If You Are A Jew Who Is Apathetic To Israel, Or An Anti-Zionist Then Look At Ukraine And Wake Up!!!

Your life may depend on it.

Victims of the Kishinev pogrom

In 1894 Captain Alfred Dreyfus was framed and found guilty of treason for spying for Germany and sentenced to prison on Devil’s Island. Dreyfus was an assimilated Jew, and a career officer in the French army. The trial was widely followed in and outside of France, that led to angry mobs in the street yelling antisemitic chants in the land of Liberty Fraternity and Equality; which it would appear did not apply to Jews.

An assimilated Jewish reporter for a Viennese paper named Theodore Herzl covered the trial and was profoundly disturbed by the mob’s public display of hate for Jews. If this could happen to Jews who were given full citizenship in one of the most progressives countries in Western Europe, then the Jews would never be safe until they had a home of their own, and then would be equal amongst the nations of the world. They would no longer be seen as pariahs living off other nations, and they would have a place to go to if in danger. Thus, political Zionism was born.

In 1903 a horrific pogrom was unleashed against the Jews in a city called Kishinev in what is today called Moldavia. It was part of Czarist Russia, and it exposed the mortal danger that all Jews living in Czarist Russia faced. One of the first great poems in Hebrew, that I studied in Day school was called “ Ir Haharega, The City of Slaughter” by Hayim Nachman Bialik. So powerful was his description of the horrors perpetrated on the Jewish population in Kishinev, that it unleashed a massive migration of Russian Jews mostly to America but also to Palestine. This was the next major event that raised the call for a Jewish state, where Jews would have a state of refuge. (An interesting side note, Mayim Bialik is a distant relative of the poet).

When the British imposed the White Paper on pre-ww2 mandate Palestine, that refused Jews the right to immigrate especially from Nazi held countries to Palestine, the need for a Jewish State as a refuge was made 6 million times clearer.

On July 4th, 1976, when America was celebrating its Bicentennial, a plane load of Jews was being held in an airport at Entebbe, separated from the freed non-Jewish passengers and threatened with death if the hijackers’ demands (protected with Ugandan government support) were not met.

Israel sent in commandos to save the hostages and bring them to safety in Israel. Not all the saved passengers were Israelis, but all the saved passengers were Jews. Proof positive that Herzl’s fears and hopes were now achieved by a sovereign Jewish State.

All of this came to mind when I read a NY Times article about how Israel was helping Ukrainian Jews and others flee the horrific and criminal war that Putin has unleashed on the country. The dateline was Chisinau Moldavia, which meant nothing to me until the article said that it was also known as Kishinev. It was like a 100-watt bulb turned on right in front of my eyes.

The article began with an Israeli social worker, Omer Hod, in a synagogue in Chisinau who had a case of “historical vertigo”. He had come with Israelis from governmental and social agencies in Israel to save Jews from violence and death. The “vertigo” was because Omer’s ancestors had lived in Chisinau over a hundred years ago. Now through him his family had returned not as victims but as rescuers. His family had left Chisinau to go to Jerusalem, he had left Jerusalem to save Jews in Chisinau. He may have vertigo; I have chills and tears just thinking about it.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that Kishinev,” was a very central event that drove modern Zionism. In the same Kishinev, right now we’re saving Jews…The raison d’^etre of Israel is to be a safe haven for every Jew in danger. We didn’t have it in 1903. We have it now”.

Since the start of the war more than 2000 Ukrainians have already been flown to Israel, nearly 500 of whom have at least one Jewish grandparent. The significance of that is also ironic as Israel uses this non-Halachic definition of being Jewish to qualify for citizenship and in this case to be saved. Ironic because this is the definition that Hitler invented to qualify you as being Jewish enough to be gassed and cremated as a Jew.

Jill Shames is another Israeli social worker who has come to help on behalf of the agency, United Hatzalah. Her ancestors escaped nearby pogroms in the late 1800s. She said, “We are doing now what we couldn’t do then….I feel like history has been turned on its head.”

A Moldovan woman approached her and asked,” From Israel?”

Then she smiled and unbuttoned her jacket to reveal her necklace. It was a Star of David.

Somewhere looking down Theodore Herzl was smiling as well.

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Rabbi Paul Plotkin

Rabbi Paul Plotkin

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I am a retired Conservative Rabbi. I was a pulpit Rabbi for 40 years. I supervise a chain of kosher Delis called Ben's .