Seven Decades of Czech-Israeli Friendship

Dec. 19 2017

Shortly after the American declaration acknowledging Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state, the Czech Republic joined suit. Amnon Lord notes that, in doing so, it followed a tradition of sympathy for the Zionist cause that goes back to the War of Independence, when Czechoslovakia sent much-need arms to a nascent Israel. Lord contrasts this reaction to that of Germany:

In Germany, a major news channel devoted ten minutes of a fifteen-minute broadcast to the horrible scandal caused by [U.S. recognition of Jerusalem]. The anchor [explained that] the American president had taken such an unreasonable step . . . “because of his evangelical supporters and ‘rich donors.’” It seems that Germany hasn’t changed. Anti-Semitism is like malaria; it doesn’t go away.

In contrast to the attack [on the White House’s decision delivered by] Germany’s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, the stance of the Czech Republic’s President Miloš Zeman shines brightly. The Czechs know what it is to be a small country sold out by a bunch of strong and hypocritical nations. We saw this Sunday in Emmanuel Macron’s chilly reception for Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Czech admiration of Israel in the post-Communist era stems from rebellion. In Czechoslovakia in 1948 there was real admiration for the newly established state of Israel, and the assistance it received from the Czechs will forever be remembered by Israel’s people. . . . In 1967, popular admiration for Israel broke out again after the military victory of the Six-Day War, which is still being mourned by the rest of Europe and the Israeli and American left. But not by the Czechs. . . . [T]he Six-Day War victory gave the Czechs courage and inspiration for the Prague Spring, which then turned into a twenty-year winter. . . .

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Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Anti-Semitism, Czech Republic, Czechoslovakia, Israel & Zionism, Israeli War of Independence, Israeli-German relations, Jerusalem

The Proper Jewish Response to the Pittsburgh Massacre

Nov. 21 2018

In the Jewish tradition, it is commonplace to add the words zikhronam li-vrakhah (may their memory be for a blessing) after the names of the departed, but when speaking of those who have been murdered because they were Jews, a different phrase is used: Hashem yikom damam—may God avenge their blood. Meir Soloveichik explains:

The saying reflects the fact that when it comes to mass murderers, Jews do not believe that we must love the sinner while hating the sin; in the face of egregious evil, we will not say the words ascribed to Jesus on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” We believe that a man who shoots up a synagogue knows well what he does; that a murderer who sheds the blood of helpless elderly men and women knows exactly what he does; that one who brings death to those engaged in celebrating new life knows precisely what he does. To forgive in this context is to absolve; and it is, for Jews, morally unthinkable.

But the mantra for murdered Jews that is Hashem yikom damam bears a deeper message. It is a reminder to us to see the slaughter of eleven Jews in Pennsylvania not only as one terrible, tragic moment in time, but as part of the story of our people, who from the very beginning have had enemies that sought our destruction. There exists an eerie parallel between Amalek, the tribe of desert marauders that assaulted Israel immediately after the Exodus, and the Pittsburgh murderer. The Amalekites are singled out by the Bible from among the enemies of ancient Israel because in their hatred for the chosen people, they attacked the weak, the stragglers, the helpless, those who posed no threat to them in any way.

Similarly, many among the dead in Pittsburgh were elderly or disabled; the murderer smote “all that were enfeebled,” and he “feared not God.” Amalek, for Jewish tradition, embodies evil incarnate in the world; we are commanded to remember Amalek, and the Almighty’s enmity for it, because, as Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik explained, the biblical appellation refers not only to one tribe but also to our enemies throughout the ages who will follow the original Amalek’s example. To say “May God avenge their blood” is to remind all who hear us that there is a war against Amalek from generation to generation—and we believe that, in this war, God is not neutral.

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More about: Amalek, Anti-Semitism, Judaism, Religion & Holidays