There’s little time to write during the holiday, of course, but the news of the moment surrounds the British marines and naval personnel captured and then recently released by Iran. The news reports say that some have criticized the soldiers for appearing to admit to straying into Iranian waters while in captivity.
What brave words from the armchair quarterbacks. Let one of them be kidnapped illegally at gunpoint, held in isolation with the sounds of guns being cocked in the background, offered two choices — admit error and go home, or be jailed for years by a terrorist regime — and see if they managed to avoid spilling any sensitive information as they sung (likely loud enough to put several dozen canaries to shame!).
The armchair critics provide an appropriate lesson for us, as shortly after Passover we will be called upon by the modern State of Israel to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust on “Yom haShoah vehaGevurah,” the day of the destruction and the strength. Why “and the strength?” Because the day they chose is the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, and is followed shortly thereafter by Yom HaAtzma’ut, Israel Independence Day. The message we are given is: these Jews, the Jews of the uprising, are the ones we should admire. Not the old “golus mentality” Jews with their reticence and their religion, but those willing to pick up weapons.
Does it matter that the uprising was futile, as they were all martyred? Is it really a great consolation that they managed to take out a few Nazis as well? Perhaps. But meanwhile, the old “golus mentality” Jews hatched a plan involving traditional golus methods — personal contacts, even bribery — that could have saved as many as 900,000 Jewish lives. It was the modern Jews with their focus upon Zionism and Roosevelt, even as Roosevelt was abandoning the Jews, who failed to follow through. Observing from a distance, they concluded the only thing they could do was help the Allies win the war, and if their brethren were sacrificed in the meantime, so be it. In Yom HaShoah vehaGevurah they assuaged their own collective conscience.
Never mind that the majority of the Holocaust martyrs were observant. Never mind that the majority of yeshivos and chassidic courts were erased. Never mind that in the observant community, one meets a far larger proportion of survivors and people with close relatives who were martyred. The State presumes to dictate what and when we should commemorate, and condemns and ridicules those Jews who fail to stand at attention (literally, for a moment of silence). The idea of distinctly Jewish commemorations, such as learning a Mishnah or observing Tisha B’Av, literally fails to cross their minds.
They are like those who now turn upon the British soldiers who survived harrowing captivity by following orders. Not collaborating, of course, in harming others — but working quietly from the inside rather than going out in a blaze of glory that would surely have resulted in their own long-term incarceration or death. We should applaud the soldiers, as we commemorate all the martyrs of the Holocaust.