The “Jude”on the Yellow Star

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When Israeli soldiers entered a barricaded room in Gush Katif, out marched a group of weeping children. Their hands were held up, and each one was wearing the yellow star with the word “jude” in Germanic characters emblazoned upon it.

Do such tactics trivialize the real Holocaust? Some say so. After all, as tragic as these evictions are, these Jews are being expelled not by Nazis who wish to destroy them, but by fellow Jews who, for the most part, have tried to display gentleness and sympathy.

Nevertheless, in the air there lingers a faint Holocaust aroma: forced evacuations; barriers of barbed wire; people forbidden to enter the area; notices from the government ordering residents to pack their belongings and be ready to leave their homes by a date certain, and threatening that those not leaving voluntarily will be forcibly evicted and will lose their compensation benefits; Jews barricading themselves in synagogues while other Jews forcibly pull them out. Synagogues and yeshivot are now dark, cemeteries are uprooted, thousands of Jewish refugees are bussed into the heartland not knowing where they will spend the next night, or what their future holds, and all the while an enemy sworn to destroy Israel proclaims victory and moves into the abandoned land. To be sure, not a Holocaust, but certainly redolent of it.

[By the way, did not secular Zionism promise us that if we only had our own land, such things could not occur? Was not this Jewish land supposed to put an end to forced exile? And through it all, these same secular Zionists, those whose “religion” consists only of fealty to the land, look with equanimity — and some even with satisfaction — as their religion is dismantled.]

Could anyone have missed the searing pain in one verse of last Shabbat’s Torah reading? In it, the Children of Israel are promised that the newly entered Land will be ready for their immediate use, with “cities which you did not build… hewed out wells that you did not hew, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant. . . .”(Dt. 6:10-11). Today’s Israeli leadership has turned the Torah on its face and has knowingly invited our mortal enemies to enter the Land and inherit vineyards and olive trees they did not plant – all in the name of a dubious peace. The prophet Zephaniah’s words ring clearly in our ears: “ki ‘Azah ‘azuvah tihyeh/for Gaza will become forsaken. . . . “(2:4)

The extraordinary drama playing out before our eyes is so irrational, so illogical, so lunatic, so beyond mortal comprehension – my adjectives fail me – that on a basic level one has the sense that Israel has been hi-jacked by madmen, that the asylum has been taken over by the inmates, that Chelm lives again. The disaster which was Oslo is only a few years old, but before our own eyes it is being tried once again – and by the very Prime Minister who once derided it.

On a transcendental level, however, the obvious irrationality of it all, suggests that there is more here than meets the eye, and that something supernatural is taking place.

No one among us can speak for Him, but it is possible that this velvet-gloved mini-Holocaust is a loving but painful tap on the shoulder, a wake-up call reminding us to consider who we are, where we come from, and where we are going.

How does one respond? At the very least, we might consider bringing ourselves in for a spiritual tune-up. Maybe we need to inspect our praying, revisit our Torah learning, clean out our interpersonal relationships, energize our tzedakah, recharge our awareness of an omnipresent Master, re-examine our connection to Eretz Yisrael. Surely in our Creator’s mysterious ways, the seeds of redemption and Geulah are now being sowed. Perhaps some serious introspection on our part will help those seeds to sprout. This is one way we can help ensure that the trauma of this period will not have been in vain.

We should thank those children for wearing that yellow “jude.” The sight of them helps stir us from our long torpor, and challenges us to reinvigorate that genuine “jude” slumbering deep within us.

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16 Responses

  1. Netanel Livni says:

    Hanan,

    “The LAUSD is thinking of taking peoples home in a part of Southgate”

    Are they doing it because the residents are Jews?????

    “I would like you to bring up some instances that people in Gaza have been kidnapped and tortured.”

    Follow the link above.

    “If it was only the religious ones that were targeted, I would see your point”

    Of course not every Jew or community in Aza is religious but the whole settlement enterprise is seen by the left as being a religious movement so while some non-religious Jews suffer in the process, the battle is against the only threat the secular hegemony in Israel, namely the religious.

    Max,

    “Netaniel, do you have any idea what it was like 70 years ago in Germany?”

