach that this destructive foreign element is still in our midst, causing dissention, internal strife and incitement to rebellion against God within the healthy body of Israel, plotting her destruction. Indeed, tradition teaches that even today, this evil "fifth column" seeks to usurp Israel.
If the unilateral disengagement plan of Ariel Sharon's government comes to pass as planned, everyday life and for that matter, the world as they know it, will cease to exist for the Jewish citizens of Gaza and Northern Samaria. These are the righteous and heroic pioneers who have dedicated themselves to settle the Biblical Land of Israel. Some 8,500 souls, three generations of "settlers" (a term used as a pejorative by the media — as if the now rare qualities of self-sacrifice, dedication and altruism should somehow be a cause for shame) — are slated for forced expulsion from their homes and communities. Their homes, farms, businesses and factories will be destroyed. Unless, of course, an even more sinister proposal recently reported to be under consideration is adopted: the government may decide to sell the victims' property to a wealthy Arab Gulf State investor — after all — why destroy what does not belong to you when you can sell it, instead, and thus turn a tidy profit, bringing to mind the verse "... thus says God: Will you murder and also inherit? In the place where the dogs licked up the blood of Naboth, the dogs will lick up your blood as well." (I Kings 21:19). Their synagogues and holy study halls will be razed; their dead dug out of the ground and transferred. Or perhaps, simply left behind. And their property? Abandoned to the Palestinians.
This is a time of reckoning. A spiritual battle is being waged between the forces of the Mixed Multitude, and those representing the truly pure, holy, indefatigable spirit of the real Israel, God's firstborn, those faithful to His Torah. It is not only the world of the Gaza and Samarian settlers which is poised at the precipice. It is everything that Israel has always stood for and held sacred, most notably, the safety, welfare and continuity of the Jewish people. All of Israel is on the chopping block. With calculated and lethal blows, the government of Ariel Sharon is hammering away at the beautiful and pristine edifice that was heretofore the State of Israel, and erecting in its place something bizarre and foreign, something forged a changeling decidedly not Jewisha pagan idol born from the filth of the Mixed Multitude, before which the motley, shameless and illegitimate rabble that is the government of Ariel Sharon, revels in lewd prostration, calling out "this is your god, Israel" (Exodus 32:4).
Who would have imagined that an Israeli cabinet would decree the destruction of 25 Jewish communities? That our own government would transfer the land of God's promise, the land we fought and died for, to Arab terrorists? That the government of a nation who reestablished her homeland on ancient Biblical sites in territory liberated from the enemy, at the unbearably high cost of the lives of its sons and daughters, would do what no nation has ever consented to do, and relinquish that homeland? That this same government could launch an all-out war against Jewish observance and tradition? That rockets and mortars could rain down on Israeli citizens night after night, and the army would be instructed not to respond? That hundreds of terrorists could be released from prison, only to make their way back onto our streets? Who would have imagined that the civil rights of Israeli citizens, who oppose the policy of the government that they elected, could be cynically and brutally crushed? That an entire sector of the populace could be marginalized and ultimately, demonized?
If the Gaza Disengagement Plan is implemented, it will only be the beginning; the operative cornerstone of the new Palestinian state, dedicated to the destruction of Israel. For as Palestinian leader Abu Mazen states unequivocally, the jihad for Jerusalem has entered into a new stage. One of the primary architects of this Palestinian state is President George W. Bush, still thought by many to be a devout, Bible-believing friend of Israel. Yet this past week, this good friend called on Israel to "to freeze settlement activity, help Palestinians build a thriving economy and ensure that a new Palestinian state is truly viable, with contiguous territory on the 'West Bank'."
How can one but doubt the "belief" of President Bush? From where does he derive the authority to veto God's word? Is this an aspect of the far-reaching office of the American presidency? Does one who believes in the Bible demand that Jews be uprooted from their homes in the Promised Land, that their towns and communities be dismantled? Does he demand that in their place, a new Palestinian state be formed, a 23rd Arab country? How does he deal with God's statements to Abraham, "To your seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates River" (Genesis 15:18); "through Isaac shall your seed be called" (Genesis 21:12)? Does he thumb his nose at God, by saying that the Gaza disengagement is not enough ... that "a state of scattered territories [for the PLO] will not work?" Where does a "viable Palestinian state, with contiguous territory on the 'West Bank'," fit in with the Bible? Does a friend of Israel pressure Israel to give away its land and then promise American support for the enemy entity? Yet President Bush stated that "as Palestinian leaders assume responsibility for Gaza and an increasingly larger territory, we will help them build the economic and political and security institutions needed to govern effectively."
