Thursday, May 16, 2024

An Iron Dome

I can't imagine it and I assume that unless you lived through it, you can't imagine it either: the daily barrages of rockets, not only interrupting your daily life, but threatening your very existence. It is very hard for those who live in the relative calm of America to have the slightest inkling of the fear that hovers over the heads of so many toshvei Eretz Yisroel during these last weeks and those who live in the southern sections of the land over the past number of years.

Just a week ago, I was in the country and I got caught in a deluge of torrential rain. Raindrops. Thousands of them. They were literally pounding on the safe haven of my automobile. And even though I felt relatively safe inside, the crackle of lightning, the boom of thunder, and the ever pounding of the raindrops combined with pellets of hail to shake my nerves. I will admit that as much as I stayed calm for the kids in the car, I was personally petrified. I thought it a good time to try for a brief moment to empathize with, or at least try to imagine, what they are going through in Eretz Yisroel, especially when I imagined rockets instead of droplets, and the tears of two little ones in the back seat being the tears of fear that flow daily from the eyes of our children across the Atlantic and across the Mediterranean.


Others have told me that they have a certain phone app that is able to sound an air raid siren coinciding exactly with one going off in Eretz Yisroel. It can get unnerving, especially if the phone is left on over Shabbos. 


There is probably an inyan to perform those types of activities that shake us from the mundane lives we lead and try to empathize with, or try to put ourselves in the place of, our brethren. 


But even in Eretz Yisroel, it is not so easy to do so. I have heard from the heart of Yerusalayim that life goes on as normal, and until the sirens go off, things are relatively calm. And maybe they have to be. After all, people must live normal lives and have the peace of mind to continue whatever it is they are doing in order to feed their families and learn Torah. Talking about the war surely does nothing to help the battle, and if our job is to sit and learn, then standing on a mirpeset and scouring the sky for missiles adds nothing to the conversation.


So life in Israel goes on, and people withstand the fear. Most of them, I would believe, have tremendous faith in the true Ananei Hakavod of the Ribono Shel Olam’s providence. They surely believe that He is sending each missile to its proper address, hopefully not one where His children dwell.  Indeed, each siren, like the thunderous booms during a storm, which Chazal tell us “were meant to straighten the crookedness of the heart,” are doing their job. Well, sort of.


And then came the Iron Dome. Indeed, the combination of Israeli ingenuity and American funding is a tremendous gift. But like everything gifted, it comes with a price.  I don’t only mean the price that America will ask in terms of compromise and concession. I refer to a bit of complacency, even a tiny bit of complacency that may erode previous fear and maybe even one tefillah from one lonely Jew. The Iron Dome is being hailed in the Israeli media. The front page of Yediot Acharonot carried the headline “Golden Dome,” with a huge spread of the system in action. Every single newspaper or commentator I have seen claims that the Iron Dome has “changed the face of the battle.”


Indeed, it has, and for residents of towns as far south as Beer Sheva and as far north as Haifa, there is a sigh of relief.


But the sigh only lasts so long. The Iron Dome can’t help stop terrorists emerging from a tunnel and it cannot prevent ambushes upon foot soldiers on the ground.


It seems that every time we heave a sigh of relief, experiencing a bit of calm after horrific tragedies, new and worse ones arise in their place. As a yeshiva bochur, an aphorism was floating in the halls of my mesivta. It was said about “yene machlah” at a time when we knew it and referred to it as such. The word in yeshiva was that the Chazon Ish had said that there was a cure (and maybe he even said that he knew it), but if they would cure that disease on a global level, a new and worse one would arise.


I sort of feel that way in this golus. Indeed, it is almost impossible to imagine anything worse in scope and nature than the devastation of Churban Europe. But there are elements of hatred that transcend the apathy of the 1940s that in many ways are fertilizing the ground to create horrific devastation.


The portion of victims known as the Jews were mostly ignored during World War II. The tracks were not bombed and the people were not ransomed or even saved. There was apathy, indifference, even a subtle contempt for the poor Jews. Indeed, there was an Iron Dome – Dome in this case meaning quiet. A piercing silence of apathy from the world.  Officially, however, there was sympathy, the type reserved for coffer clutches and parlor meetings. After all, those poor Jews were being victimized by the very vicious aggressors whom our boys were fighting across the Atlantic. I guess even the most WASPy of Americans felt that the enemy of our enemy could not be all that bad. We, as Jews, realized that even though no effort was made directly to help our brothers, the Allies were still fighting our battle and attempting to kill our enemies as well.


They had long passed the point of appeasement, and the goal of England, America and Russia was one and the same: total victory and conquest of the oppressor. That oppressor was the oppressor of the Jewish nation. We may not have had the world fight with us. We may not have had the world fighting for us. But we had the world fight the enemy who was trying to destroy us. Ultimately, their victory led to our redemption.


Fifty years later, we face another enemy that wants to annihilate us. He uses Israel instead of Jew. He uses Palestine instead of Aryan. But he has the same goals fed to his Mufti forebear of theology. He wants the Jews driven off the face of the earth.


But fifty years later, this enemy is not being fought by other world powers, and his victim is not garnering any lip service of mercy. The oppressor is not considered an enemy to the West. The goal is not his defeat. The goal is appeasement. Gaza was his Sudetenland and Jerusalem is his Warsaw. There is no one but the former victims of the last terrible oppressor willing to stop him. The Churchills are long gone and the Chamberlains have moved their address from 10 Downing Street in London to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington.


The protests that fill the streets of Manhattan are not for families being attacked by hundreds of missiles daily. Rather, they are protesting on behalf of a vile enemy who wishes a second Holocaust, lo aleinu. And the world is not apathetic to the victims. They are sympathetic to his enemy.


And that, I believe, may be a greater tragedy than the evil of the enemy himself. It is the lonely isolation of golus, the bodod that transcends the confrontation. And then there is no one to rely on but the One Above, He who transcends any Iron Dome.



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