    Only from the stories I heard from survivors. Some of those survivors lived in the Gush and say that the scenes they saw reminded them of what happened 60 years ago. In any case, nobody is saying that this is the SAME as what happened, only that it is VERY SIMILAR. Can anyone here understand that distinction????

  2. Max Stesel says:

    “So I am afraid to say, what is happening today is frighteningly similar to what happened in Germany 70 years ago.”

    Netaniel, do you have any idea what it was like 70 years ago in Germany? Fortunatily I do not either. But I had pleasure living in the Soviet Union in its latter years. Let me tell you, if children would be sent to block a road there in the act of political protest, they would disappear, so would their siblings, parents, grandparents and other close friends and relatives. No media, no lawyers, no protests.

    So please realize that when a person compares what took place in Gaza to Holocaust, they lose all credibility in the eyes of anybody who has minimul awareness of Holocaust or had ever experienced life in totalitarian society.

  3. Hanan says:

    Nati,

    What are you talking about. There were settlements out there that were totally secular that were dismantled. If it was only the religious ones that were targeted, I would see your point. But every settlement was taken down, both secular and religious both in Gaza and West Bank. You are just falling into this trap that fanatic rabbis do when they try to make similarities between every single situation with one another Jewish historical tragedy that NO similarities. You are taken a small piece of the Holocaust which was the forced evacuation of Jews and comparing it to Gaza. The Holocaust was not just that, it was everything. They were done for 2 different reasons. The holocaust (evaculations, ghettos, forced labor, final solution) was done from pure hatred and to elimate all memory of the Jews from the Earth. The Gaza withdrawal is nothing like that nor is done out petty hatred of the Religious Jews as you claim. Do you I deny that there are those in the Knesset that hate the religiuos people, of course I don’t. But you seem to think that has lead to the total withdrawal from Gaza.

  4. Hanan says:

    “Do the people commenting on this blog really not see ANY similarity between what the Nazis did and what the government of Israel has done???”

    Netanel-

    NO,NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO.

    Oh what the heck. The LAUSD is thinking of taking peoples home in a part of Southgate (Los Angeles) to build another school. The residents don’t like and will be probably be forced to leave. If they don’t they will be incarcerated. They might scream and shout and create a human chain to prevent the bulldosers from coming in. I guess we can say it bears “similarity” of a Holocaust there too right? Let me tell you, if anyone throws acid at soldiers (not just Jewish, anyone) do you really expect that soldier to be kind and say “please.” That person that threw that acid is going to get hit hard… oh but wait, I guess that bears similarity to the Holocaust as well.

    I would like you to bring up some instances that people in Gaza have been kidnapped and tortured.

  5. Max Stesel says:

    Dear Zev,
    Are we now so gullible, that we believe every word of a politician. Or were the voters unaware of corruption within Likud prior to elections? The voters expressed their will by giving the majority of seats in the Knesset to Likud, Labor and Shinui. We have seen how Likud lead the country under Natinyahu, and how they gave away under the Wye Agreement more than Rabin did. So if the voters were interested in advancing the settlement of the entire Land of Israel, they would go elsewhere, and they did not. But that is not the main point of my response. I think evacuating Gush Katif was a bad decision and its residents were wronged by the state which sent them there. But comparing forced evacuation of Gush Katif to Holocaust is an outrage, factually delusional, and plants dangerous seeds of deep hatred and violence.

  6. Netanel Livni says:

    Max,

    for the truth regarding the use of violence during the expulsion, please see the following testimonies http://www.inn.co.il/newspaper.php?id=4775 to get a picture that the media just left out. There was and still is horrid brutality on the site of both police and soldiers against very threatening Jewish 12 year old girls and mothers in wheelchairs. Kidush Hashem??? Rashi in Yechezkiel 36 says that Jews being expelled from their land is one of the biggest chillul Hashem that can occur, all the more so when done by Jews. As for the Arabs, how can you compare the expulsion of Arabs which we are commanded to do by the Torah to the expulsion of Jews from their homeland?

