In a special Israel’s Independence Day post, Neil Goldstein Glick remembers the richest 3500 to 4000-year journey in the world, the Jewish people’s history.
Seventy years ago, the world learned about the unprecedented suffering, the horrors, the nightmare that we remember as the Shoah, the Holocaust.
This was the darkest chapter in all of humanity. It ushered in a new word – genocide. It opened the door to other hearts filled with hate the idea that an entire people can be so devalued that mass killing of one group could occur.
The road of genocide started in Turkey in 1915 against the Armenian people. The Germans learned that people will turn a blind eye to evil and opened Dachau in 1933.
History shows how that terror moved to Majdanek, Belzec, Treblinka, Sobibor, Auschwitz, the Killing Fields of Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, and Darfur. Where will it happen next? Where is it happening today?
With great pain, we remember. With great hope we say “Never Again.”
These horrific twelve years in our Jewish history is filled with amazing pain. It touches every Jew and will always need to be an important part of our collective consciousness.
But Jewish history does not begin with the Holocaust and grow with the establishment of Israel and bring us to today.
Jewish history is the richest 3500 to 4000-year journey in the world. We started in the desert as a small nomadic people searching for spiritual meaning in the world around us.
We were twelve wandering tribes in the desert of the Middle East. We Jews gave the world the weekend. Until we celebrated Shabbat on Friday and Saturday, people toiled every day. In ancient times, Jews were mocked for resting on one day.
We grew into kingdoms. We are a people of heroes. We are a nation of warriors. The most important leaders in world history, are our ancestors. Abraham and Sarah gave the world monotheism. Moses gave the world the law and morals that are the religious and ethical foundation by 54% of today’s entire global population. King David and Solomon were poets, warriors and their works are still discussed by Jews and non-Jews alike. Even some of their buildings still remain.
Our High Priests led revolts when our land and religion was threatened. We are the first people in history (under the Maccabee’s) to successfully stand up and revolt against a greater power (the Seleucid Greeks).
When Rome tried to crush us as a people, we rose up in the first Jewish Revolt in 67 CE. Our nationalist spirit was reawakened by our great rebel leader Shimon Bar Kochba. Bar Kochba raised an army of 350,000 people in 132 CE. This is almost as large as the armies of modern Germany and France combined. Sadly, Bar Kochba’s revolt was not successful. However, we learn that we must never give up in the face of battle.
Jews gave the world hope that there can be a better world. We gave people the idea that there can be a Moshiach, a Messiah when our world will be perfect. When all humanity will recognize that working together, as brothers and sisters, truly makes the world a better place. This profound idea teaches everyone to never lose hope of a greater good for all humankind.
In 1862 Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalischer and Rabbi Moshe Shmuel Glashner, then in 1895 Theodore Herzl started discussing the necessity and importance or re-establishing a homeland in our land of Israel. We are the only people in the history of the world to have a rebirth in our homeland. Let us not forget though that Jews have always been living in what is today Israel. We never fully left the country. We were just not always the ones in charge.
Therefore, when we mourn that darkest hour of 1933-1945, and when we mourn the black year of 1492 when Jews were expelled from Spain these thirteen years of hate, injustice and intolerance should never fully define us.
Meanwhile other empires – Assyria, Byzantium, the Holy Roman Empire, the Egyptians, the Hittites – rose and fell. Their dusty artifacts remain in museum display cases around the world.
But we Jews, our traditions, our philosophies, our religion, our language, our people, even our buildings, live and thrive.
Am Yisrael Chai. The Jewish people LIVE.
Happy Yom Hatzmaut
Dedicated to the memory of my cousin Mikhail ben Aharon, who died serving in the IDF in the 1973 War.