For America, too, this is a time of reckoning, before events overtake us all — and there is no return. This is not a time for gentle words, but for speaking the words that must be heard. It is not only the world of the Gaza and Samarian settlers which is poised at the precipice. America's blessing comes from its stand with Israel, for God states that "I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you I will curse; and all the families of the earth shall bless themselves by you" (Genesis 12:3). An America that sets its face against Israel, should be prepared for these words to be fulfilled. A true friend of Israel should be on the phone to the White House at this very moment.
By all definitions, the Gaza Disengagement Plan is a form of both ethnic cleansing and population transfer. The term "ethnic cleansing" refers to the forcible removal of an ethnic group from their lands; "population transfer" is the introduction of another group in their stead. The type of population transfer currently facing these Jewish citizens, in which the Sharon government plans to force the movement of a large group of people against their will out of a region on the basis of their ethnicity or religion, is designated as a crime against humanity in international treaties, such as that which created the International Criminal Court and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.
The Jewish people have fallen victim to many instances of ethnic cleansing in the past. In ancient times, the Assyrian, Babylonian and Roman empires exiled them. During the Middle Ages, every country that hosted the Jews felt entitled to expel them. Jews were expelled from England (1290), France (1306), Hungary (1349-1360), Provence (1394 and 1490), Austria (1421), Spain (1492), Portugal (1497), Russia (1724) ...
There was also ethnic cleansing of Jews in pre-state Israel by Arabs: Jews were driven from Tel Hai (March 1920), Arabs tried unsuccessfully to cleanse Petach Tikvah of Jews (March 1921), Jews were murdered and driven from Hebron, Shechem and Gaza communities were they had lived for centuries (August 1929). In the 1948 War of Independence, Jews were driven from the Gaza community of Kfar Darom; from Beit HaArava, Neve Ya'akov, Atarot and the Old City of Jerusalem
During the Holocaust, when an area under Nazi control had its entire Jewish population removed, that area was declared judenrein (lit. Jew Clean), cleansed of Jews. Sharon has stated that after the disengagement, not one Jew shall remain in Gaza.
Will Ariel Sharon's name be added to the list of those who have forcibly removed Jews from their homes? Is the man concerned about being accused of committing a crime against humanity? He seems convinced that his path is one of righteousness; proud that this is to be his legacy. He has taken unprecedented steps to silence all dissent, unheard of in any enlightened society. Ruthlessly manipulating his power, his words evoke the preservation of democracy, yet his every action bespeaks despotism. Legitimate forms of protest which the Prime Minister had previously advocated during his days in the political opposition, he now labels as a "danger to Israeli democracy." He makes no distinction between civil disobedience and incitement. Indeed, he personally oversees the daily campaign of media-led left-wing incitement against the Nationalist camp at whose helm he once stood, in the days when it was in his political gain to do so. In the past, when it suited him politically, Sharon himself was an outspoken advocate of civil disobedience. He told soldiers that "if an individual refuses orders that he considers immoral, it should not be considered as rebellion." Now, he brands whoever remains loyal to the Land of Israel as "a danger to Israeli democracy," and anyone who believes in anything at all remotely resembling real Jewish values as a "right-wing extremist."
They say that "patriotism is the last refuge to which a scoundrel clings." Thus the scoundrel Ariel Sharon, referring to any and all opposition to his ungodly course of national self-destruction, masquerades as a patriot and cynically proclaims that "Israeli democracy will know how to protect itself."
Democracy protecting itself? Americans reading this at home may recall their own founding fathers' Declaration of Independence, and, holding the truths of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to be self-evident, these readers may err. They may reason that in a democratic society, citizens enjoy the right to protest, the right to engage in civil disobedience. For America's founding fathers proclaimed that "governments are instituted among men specifically for the purpose of securing these rights and that these governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed." To Ariel Sharon, once the governed were foolish enough to elect him, he no longer needs their consent. In democratic elections, he defeated the Labor Party in a landslide victory, precisely because the people of Israel rejected the Labor Party's platform: then he proceeds to implement an even more extreme version of the very plan that caused his opponent's electoral defeat.
The American Declaration of Independence further states that "whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happinesswhen a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."
