“We are a light that will forever overcome the atrocities of darkness,” writes Rabbi Idan Irelander. | STEVEN A. ROSENBERG

We are a united Festival-of-Lights People



We are a united Festival-of-Lights People

“We are a light that will forever overcome the atrocities of darkness,” writes Rabbi Idan Irelander. | STEVEN A. ROSENBERG

The great Rabbi Kook once said that inside every person, there is a candle – a burning flame. When a person performs acts of loving kindness toward others, this flame shines through them so brightly, it urges others to join in and contribute actions of compassion and ingenuity that make this world a better place. The Jewish people have taken this call seriously.

In every generation, our enemies have tried to extinguish our flame. Pharaoh ordered the killing of Jewish baby boys to curb the growing population of the Israelites, the rest of whom he enslaved. Jewish tribes were uprooted, subjugated or murdered as Islamist conquerors took over land throughout the Middle East. The royal leaders of the Spanish Inquisition, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, forced all Jews of their kingdom to either convert to Catholicism, leave or be killed. The inquisitors relentlessly harassed and often murdered those who converted. The Nazis in Europe created an industrialized system to murder Jews. These are just some examples of perpetrators who’ve incessantly abused our people.

On Oct. 7, we witnessed the most vicious and inhumane pogrom – committed by Hamas against Jews – since the Holocaust. It was also the largest Islamist terror attack against a democracy since 9/11. As if the massacre wasn’t frightening enough, it was followed by a new and terrifying method to extinguish our flame – the spread of misinformation and propaganda in the media, social media, by professors in prestigious universities and more.

Words are powerful, which is why the enemies of Israel have crafted new definitions for old words – to smear Israel. For instance, in their more-than-200-page reports condemning Israel, both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International erroneously label Israel as an apartheid state, while stating a disclaimer that they don’t mean apartheid in the way it was used to describe racist South Africa.

It’s worth noting that neither of those reports, which distort Israel’s security measures into some nefarious divide, mention any of the thousands of Islamic terror attacks inflicted on Israelis, maiming and murdering thousands over decades. Nor do they mention that in Israel, all citizens – whether Jewish, Muslim, atheist, Christian, etc. – have the same rights. Jews and Muslims in Israel share the same universities, the same hospitals and the same buses. In fact, the captain of the Israeli soccer team is a Muslim, and there is an Arab Christian judge of the Supreme Court of Israel, who impeached a former Jewish prime minister.

The spread of misinformation has been fooling people into believing Israel is committing a genocide or practicing apartheid. Since 1948, when the modern state of Israel was established, the Palestinian population has multiplied tremendously. Israelis have shared ingenuity with Palestinian Arabs (and so many others) to help improve their quality of life. Alternatively, before the Holocaust, there were 9.5 million Jews in Europe, and after, there were 3.5 million Jews. There would have been fewer Jewish people had the Nazis not been stopped. That is genocide.

On Oct. 7, Hamas terrorists murdered 10 percent of the population of the kibbutzim near Gaza, with the goal of murdering and abducting as many Jews as they could. That is attempted genocide. The Palestinian people are suffering, but primarily due to their own leaders. If people around the world truly cared for the Palestinians, they would stand with Israel against Hamas and other terrorist groups. Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq are countries that have been housing more than a million Palestinian refugees. Despite sharing religious, linguistic, and cultural similarities, they don’t even allow Arab-Palestinians to buy property and have certain careers. That is apartheid, and one that barely gets any attention.

We were taught that in every generation, our wicked enemies try to destroy us, but God saves us from their hands. The atrocities committed by our oppressors reach new heights in every generation, but God’s ingredient in us helps us to save ourselves. This ingredient is our eternal faith, blended with our commitment to survive and contribute. The key ingredient is our flame – the flame of our people that never dies. On the contrary, overcoming our challenges only makes our flames brighter. We mark our triumphs with holidays so that we never forget where resilience leads us. We celebrate our productivity and how we try to help the world, despite so many challenges. We celebrate the creation of the modern State of Israel. Each experience becomes a memory that strengthens and unites us.

I have confidence that a new holiday will be created to memorialize our survival after Oct. 7 – a holiday that will remind us of the atrocities our people experienced, how an enemy, again, tried to destroy us – and indeed, hurt us badly – but also of the victory that will follow. There is an eternal small jug of oil in us, a miracle, a flame that never dies. Let’s keep that in mind during Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. We are a united festival-of-lights people: of faith, of humanity, of civilization. We are a light that will forever overcome the atrocities of darkness.
Am Israel L’olam chai!
Chag Urim Sameach.

Rabbi Idan Irelander is the spiritual leader of Congregation Ahavat Olam in North Andover.

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