Shalom, Peace, Frieden, "Pacem in Terris, et ad hominem, bonis volens."
“Peace on earth and good will to men”. So say our Christian brethren
on their most important Holy Day and we say to that “Omane”, Amen, So be it.
is no surprise to anyone that the Judeo-Christian tradition views peace as its
most important goal and that we and others have prayed for peace for thousands
of years. The truth is that we have accomplished a great deal over the years
that civilized man has been on this earth. Only one thing has always eluded us.
Keeping the peace.
the horrible events of September 11 cannot be erased from our minds it is
certain that those horrors will one day be included in history books alongside
such other horrors as the HOLOCAUST, innumerable wars, the terror of the French
revolution, the brutality meted out the South American Indians, the endless
slaughter in China and all over Asia etc., etc. etc. ad infinitum, ad nauseam.
view of our failure to succeed in this most vital aspect of human existence we
once more turn to our Torah and our sages and ask what we can learn from that
great source of Jewish and human experience.
begin with Shemoth (Exodus) 20:13. “You shall not murder”. Those who
deliberately murdered 6,000 innocent people in this country, those who
deliberately murdered hundreds of Israelis and even their own people live in a
world utterly devoid of that most basic understanding of human needs and
experience. Like their Nazi spiritual fathers, McVeigh, Arafat, Gacey, Bin Ladin,
Huberty and numerous others never learned the rudiments of human kindness and
sympathy. They murder because they like to kill.
look at the Jewish hope for this world. What phrase is better known, what
sentence more often repeated by all the Judeo-Christian world than the words of
the prophet Yishayahoo (Isaiah 2:4). “Nation shall not lift up sword against
nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” Many of us may despair and say
that that will never happen. But Jews never despair. We know that the end of war
will happen and that universal peace will come. Only that knowledge makes it
possible for us to keep trying, keep teaching, keep repeating with Meechah
(Micah 4:4), “They shall sit, each one under his vine and his fig tree and no
one shall make them afraid.”
look again at the Talmud which teaches (Mishnah Snahedrin 4:5), “One person
alone was brought forth at the time of creation in order to teach us that one
who destroys a single human life is regarded as the destroyer of the whole
world, while one who preserves a single human life is regarded as the preserver
of the whole world.”
us Jews there is no doubt our mission in this world is to “be a light unto the
nations” and teach them peace.
Jews have always contended that peace is not only the absence of war. Peace, in
the Jewish tradition, is the effort we have always made to promote human
brotherhood, to live in harmony with those who differ from us, to show love and
kindness to everyone and to insist on social justice. It is our view that this
definition of peace began in Israel and from there is diffused to all the world
as the Torah says: Kee Mitzion Taytsay Torah, U’dvar Hashem Mee Yerusholayim”
- “For Out of Zion shall come forth the Law and the word of G-d from
is of course the City of Peace. That is its meaning. Yet, as we read these lines
we cannot but compare these lofty doctrines with the reality of suicide bombers
who murder innocent children in Jerusalem. We cannot overlook the daily terror
attacks upon our brethren in Judea and Samaria and Gaza who are subjected to
endless murder driven by hate and an utter failure to know the words of
Berayshiyt (Genesis 9:5-6) "…..for in the image of G-d made he man.”
That includes Arafat, Bin Ladin and the terrorists who hide their faces behind
bandanas as they run through the streets of Gaza screaming “kill the Jews.”
Jews are forbidden to hate even them. Look at Devoriym (Deuteronomy 23:8). Here
we find this sentence: “You shall not abhor an Edomite (Arab), for he is your
brother; you shall not abhor an Egyptian for you were a stranger in his land.”
we take all that seriously does this then mean that we must sit still and let
ourselves be murdered at will? Surely that is not the meaning of the Jewish hope
for peace. In a world which still includes millions of those who have no idea of
ethics or moral principles we have no choice but to defend our lives and the
Jewish civilization which has taught those ethics to half the world.
is an aberration and a perversion of our teachings to pretend that Jews must
always walk into the gas ovens or suicide bombs with bowed heads while mumbling
ancient prayers. Some of our so-called “liberals” choose to interpret our
tradition to mean that any aggression against us is justifiable, that we may
never fight back lest we are guilty of being “war mongers” and that the
victims are at fault.
see this once more in the so-called “peace rallies” staged by those who
demand that the United States, our country, sit idle while the haters and the
psychotic killers plot more mayhem against us. Surely, that is not our attitude.
we must do now is what the people of Israel have known for a century of terror
directed against them. We must remember our teachings but we must also defend
is not one instance, not one, in which a Jew or any Jews have attacked the Arab
people surrounding Israel. Before the independence of Israel became reality in
1948 Jewish pioneers were endlessly assaulted and
murdered by the local Arab population. Remember once more the heroic
defense of Tel Chai by Joseph Trumpeldor in 1929.
1947 the Jews of Israel accepted the partition of the Holy Land despite the fact
that the land had already been divided by the British occupiers and all the east
bank of the Jordan given to the Arabs. Yet, our enemies were not satisfied and
attacked the 600,000 Jews then living there in the hope of killing all.
They failed again in 1956, in 1967, in 1973 and on and on and on.
know that only a little more than one year ago, the government of Prime Minister
Ehud Barak acceded to all the demands of Arafat and his terrorists. Barak was
willing to give him the whole “west bank”, the Jordan river valley, the old
city of Yerusholayim and more. Yet, Arafat refused. He could have had everything
he said he wanted all these years. Yet, he refused. Had he accepted
he would have had to make peace with Israel and that he could not bring himself
to do. For Arafat and his supporters war and killing, hatred and
destruction are all important life goals. Peace is anathema to them.
Murder is their nirvana.
that spirit the murderers attacked the World Trade Center believing they would
enter “Paradise” for doing so. We Jews and our Christian brethren look in
horror at this nightmare knowing all the while that even now those who are so
benighted as to do these deeds and those who support them will yet one day say
with us: “Yehee Shlomo Rabo --- may there be abundant peace from heaven” and
“ Ossee Shalom bimromaov who yaasee shalom, alaynoo v’al kol Yisrael” -
“He who brings peace to His universe will bring peace to us and to all Israel
(and all mankind) Bimhayro v’yomaynoo. Now and in our day.
Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of Stigma: How We Treat Outsiders (Prometheus Books, 2001) and over 60 other publications.