By now, everyone’s heard about the Palestinian attack on the IDF base at Kerem Shalom. Two killed, more wounded, one soldier kidnapped. This was a land attack on sovereign Israeli territory by forces of the Hamas, which rules the Palestine Authority. Truth to tell, it matters little that Hamas was behind it. Fatah is no less interested in the dissolution of Israel, incrementally. All of the bigwigs are talking tough. I fear, though, that it’s more of the same expected braggadocio. So, we’ll keep shelling open fields. We’ll keep playing into the hands of Pallywood producers who blame Israel for every Hamas land mine that explodes (and then apologize). We’ll keep suggesting to the people in Sderot that they pack up and leave. The important thing is not to admit that the retreat from Gaza was a lethal mistake. A fortiori, Heaven forefend that this small wrinkle should get in the way of the ‘Redeployment’ in Judea and Samaria.
The tragic part is that the harm undergone by these kids (dead or wounded or missing), was absolutely foreseeable (and close to home. My son’s close friend serves in the same armored corps unit). Only fantasiasts think that if you tell the world you’re tired of fighting, that you only want to have fun, that the only thing you need is to have coffee in Tel Aviv and watch the Mondiale, that you need to discard your Jewish identity (that justifies your very existence) in favor of an amorphous Israeli one, that the enemy will sit back and say: ‘That’s Nice. Enjoy the coffee and the game.’
No one is more aware of, or pained by, the sacrificial aspects of Jewish existence than I. I live with them every minute of every day. I write about them. I ponder them. I research them. I teach them. This, however, is the existential reality of Jewish Life, since Abraham. The challenge is to live a meaningful Jewish Life, or to commit religious or national suicide. This is not some religious rant. None other than Ber Borochov, a founder of Socialist Zionism, held that ‘the struggle against assimilation (is) something much more than a struggle for a strategic base. It was to him the fight of all the Jewish masses against the attempt of national suicide on a part of the Jewish intelligentsia and upper bourgeoisie. The masses, he declared, "will not yield to the notion that the Jew disappear among foreign nations and alien cultures." (Of course, Sartre would tell us that such self-immolation is not possible. The gentiles won’t let us do it.)
The Torah commands us, as individuals and as a people, to Choose Life. That’s very difficult in a world that idolizes death. The West believes in suffering and death for the expiation of man’s sins. Islam (in its present form, at least) seeks a martyr’s death for the expansion of the Dar al-Islam.
Nevertheless, we have to choose life. It may not be politically correct. It may require us to inflict harm that we would otherwise not desire. At the end of the day, in this zero sum game, it’s us or them.