Ariel Sharon has a very different idea of democracy, and how to protect it. In countries like the United States, generations of mothers have taught their young children to trust and rely on their local policeman, should the child be lost or in need or distress. But here in Sharon's democratic Israel it should be difficult to find an honest man willing to trust a policeman, or a policeman who in all good conscious could look a citizen squarely in the eye. For we have already been informed of the police's program for the evacuation of the 8,500 faithful Jewish citizens facing expulsion. Here follows some highlights of how "Israeli democracy will know how to protect itself":
We may read this and weep, but we need not be dismayed, and neither are we downtrodden, nor disillusioned, nor broken in spirit. They cannot break us, those who remain faithful to the God of Israel, the Torah of Israel, and land of Israel. For "The Eternal One of Israel does not lie and does not relent, for He is not a human, that He should relent" (1 Samuel 15:29), and that same God can "tear the kingship of Israel from upon you this day, and give it to your fellow who is better than you ... " We have long recognized the principle that the holier, the loftier and more important something is, the greater is the opposition. It is inconceivable that the Land of Israel, about which the Torah testifies that "it is a Land which Hashem, your God, seeks out; the eyes of Hashem, your God, are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to the year's end" (Deuteronomy 11:12) should be gambled away by immoral gangsters who have no motivation other than their own agenda and who behave as if it is their personal plaything.
On Friday night, this past Sabbath, a suicide bombing took place in Tel Aviv. At this writing four people are dead, and 34 hospitalized, four in critical condition. But a few more dead Jews will not stop Ariel Sharon's march toward disengagement. He aims to bring Israel to the brink; thus predictably, the press speculates that Israel will probably not respond militarily to this atrocity. We mustn't alienate the Palestinians. And predictably, there's nothing like the old trick of blaming the victim: Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra went so far as to say to that the right-wing opponents of the disengagement plan are responsible for this terrorist attack. He explained that because these activists are holding protests in Jerusalem, the police must divert their forces to these protests thus, making it difficult to provide adequate protection for the rest of the country. The minister did not deem it necessary to address the simple and undeniable fact that Arabs persist in their efforts to kill Jews — any time, any place, anywhere — finding this inconvenient and inappropriate to the spirit of disengagement. Instead, Minister Ezra proudly utilizes the classic, popular ploy favored by anti-Semites throughout the ages blame the Jews themselves.
And equally predictable, reminiscent of the attacks in the days that followed the original Oslo accords, the Palestinians are not being blamed. That would not do at all, since there is a "cease-fire" and nothing must be said that could influence popular opinion against the disengagement. Rather, the media reports, the crime had to have been carried out by some "radical element," a third-party terrorist group.
Our modern mixed multitude, the degenerate mob that is the Sharon government and their backers, have become all too predictable in their intransigent stance against the God of Israel and His backers. But on this past Shabbat, as we read of the Golden Calf, we also read in the haftorah, the prophetic reading that corresponds to the Torah reading, of the prophet Elijah's great showdown with Ahab and the false prophets of the Baal (Kings 1:18). Take a moment to read this entire chapter, for on this Shabbat, as Sharon's perfidy and betrayal resounded all around us, the voice of prophecy was heard clearly, as if uttered today:
"And it was when Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, 'Is that you, the troubler of Israel?'"
"He said to him, Not I have troubled Israel, rather you and your father's house have, by your forsaking the commandments of God ..."
The time is soon coming when a showdown will take place in Israel, just as that which took place between Elijah and the prophets of the Baal. For a decision will have to be made, once and for all, as to in which direction we shall go forward as a nation.
"Ahab sent among all the Children of Israel and he gathered the prophets to Mount Carmel. Elijah approached all the people and said, 'how long will you dance between two opinions? If HaShem is the God, go after Him! And if the Baal, go after it!'"
"But the people did not answer him at all ..."
The time of the showdown for Israel is fast approaching, for we cannot much longer dance between two opinions. "And it was at noontime, Elijah ridiculed them, and said, 'Cry out in a loud voice, for he is a god! Perhaps he is conversing, or pursuing, or relieving himself; perhaps he is asleep and he will awaken!'"
Let us fearlessly and openly ridicule those who worship false gods, those who would cause Israel to stray away from God. The enemy within is in his last death throes. "... today it will become known that You are God in Israel ... the entire people fell on their faces and exclaimed, 'Hashem — He is the God! Hashem — He is the God!'"
For you, too, gentle reader, the time of decision is approaching. What for some may be the catastrophe of our era, for others may be no more than a yawn; time to change the channel. How many will say, "It's a shame about those people — let's see what else is on." Where do you stand? Sitting in your home, in comfort and security, surrounded by your loved ones, ask yourselves: What would you do, if they came for you, to remove you from your home, the home you built with your own hands, the home your children were born in? To destroy your house of worship, your livelihood, the community you have built up? What are you prepared to do now, to prevent this desecration? What will you do if they come for you, and you are alone, because, like the old story says, "when they came for the settlers, I didn't say anything, because I wasn't a settler ... and when they finally came for me, there was no one left to say anything."
There are those that you can influence. The time is now. If you have cast your lot with Israel, the time has come for you to fulfill your oath. Pray about it. Think: what would God have you do? And then go and do it.
With blessings of the Land of Israel.
[ Rabbi Chaim Richman, Director, The Temple Institute | Published: February 27, 2005 ]
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