    The Nazi’s didn’t wage a war against humanity, they wages a war against G-d and His people. This was their crime. The current government ignores G-d’s will completely and is waging war against anyone it sees as being loyal to G-d. The Chareidim and the Dati Leumi should both wake up and know that the issue was never left wing vs. right wing, but rather believer vs. non-believer. So I am afraid to say, what is happening today is frighteningly similar to what happened in Germany 70 years ago.

  7. Zev says:

    “once Israeli government decided that most of its voters are tired of taking a risk of losing their children to protect 9000 Jews living in Gush Katif among 1.3 Million Arabs,”

    Oh, and when did the voters get a chance to speak? Did Sharon allow a referendum on the issue? Actually, most of the voters spoke against the disengagement, when they elected Sharon in place of Mitzna. Let me remind you, as you seem to have forgotten: In the last election, it was Mitzna who proposed unilateral disengagement, and Sharon who opposed it. The voters chose Sharon and his message, only to face betrayal when he took office.

  8. Max Stesel says:

    Dear Rabbi Feldman,
    With all the respect, I am shocked to read this short essay, especially, considering that it was penned by a person of your statue and accomplishments.

    “To be sure, not a Holocaust, but certainly redolent of it.”… “Today’s Israeli leadership has turned the Torah on its face and has knowingly invited our mortal enemies to enter the Land and inherit vineyards and olive trees they did not plant – all in the name of a dubious peace.”

    Did not United Torah Judaism provide a life-line to this government, after its intentions in Gush Katif became absolutely clear and is still present in the government. So to continue with you parallel, is the leadership of UTJ redolent of Nazis or their collaborators, G-d Forbid? As it is, the tacit endorsement of UTJ for Gush Katif destruction, poses a formidable challenge in Emunas Chachomim to many observers. The tone of your essay explodes the challenge into catastrophe. And what about the children that donned yellow stars, if the government is redolent of Nazis, would not violence against the government and its agents be justified? If we continue hunting Nazis 60 years after Holocaust, are you not concerned that some parents had planted the seeds of hatred and fratricidal violence for generations to come, may Hashem have mercy on us.

    Besides the horrible implications of using Holocaust analogy, it is simply delusional and totally opposite from the truth. While I do not believe Gush Katif evacuation was a justified solution, the manner in which it was carried out was a tremendous Kiddush Hashem. In what other country do soldiers and police cry and pray with their opponents and help them pack their bags. In any other country faced with burning tires, dangerous chemicals and unruly crowds, the response would be minimally tear gas and rubber bullets, but Thank G-d we did not see any of that. This is also a credit to most settlers, the main victims of forced evacuation who unlike acted with restraint and honor. Many had remarked that the massive prayer gathering at the Kosel prior to disengagement brought no results. How wrong, was not lack of bloodshed and outpouring of compassion by the other’s opponents, not a tremendous result. Was the G-d’s Name not glorified in the most public fashion when in front of the entire world his firstborn children showed love and compassion when others would revert to violence.

    Dear Netanel Livni, I think I explained above why compassion with which forced evacuation was carried out can not be compared with the hatred and violence Jews experienced during Holocaust. I just wanted to ask you, once Israeli government decided that most of its voters are tired of taking a risk of losing their children to protect 9000 Jews living in Gush Katif among 1.3 Million Arabs, what would you have the government do, withdraw its armed forces and let the Gush Katif Jews fend for themselves. Would that be a better solution? And now, for intellectual consistency, now that Israeli government is taking over Arab-owned lands for fence construction in Judea and disperses with tear gas and rubber bullets anti-fence protests, do you refer to that as mini-Holocaust as well?

    We live 60 years after finding of the state of Israel. Its government is our government, its built and continues to build settlements through out Land of Israel. It has supported financially and continues to support Torah institutions through out Land of Israel. If it is a secular government, it is reflection of the country’s population. May be more of us (including myself) should come to Israel and may be those of us who are there should lovingly try to bring their secular brothers first to love and fear Hashem, and then appreciate the value of staying in Gush Katif and other dangerous parts of our G-d given heritage.

  9. Lipman says:

    This is cynical. The children are traumatised anyway, then their own parents incite them with terrible Christian-style martyrdom stories, and to crown this, they order them to force “Jude” stars?! (May I remind you of the fact that not the IDF people, but the settlers forced the children to wear this?)

