The recent Sabbath murder of a rabbi in Miami, the sucker-punching of Jews outside a kosher restaurant in Montreal, and many similar incidents around the world do not point to a rise in Jew hatred. Rather, they show that anti-Semites (whether neo-Nazi or Muslim) feel more comfortable expressing their contempt, whether through insults, vandalism, or physical assault. The Miami police immediately declared there was no evidence the rabbi’s murder
was a hate crime, even though the nearby synagogue had recently been defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti. In Montreal, the police tried to discourage the victim from filing a police report, and then drove off. A member of Hatzoloh, the Jewish Emergency Volunteer Service, rushed to help the injured man in their stead.
In Calgary, as reported in a previous post, the police were out of sight when Jews were assaulted by Muslim demonstrators. In Paris, pro-Palestinian demonstrators armed with rocks, glass, axes and knives advanced on a synagogue as police lost control. Jewish youth became warriors, defending the synagogue. Some were injured, mostly at the hands of gendarmes supposedly keeping the peace. And there are many places in Europe where the police fear to tread. The authorities, to put it simply, cannot be relied upon.
An ancient Jewish teaching (Sotah 49b) asks “On whom shall we rely? On our Father in Heaven.” This can be interpreted as a denial of nature, of cause and effect. For example according to this interpretation, if someone swings a baseball bat at your head, ducking is not going to make a difference. All that matters is whether or not God wants you to get hit. Getting a good job will not be more financially rewarding than studying Torah or playing X-Box, if God doesn’t plan for you to do well.
This is not the traditional Jewish approach, but rather a twentieth century innovation. The Bible teaches that when Jacob was about to meet his brother Esau, he was afraid that he and his family would be killed in revenge for Jacob’s
having stolen their father’s blessings many years earlier. Jacob did three things to protect himself. He sent Esau gifts to appease him, to make peace. He prayed to his Father in Heaven. And he prepared for war.
The historic slaughters of Jews are well-known: the Holocaust, the Chmielniki pogroms, the Crusades. Many times, Jews went silently to their deaths. Many times, such as in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, they fought to the death.
The Judean Revolt was Crushed by a Jewish Warrior
Once Jews were warriors, from their entry into Canaan under Joshua, through the kings of Judea, the Hasmonean rebels and the Roman military. The Emperor Vespasian appointed an Alexandrian Jew named Tiberius Julius Alexander to spearhead his effort to crush the Judean rebellion of 69 CE (a precedent for modern assimilated Jews attacking Israel). Jews were valued members of the Roman military for centuries before and after.
Jews should definitely rely on the “Father in Heaven.” But Jewish teachings also specify not to rely on miracles. The Patriarch Jacob didn’t: he prepared for war.
In Israel, the IDF must always be prepared, or the country will be wiped out. On Yom Kippur, 1973, it wasn’t prepared. Some attribute Israel’s survival to God’s intervention. Others credited it (at least in part) to President Richard Nixon’s insistence that Israel must be saved, no matter what it took.
And in the diaspora? Must individual, civilian Jews be prepared for war? They can’t rely on the police. Sometimes the police can’t intervene, sometimes they won’t bother to. Will hiring a few security guards protect Jewish institutions from vandalism or assault? When a Palestinian or neo-Nazi wants to terrorize Jewish children, is the proper response to cower or hide? To wear a baseball cap instead of a skullcap?
In nineteen-sixty, John Howard Griffin wanted to understand the black experience in America, and undertook medical treatments to change his skin color. He was shocked at the extent of prejudice, oppression and hardship he went through.
In two thousand fourteen, Ryan Bellerose, a Native American, wanted to understand the Jewish experience, and wore a kippa, a Jewish skullcap for a week. He was shocked by the glares, by the ignorance, and outright bigotry. He was shocked at being called “Genocider, Jew baby-killer.” Bellerose, a physically intimidating man, considered that if he was treated this way, what happened to Jews who did not look like they could defend themselves?
Jews can’t all be a Steven Seagal or a Ryan Bellerose, but they must develop a reputation as civilized warriors, slow to anger, but capable of defending themselves. Cowardly attackers should not be able to assume that it’s safe to strike. Anti-Semites should not feel it’s
safe to physically express their hatred. It’s time once again for Jews to be physically intimidating.
It’s time for Jews to once again pick up their warrior mantle, to learn to fight, to injure those who would hurt them. It’s time for self-defence to become a compulsory subject at Jewish schools. Jews can still rely on the “Father in Heaven,” but not just through prayer and supplication. It’s not the kind of world we want to see, but it’s what’s the world’s becoming; not just for Jews, but for any non-Muslim living somewhere with a significant Muslim population. The Jews are the prime target of Jihadis, but certainly not the only one.
As George Washington said, “To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.” Let’s drop our old assumptions, and preserve the peace.