Something to Remember Me By
I saw a Mel Gibson movie the other day and in it his character said that the bad thing about not having kids is that there is no one to bury you when you die. I found it a painful sentence until I digested it and thought, no, the bad thing about not having kids is that there is no one there to keep you alive in seed and deed and memory. I couldn't help but think back to last week during Yom Kippur when all Jews who have a deceased parent were obligated to say a prayer of homage called Yizkor, which in Hebrew means "remember." Maybe it’s a silly thing to make it obligatory for descendants because who would ever really forget a parent? But there is a substantive difference between not forgetting and remembering. The former is easy and convenient for the lazy and passive, the latter involves actively keeping the person, their teachings, their legacy, their heritage, their sacrifices alive. And just as God breathes life into man in Genesis in this week's Torah reading, we have to continually breathe life into those who have returned to the dust.
But remembering is also a national duty for all peoples. Probably the worst slogan that grates on my sensitive ears is the one in regard to the Holocaust: "We shall never forget." First of all, who is the "we" that will never forget: the generation who lived through it or the one today that is being taught that the Holocaust never happened? Perhaps it’s the ones being told it was a gross exaggeration by Zionists fabricating a casus belli to snatch the Promised Land? Is it Holocaust denier Ahmadinejad who will never let us forget or revisionists like Mahmoud Abbas whose Ph.D. thesis denied the Holocaust as well and who aids those denying the legitimacy of Israel's archeological sites?
What is it exactly that we won't forget? Hitler? Or the number six million? Is that all we have to remember in order to never forget, in order to recognize the warning signs when a new massacre for our people is being fomented on the streets of the world? If we truly haven't forgotten, then please I invite you to ask the average teenager today what were the Nuremberg Laws or ask them if they know what Treblinka is. Just don't be shocked if they think it's an iPhone app. I'm sure few would know it was a concentration camp where 800,000 men, women and children were murdered simply because they were Jews. So please, who are we kidding when we say "we will never forget”? It's meaningless and trite.
This week marks 38 years since the Yom Kippur War when Israel was hit by an Egyptian and Syrian surprise attack and 2,688 Israelis lost their lives. So who cares anymore, who remembers? The history books have recorded it; it’s time to move on. Right? Wrong! Those who do not remember the past will be condemned to repeat it.
Yes, it is a tragedy when you don't have kids to keep memories alive, but the bigger tragedy today is that parents are not giving their kids WHAT to remember. They don't even know for what Israel is fighting and if they do they are ashamed of it. Two weeks ago I went to listen to Alan Dershowitz speak about the rampant anti-Semitism on campus and he said one of his students was afraid to let people know he was a Zionist because then he wouldn't be able to get a date. So, silently, he walks through his campus as Israel's enemies attempt to delegitimize the state and call for divestments and boycotts. I can't help but think of Menachem Begin and his contemporaries who as teenagers risked their lives over and over again to boast about their Zionism and who fought for a homeland’s existence until they held its soil in their hands and turned sand and swamps into the beautiful verdant Eretz Yisrael.
How come we are not firing up the souls of our Jewish youth anymore to make them realize that Israel is our proud birthright and fundamental to our survival? Christians are fired up and standing tall for Israel with pride, why aren’t we? As Netanyahu said, Israel is not what is wrong with the Middle East, it is what is right about it. Today's Jews, however, seem to have bequeathed to their children the materialism of the American Dream without also nurturing their Jewish pride, their sense of Jewish history, their Jewish place in this world and without honing their Jewish survival instincts. How dangerous it is in a time when Israel's enemies are indoctrinating their kids with a strong sense of purpose and history, albeit an invented one and we leave our kids with a vacuum of knowledge that Israel's haters fill with their poison. And I'm scared. I truly thank God for Israel's Christian friends who stand up for Israel when so many Jews are sitting down on the job.
The Jewish people are so quick to forget over and over again who they are and from whence they came when their very survival is in the remembering, in keeping the history alive just as Scheherazade kept herself alive by never stopping to tell her narrative. You see, I'm not worried that Jews will have no one to bury them, for that they will find many volunteers. I'm worried that Jews have squandered their best asset, their sole means of survival and justification for the Holy Land: Jewish memory. I'm not worried who will say Yizkor, I'm worried that soon will arise a generation that asks, "What is Yizkor?"
To see what you can do to get students involved or yourself check out this site. http://www.stepupforisrael.com/