Sunday, April 20, 2014

Hitler's Birthday

Hitler's birthday was April 20th...and so, to honor it, the Nazis decided to liquidate the Warsaw Ghetto on April 19th. They entered the ghetto and were astounded to find that they had come under fire. The Jews were not going to be deported without a fight.

After the Romans conquered Judea and pillaged the land and its occupants, they surrounded a mountain on the shores of the Dead Sea. The mountain was named Masada and what happened there has shaped generation after generation of Israelis. Convinced that they had no option but to be captured and turned into slaves, their wives and daughters abused, over 1,000 Jews chose to die. They committed suicide - each father killed his family. Ten men killed all the remaining men. One man killed the remaining nine and then killed himself.

In April, 1943, the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto knew enough about Hitler's plan to understand that they could not go along with the Nazi deportations. Still, there was the possibility of survival, and so they fought - and some survived. Not many, but some.

And they held out for weeks, utterly humiliating the trained German forces that were sent to destroy the ghetto.

Masada...the Warsaw Ghetto...these are elements of who we are today. Masada will not fall again - it is a phrase in Israel, an ideology, a promise.

There will never again be a Warsaw Ghetto - perhaps this is not a phrase, but it is certainly a promise.

Tomorrow, we will, not Hitler's birthday, but the last day of Passover, which commemorates our freedom from the tyranny of the Egyptians. We became a people in the desert on our way home to the land that God gave to us.

The best, the truest, the only answer to Hitler can be found here in Israel where we speak Hebrew, where each holiday is tied to the land. Passover is the holiday celebrating spring and rebirth. The trees are blossoming - in my yard, across my city, in each corner of my country. The flowers are blooming all over.

Today we remember; tomorrow we celebrate our freedom.

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