Sunday 11 March 2012

A Modern-Day Purim Story

Last week we celebrated the Jewish festival of Purim.  It is a classic Jewish festival which involves bad guys who wanted to murder the Jews.  Somehow, we managed to survive against the odds and a festival was created to celebrate this fact with the addition of delicious food.  As a child growing up, I remember thinking how unrealistic these stories sounded.  Could it really have been the case that the evil Haman was trying to influence the king of Persia to annihilate the Jews?  What reason could he have had for wishing to do this?  After all, most of the Jews that I knew were decent upstanding citizens and quite nice people as well.  So why would somebody have wanted to kill them?

For those of my parents' and grandparents' generation, this story would have been a very real one.  They were unfortunate enough to have witnessed the horrors of the Holocaust.  This was a repeat of the Purim story except, in this story, millions of innocent people were slaughtered.  Only now, 60 years later, can the State of Israel boast a population that equals the number that were murdered during the most barbaric human-cleansing exercise in history.  Despite the fact that the Jews have survived and made a strong comeback, we have not quite decided upon a festival with delicious food to celebrate Hitler's failure.  Perhaps we will have one in the future.  This should, however, not allow our eyes to be taken off the ball.  The Haggadah that we read on Pesach tells us that, "In each and every generation they rise up against us to destroy us. And The Holy One, blessed be He, rescues us from their hands."  We are also instructed to remember how Amalek attacked the Israelites soon after the crossing of the Red Sea following the exodus from Egypt.  Each year, we read the portion known as "Zachor" (remember) on the Shabbat preceding Purim to be reminded of the evil of Amalek, who is traditionally believed to be a descendant of the evil Haman from the Purim story.  The need to read this each year and remember, arises from the fact that we are required to be vigilant to prevent it from happening again.  Now, in 2012, there are strong indications that it is happening again.

The irony of the Purim story cannot be lost on us as we hurtle headlong into an inevitable conflict with Iran.  The Purim story took place in Persia, and we now return to the scene of the crime approximately 2,400 years later to confront Ahmadinejad, the modern-day Iranian Haman.  As far as I can make out, the Jews and Israel have caused no damage nor present any threat to Iran or Ahmadinejad.  Despite this fact, Ahmadinejad has made Israel-bashing the cornerstone of his foreign policy platform.  He has not missed an opportunity to threaten Israel or to predict her demise whenever he has had the ears and eyes of the world trained on him.  He has been good to his word in practice as well, channelling millions of dollars into terror organisations like Hezbollah and Hamas which have indiscriminately attacked Jewish and Israeli targets.  When adding his duplicitous dealings with the Iranian nuclear program, it is clear that this situation cannot be allowed to continue unchecked.  This is the reincarnation of Amalek, of Haman and of Hitler.  This is exactly the sort of person that we are warned against.

Experience that the Jewish people have accumulated over the years, shows that they cannot rely on others to do the right thing to protect them.  Whether it was the failure to bomb Auschwitz, or the criticism over the destruction of nuclear reactors in Iraq and Syria, the international community has shown itself unwilling or unable to take action at the required moment in order to prevent a disaster.  Viewing things with the benefit of hindsight is too late, and the lessons are somehow never learned.  The Jewish nation have been forced to ensure that they can take care of themselves.

Fortunately, one important thing has changed since the days of Haman and Hitler.  We now have a Jewish army.  This is probably the most substantial element of the equation in the current scenario with Ahmadinejad.  The fact that thousands of Iranians missiles are trained on Israel, and waiting for the first strike on Iran, does not intimidate the Israeli army.  This is simply another danger to be considered, alongside the others, when taking on the significant threat that Iran poses under Ahmadinejad's leadership.  The fight will be ugly and there will be casualties, but there is no choice for the Israeli army in the imperative to put a stop to this threat as soon as possible.

For parents like myself whose children are the soldiers who will be called upon to fight this fight, the prospects are chilling.  We would certainly prefer not to be in this situation, and we would not choose for our children to be placed in harm's way as they battle to protect Israel and the Jewish people.  Ultimately, however, we realise the importance of having an army like the IDF, and we are forced to stand helplessly by as our children willingly fulfil their obligation to protect their land and their people.  This is the only way that we can be assured that the likes of Haman, Hitler and Ahmadinejad will never be allowed to carry out their evil plans to destroy our state and our nation.  These soldiers, our children, are the heroes of this part of the story of survival.

As the situation escalates and the prospects of an armed conflict with Iran grow with each passing day, it is our prayer that our army and our children will succeed in doing their job safely and securely.  We pray that they will return to their families, sound in body and mind, having completed their task that they have been called upon to do.  We stand behind them, fearful for their well-being, but immensely proud of their sacrifice.  May Hashem protect them in all that they do.

Image by Deputado Bruno Covas

No comments: