In its entirety, because it's so rude to interrupt a rant when someone's on a roll like this:
What would my grandfather say? by Paula R.Stern
My grandfather lived in a world that did not understand or care about his religion and so he was forced to choose between observance and feeding his family, abandoning much of what he’d learned as a child in Poland in order to raise a family in America while trying to save his mother and sisters from the clouds of darkness spreading across his native Poland.
His world came crashing down with the knowledge that the storm broke too soon and his family perished in Auschwitz. As I grew up, he often spoke about Israel and we shared a dream of coming here together one day. He was a father and grandfather, a house painter, a simple man in many ways, but most of all, he was simply a Jew.
As I raise my children in the Jewish state he loved, as I try to shape the people they are becoming, we have reclaimed the Jewish Sabbath, and brought back to life the pride he once felt. We no longer need the world’s permission or approval to practice our religion.
My daughter and I returned to Poland to walk the streets of my grandfather’s youth with pride and anger. We held our heads high in Auschwitz. We were the survivors, proud Israelis come to tell the world that never again would Jews be at anyone’s mercy.
Never again, would there be a Holocaust on our watch, no ghettos, no synagogues destroyed and people shipped off to death camps. I spoke to the memory of my grandfather often while in Poland. I told him that he could be proud, he could rest in peace. Jewish communities and houses of worship, cemeteries and schools were finally safe.
Israel would protect all Jews everywhere from the hatred that drove him out of Poland and murdered his family. Often as I toured Poland, I asked myself what kind of person could have committed these horrors, what kind of person ordered these crimes of murder, destruction and desecration?
And now, as the bitter countdown continues towards one of the most disastrous and dangerous decisions any Israeli government has ever thrust on our nation, I am haunted by the simple question, what kind of Jew will it take to implement Sharon’s madness?
What kind of Jew does it take to incarcerate 14-year-old Chaya Belogorodsky who is accused of standing on a sidewalk while her friends blocked traffic. Not content to arrest her teenage friends, a female police officer warned Chaya to leave the area. Chaya responded that she was standing on the sidewalk and had a legal right to do so. She was then arrested and has spent the last four weeks in jail.
Here in Israel. Impossible to imagine, and yet there sits Chaya. And she is not alone. There are literally dozens of other young people being held for similar “crimes” of absurdity. This is the government Sharon has established, the justice system of Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, the police force of Commissioner Moshe Karadi and ultimately, the army of Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Chief of Staff Dan Halutz.
What kind of Jew does it take to imprison and besiege 40,000 peaceful protesters? What kind of Jew imprisons mothers and babies, rabbis and teachers with barbed wire? What kind of Jew will it take to implement Ariel Sharon’s expulsion plan? And, as if those weren’t hard enough questions to answer, another one creeps into my mind and refuses to leave. What kind of Jew can go into a synagogue and blow it up?
I first thought of this question on a Friday night in Neve Dekalim a few weeks ago as I listened to the rabbi speaking. He spoke about his community, about Jews fighting .Sharon’s evil plan peacefully and with no violence. He talked of life in Gush Katif, what they had built, why they had come, and how much they loved what they had created.
Paradise, he called the place. And as the rabbi spoke, I found myself looking around the large room, at the windows, at the people, at the books. It shouldn’t happen. It can’t happen. They have such faith that it won’t happen. Please let them be right, let Ariel Sharon come to his senses before he rips people from their homes in exchange for nothing, before he tears a society to pieces.
In the morning, I went to a different synagogue. This one also beautifully designed and decorated, filled with books and light and air and again I wondered. What kind of Jew, a soldier in our army, a son of Israel will blow them up?
When the soldiers come, the people will be gone, the bookshelves empty. The Torah scrolls will be removed from the Holy Ark. They will walk into the empty synagogue, their boots echoing off the empty walls. They’ll have to look straight up to see the high ceilings, but will they notice the way the architect designed it so that the morning light shines into the large room, or how one of the synagogues is shaped like the Star of David?
Will they realize that they are doing something that no Jew has ever done, that no Jew should ever do? They will calculate, as they have been taught to do, where to place the explosives to maximize the damage, to bring the ceiling down and make the walls crumble. They have been ordered to destroy a place of learning, of prayer, of respect, the very essence of why we have come to live in this land.
These buildings are why they hate us, why they hound us, why we need a land of our own. If we destroy who we are, there is nothing left. We are not the same people we were when my grandfather had to choose between desecrating the Sabbath and trying to raise money to save his family.
Don’t do what other nations have done to us, don’t destroy a Jewish house of prayer, don’t expel Jews from their land. In the entire history of our people, when have we ever destroyed our own places of worship? This is what they did to us in Europe, in the pogroms, the crusades, the Holocaust. This is what our enemies have tried to do all along, to erase who we are. This is not something that a soldier of the Jewish army should do.
I can’t help but wonder what my grandfather would say if he knew that this time, it will be the Jews themselves who plan to destroy the Houses of God.