A message for Passover: Should the people of Israel become the Jews of silence?
Fifty years ago, Elie Wiesel, then a little known Israeli news correspondent in the U.S. wrote a book that shook the soul of a generation: “The Jews of Silence.” Wiesel described two kinds of of silence: Jews in Galut who were silent about the fate of their brethren in the USSR ... the Jews who were silenced in the USSR.
At Akiba, the high school I attended in Philadelphia, our student council asked Wiesel to speak for the school commencement ceremony for the class of 1967, the year before I graduate. And Wiesel did speak on the night of June 6, 1967, the second night of the Six day war, following a three week siege of which frightened the Jewish world.
Wiesel tossed out his prepared text, and addressed “an Israel that stood alone” in May 1967. “Where was France, Israel’s only ally?”, Wiesel asked. Wiesel said that the moments of trepidation in May 1967 brought him back to World War II when Jews stood alone and to the fate of his family in the crematoria—when no one cared, and when few spoke out when it counted. Indeed, Wiesel’s message that night was that we are indeed alone, which meant that we cannot be silent in the face of overwhelming odds.
Fast foreward 47 years: A nascent entity has emerged on Israel’s frontiers, carved out of the PLO—the Palestine Liberation Organization—created by the Arab League in 1964 to galvanize local Arabs to liberate Palestine, all of Palestine, under the war whoop of the “right of return”—by force of arms. Twenty years ago, with the launch of the peace process and the Palestinian Authority, you could not discern that the message of the PA was one of peace. But the people of Israel hoped for the best, because this was a peace process.
Why is this Pesach different than any other Passover for the past 20 years? Now, all bets are off. The PA does not mask its genocidal purpose, to wipe out the state of of Israel and to replace it with an Arab Palestine.
All you have to do is to watch PA TV, listen to PA radio, read PA newspapers, peruse PA school books and follow all public statements of the PA. Most people in Israel prefer not to see the PA. Most people do not even know that the Arab League pioneered the PLO to join the continuing the 1948 war to exterminate the entity that is Israel.
The people of Israel hope for the best, listening to news anchors who speak every day about a peace process and about an entity which is described as a peace partner.
It would seem that some people, even when they are sober, can not tell the difference between Mordecai and Haman. Perhaps that is the reason why Purim and Pesach are obligatory. On both festival days, Jews cope with the reality that in every generation, there are those who really want to exterminate the Jews... To paraphrase Wiesel, God does not want the people of Israel to become “Jews of Silence.”
David Bedein is director of the Israel Resource News Agency, Center for Near East Policy Research.