Thursday, May 18, 2017

Mr. President: Do Not Do a Drive-by

President Trump:
I know that presidential visits are jam packed with meetings and events, and that there are many demands on your time.  Reports are that you are scheduled to spend 15 minutes visiting Yad Vashem.  I do not know if this is due to scheduling demands or to your personal inclinations.
In any event, if that is all the time you have to devote to learning about and paying respects to the slaughter of six millions Jews and millions of non-Jews, as well as to the plan to completely destroy the Jewish people and their religion and culture, I request that you not visit.
It is impossible to have a serious visit in 15 minutes.  Everyone knows that.  It is an insult to those who were murdered and to those that survived the unspeakable torture of the Holocaust to do a drive-by visit to the solemn ground that is Yad Vashem.  It violates its sanctity.  It would be akin to dropping by Arlington National Cemetery for a photo op on your way to a meeting..
If you cannot make a serious visit to Yad Vashem that devotes appropriate time for and pays proper respect to the history and memory of the millions who lost their lives during the Holocaust, it would be better for you not to go at all.
(Originally published in The Times of Israel)

Monday, May 1, 2017

Mood Swings

Being a Jew in Israel this time of year is tough.  It's moody, and it's personal.  I've gone from being incredibly, deeply depressed to incredibly joyous and hopeful.  Within a few minutes.

Last Sunday night and Monday was Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.  It's a regular work day.  But it's not.  Restaurants and entertainment venues were closed on Sunday night.  Things were open on Monday.  It's business as usual.  But it's not.  Ceremonies take place.  Prayers are said. Television stations run testimonials, movies, discussions.  Personal witnesses, now old, remember. The memory pervades.

The contrast to the Jews' situation today is vivid.  In between the memorials, the programs, the constant reminders, my thoughts kept turning to this:  It would not happen today.  Jews today have restored our homeland.  We have threats.  We have problems.  But we have a nation.  We have an army, and a navy, and an air force, dedicated to one thing:  keeping us safe. Protecting us.

And, whether they like it or not, our nation, and our military, keeps all Jews safe.  Not just because it guarantees a place of refuge, but because it has changed the perception of Jews in the world.  Talk to a Jew who was alive prior to the birth of Israel.

As the day goes on and evening comes close, you can feel some of the sadness start to fade away, slowly.  In anticipation of the upcoming holidays, flags and banners start to appear on balconies and on cars.  The mood begins to change.  But we still remember.  The feeling and the memory overlays the next week's events.

On Wednesday my wife and I took a drive down to Mitzpe Ramon.  Two and a half hours down, two and a half hours back.  A long day.  It was worth it.  

When my brother-in-law came to Israel for the first time at the age of 15, the program he was on placed him for a weekend of home hospitality with Shimon and Cipi and their four young children.  Forty years later our families are very close.  My wife and I are invited to every holiday get-together and to every family simcha. 

As a baby in Poland, Cipi’s family knew what was coming and they worked with a priest to place her with a Polish Catholic family.  Until she was six or seven, she thought she was a Polish Catholic peasant girl.  She arrived in Israel with a cross around her neck and was raised in an orphanage.