    On another issue, you write word “jude” in Germanic characters. I’m not sure what “Germanic characters” are – did you mean “Gothic” like on old-style pubs? Though loved by neo-Nazis, this writing was never confined to German, and apart from that, davke the Nazis abolished it in the early 1940’s (in order to be able to spread their ideology better in France, or the like).

    Anyway, the letters you’re referring to are not Germanic, but, on the contrary, pseudo-Hebrew. I never understood why some American Jewish publications use this Nazi font.

  10. Netanel Livni says:

    Do the people commenting on this blog really not see ANY similarity between what the Nazis did and what the government of Israel has done???

    They took a whole stretch of the Jewish homeland and passed laws saying that Jews may not live in this area. Any Jew found in this area will be subject to legal police violence, kidnapping, torture, and incarceration. This time they didn’t kill anyone, but do you really not see ANY similarity. Keep in mind the writer did not say that this is the same but rather that there are scary similarities. I think he makes a very valid point.

  11. JW says:

    “When Israeli soldiers entered a barricaded room in Gush Katif, out marched a group of weeping children. Their hands were held up, and each one was wearing the yellow star with the word “jude” in Germanic characters emblazoned upon it.”

    When scenes like this played out in the early 1940s, the perpetrators viewed Jews as an inferior race that had to be destroyed, and the children were shipped off to be killed in gas chambers and incinerated.

    In 2005, these children and their families are being re-settled inside a strong, independent Jewish state for the sake of its security.

    It’s tragic to see families uprooted from their homes and communities, especially when national policies both sent them there and caused their removal. But comparing the disengagement from Gaza to the Holocaust is simply sickening.

  12. Hanan says:

    Ok, where do I start.

    I won’t talk about the disengament itself. I was in favor of it, but respect the other side as well, but I do want to say some stuff regarding bringing the Holocaust into this.

    “Do such tactics trivialize the real Holocaust? Some say so.”

    Some say so? SOME? I think the majority of thinking individuals with some heart say it trivializes it.

    “Nevertheless, in the air there lingers a faint Holocaust aroma; forced evacuations; barriers of barbed wire; people forbidden to enter the area; notices from the government ordering residents to pack their belongings and be ready to leave their homes by a date certain, and threatening that those not leaving voluntarily will be forcibly evicted and will lose their compensation benefit…[etc]. ”

    “…velvet-gloved mini-Holocaust”

    I literally had to stop what I’m doing and take a deep breath after reading this. You can sit there and give those examples, of bearing any lingering aroma of the Holocaust. Have we all truly forgotten what the holocaust was about and how the Gaza situation is absolutely NOTHING like the Holocaust? The holocaust was about pure, 100% raw hatred for the Jews. It was about humiliating us for the sake of humiliation. It was about treating us like rats and filth. And finally it was about the Nazis finding total enjoyment in seeing the total annihalation of the Jews. To put our bodies in ovens and having them smile while we screamed in pain. Thats what the Holocaust was.

    I hope Toby Katz is reading this, because this here is the perfect example of why Holocaust Study IS NEEDED.

    “We should thank those children for wearing that yellow “jude.””

    I’m glad my grandfather is not reading this.

  13. kaspit.typepad.com says:

    Suffering, unjust, displaced, forced, irrational …

    But to ask children to wear that yellow jude?!

    Rabbi, with all due respect, this tactic and your comparison to the Holocaust? And putting one’s children up to it? Inappropriate and wrong to the nth degree. Indeed, this completely undermines opposition to the disengagement.

  14. Netanel Livni says:

    dochesed,

    “Furthermore, is there really any reason to criticize secular Zionists on their own terms”

    He is not criticizing them using their terms, but rather with the Torah values the writer holds dear.

    Do you really think that the only evil of the Holocaust were the death camps? If the Nazis had stopped with forced deportations, would they not be listed among the evil regimes of Jewish history? According to your logic, everything the Nazis did up until 1942 when they formulated their final solution falls into the realm of the legitimate. What the writer seems to be saying is that there is a similarity between Germany of 1933-1942 and the state of Israel today.

