Todah to Dovid for bringing to our attention Daniel Gordis at Commentary:
... I read a recent message sent to students at the interdenominational rabbinical school at Boston’s Hebrew College, asking them to prepare themselves for Yom Ha-Zikaron [the Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel's Wars] by musing on the following paragraph:
“For Yom Ha-Zikaron, our kavanah [intention] is to open up our communal remembrance to include losses on all sides of the conflict in Israel/Palestine. In this spirit, our framing question for Yom Ha-Zikaron is this: On this day, what do you remember and for whom do you grieve?”
It is the rare e-mail that leaves me speechless. Here, at a reputable institution training future rabbis who will shape a generation of American Jews and their attitudes to Israel, the parties were treated with equal weight and honor in the run-up to Yom Ha-Zikaron.
What the students were essentially being asked was whether the losses on Israel’s side touched them any more deeply than the losses on the side of Israel’s enemies.That is a stunning question.
Obviously, there are innocent victims on the other side of any conflict. Such is the horrific nature of war. American troops killed many thousands of innocent Germans, Japanese, and others during World War II. But could one even begin to imagine President Franklin Delano Roosevelt saying to Americans, while the Second World War was raging and young American men were clawing and dying their way across Europe and the Far East, that Memorial Day ought to be devoted in part to remembering those among enemy populations who died at our hands? There is, perhaps, a place for such memories. That time is when the conflict has abated, when weapons are set aside, when healing has begun. That time did not arrive during FDR’s lifetime, and it has not yet come to Israel.
I wrote to the dean who had written this paragraph, a friend from whom I’ve learned a great deal over the years and whose commitment to Israel and Zionism is sincere. The response was immediate: “It could be that we got this one wrong, I’m not sure yet. The only thing I’m sure of is that we are trying to engage with these issues and with each other with greater openness, courage, and respect than I think has been possible in most other corners of the Jewish community here.”
The heartbreaking point was this: in the case of these rabbinical students, there is not an instinct that should be innate—the instinct to protect their own people first, or to mourn our losses first. Their instinct, instead, is to “engage.” But “engagement” is a value-free endeavor. It means setting instinctive dispositions utterly aside. And that is precisely what this emerging generation of American Jewish leaders believes it ought to do....
Hmm. Where on earth did they get that notion?
Devarim (Deuteronomy) Ch. 30:
15. Behold, I have set before you today
life and good,
death and evil,
16. Inasmuch as I command you this day to love the Lord, your God, to walk in His ways, and to observe His commandments, His statutes, and His ordinances, so that you will live and increase, and the Lord, your God, will bless you in the land to which you are coming to take possession of it.
17. But if your heart deviates and you do not listen, and you will be drawn astray, and you will prostrate yourself to other deities and serve them,
18. I declare to you this day, that you will surely perish, and that you will not live long days on the land, to Which you are crossing the Jordan, to come and take possession thereof.
19. This day, I call upon the heaven and the earth as witnesses [that I have warned] you: I have set Before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. You shall choose life, so that you and your offspring will live;
20. To love the Lord your God, to listen to His voice, and to cleave to Him. For that is your life and the length of your days, to dwell on the land which the Lord swore to your forefathers to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob to give to them.