On Sunday afternoon, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gathered the Israeli cabinet to warn it of Iran’s increasingly threatening nuclear capabilities.
The threat is growing greater by the day, Netanyahu warned, and with every day that goes by Israel faces a greater existential threat. This made no major headlines in the Israeli and Jewish media, however, as Israelis, Jews around the world, newsrooms, and bloggers were busy with far more important issues. Discussions, debates, and heated opinion pieces were passionately discussing what seems to be truly important to us; they were discussing who should be the next chief rabbi, how many charedi yeshiva students should have to serve in the army, the attack on an IDF soldier by reckless goons in Jerusalem, the extent to which Women of the Wall should be able to practice their customs at the Western Wall… The list goes on and on.
With so many “important” issues to discuss, who has time to talk about the nuclear abilities of the worst of our enemies? Who has time to indulge in the seemingly boring existential threats when being able to experience the rush we might get from internal conflict? And so discussions and debates resonated on the issues that seem to matter most — conflict, controversy, and things that should be done our way.
Nevertheless, I noticed that for some reason, like Prime Minister Netanyahu, I was most disturbed by the Iranian nuclear threat. That seemed odd to me. I wondered if there was anything wrong with me. Is there a reason I am so worried about this, while no one else seems to be bothered by this existential threat the Jewish people?
And then I realized what the answer to my question was. I realized from a historical perspective how tragic it would be if Iran developed a nuclear bomb that, Heaven forbid, would wipe out the Jewish people.
When I say historically tragic I don’t mean just the obvious horror of even one Jewish life being jeopardized, and how so much more so that it would take so many Jewish lives. What I mean is the tragedy of going for 2,000 years and being able to make the exact same mistakes, without learning one iota from our experience and history. I mean that 2,000 years after the Holy City and the Temple have gone down in ruins, even as we were killing each other in an internal wars, we still are able to do the same thing all over again.
To think that we are able even to discuss the issues we debate so passionately in the face of such threat, horror, and possible destruction makes that threat so much more tragic and difficult. To think that we are even able to engage in these debates without reminding ourselves where similar situations have ended up is horrifying and mind-boggling. There is no question that on each side of these debates there is much to be said — but really!
Is this what we are discussing in such times? Is this what we have to debate at this point of history and of the Jewish calendar? Can we not just shrug these debates off and maturely say they’re not for now?
I join Prime Minister Netanyahu not only in his concern about the Iranian threat, but in his loneliness and solitude. I join Prime Minister Netanyahu not with cold sweat on my forehead like his, but rather with warm tears pouring from my eyes.
Published in The Jewish Standard July 19, 2013