    Your waxing poetic about Israeli democracy is also disingenuous and does not recognize the level of disenfranchisement that has been inflicted on all religious Jews that live in the state.

    This is of course without taking into account the most important factor that this whole plan was a crime against G-d and His Torah.

  15. dochesed says:

    Oh, please. Is there really any comparison to the holocaust?
    Tell me why this rhetoric does not trivialize (I chose the word deliberately) the deaths of 6 million Jews.

    Furthermore, is there really any reason to criticize secular zionists on their own terms? The secular zionists only claimed that they would create a “state like any other state”.

    This state finds itself in a very dangerous neigborhood. Based on then-current geo-political realities and internal politics, this state followed a policy involving settling Jews in an area that it had not annexed. Today based on now-current geo-political realities and internal politics, this state is following a policy involving removing those settlements. That is what normal states do. This is Jews making decisions about Jews and implementing those decisions. This is exactly what the Zionist founders had in mind.

    When a normal state takes property by eminent domain, one can have the same situation. People refusing to leave are removed by force. As long as the government need was real, we feel for the families who lose their homes, but we do not compare the situation to the holocaust. The real issue here is the decision to leave Gaza at all.

    Furthermore, the rhetoric is totally “over the top”. Is it really appropriate to describe the disengagement as “so irrational, so illogical, so lunatic, so beyond mortal comprehension”? To describe the current leadership as “madmen” or their power as due to a “hi-jacking”?

    Sincere people may disagree about the military and geo-political wisdom of the decision to withdraw (at all, outside the context of negotiations). I respect people who think the decision was a mistake. I see no reason not to respect the decision of Ariel Sharon to withdraw. I strongly suspect that Ariel Sharon has put himself in danger in defense of the state more often than anyone else on this list. I also strongly suspect that Ariel Sharon has better military judgement than anyone on this list. I also strongly suspect that Ariel Sharon has a better sense of the geo-political situation facing the state than anyone on this list.

    Am I sure his decision is the correct one? Of course, not. Is he sure? Probably not. True leadership is about making difficult decisions in the face of considerable uncertainty. Does that mean that each I or you should (if we could) vote for Sharon in the next election? Of course not. Does it mean that he and his decisions deserve respect (rather than the vitriol of this post)? I believe so.

    Furthermore, the claim that Sharon has “hi-jacked” the state also seems “over the top”. Israel has a robust functioning democracy (again what the Zionist founders desired). The Israeli polity is deeply divided on this issue. Sharon has worked the political system, but it is hard to claim that his decision is not supported by (at least a) large plurality of the Israeli population. It is not reasonable (or probably appropriate) to expect any governmental system to reflect the will of exactly the majority. This decision does not obviously fail the test of democracy.

    Consider again the criticism of the state as not living up to the vision of its Zionist founders. For as long as there were Jews in Gaza, the Israeli Defense Forces provided credible defense for isolated settlements. Was that defense perfect? No. Was it what citizens have a right to expect from a normal county? Yes and more so. During the holocaust there were mass slaughters of whole communities. No such thing has happened here.

    Furthermore the author’s concern about the families and the children (and the corresponding attack on the government) seems mis-placed, the short-term pain of the families could have been minimized if they had accepted the decision of the duly elected government. There were months to prepare for the current situation. The settlers chose to hold out until the last day, without making other plans. That was a reasonable political strategy, but it is not then reasonable to blame the government for not having provided for them. The government offered, these settlers did not take up the offer.

    Similarly, children weaped because their parents had not prepared them (and themselves) for the situation. It is not fair to blame the government for those scenes in the news. The settlers chose that option. That was their right.

    The author owes the victims of the holocaust, the founders of the State of Israel, the Israel Defense Forces, and Ariel Sharon a public apology.

  16. ralphie says:

    I was (and still am, for what it’s worth) opposed to this disengagement. However, this Holocaust imagery is indeed beyond the pale. You could have made your same points, about the need for chesbon nefesh and tshuvah, even about the secularists rejoicing over their “victory” over religion, without invoking the Shoah. A tragedy this has been, indeed. A mini-Holocaust, no way.