Once again, the United States is facing the unenviable task of playing global policeman. This time it is Syriandespot Bashar Assad.
A monster so vile, he has deployed chemical weapons upon his own people. While most of the worldwide community knows we must do something to end this nightmare wearestuck on the question of what that response should be.
In our cities we arrest wrongdoers and throw them in jail. How does one get involved in a civil war where no one is certain who is on what side?
Even as our leaders were contemplating their response I received a phone call and a photographwhich provided what I believe is the Jewish and Israeli perspective on the issue.
The phone call came from my sister, who lives in Israel. She told me about the impossibly long lines forming to receive gas masks provided by the government. Tourists are not yet eligible to receive these gas masks but they can purchase them. There is a shortage of gas masks that are appropriate to fit Orthodox Jewish men who have beards.
In short, once again, Israel ispreparing for a worst-case scenario that a few short months ago seemed unlikely. (Note: I don’t think there is any threat to Israel that would ever seem unlikely).
As I was still trying to process the panic and fear expressed by my sister, I received a beautiful picture.
It was a photograph of my uncle and aunt from Teaneck, NJ standing by the Western Wall in Jerusalem with their son, my cousin Josh. A few months ago, Josh made the courageous decision to join the Israel Defense Force (IDF) and, as I write this, he is being officially sworn in as a soldier in the Nahal brigade.
Josh is named for our grandfather, Oscar Last of blessed memory. Josh never had the opportunity to know his namesake, Ihowever, was fortunate to have had the honor.
Our grandfather was a pleasant, reserved man who came to America after surviving the hell of Hitler’s persecution in Europe. His large extended family – more than 100 men, women and children –all wiped out by Nazi gas.
Blessed with his opportunity he rebuilt his life in America by married and started a family. Today his 24 grandchildren and great grandchildren continue to thrive. And, one of them, who carries his name, is taking a holy oath to defend the Jewish nation of Israel from its enemies.
Josh is providing our timeless and simple answer to Assad and to all those who threaten the Jewish people and the nation of Israel: We have known people like you throughout the millennia. Their names are etched in infamy Hitler, Stalin, Chmielnitzki, Haman and Nebuchadnezzar. No one wants to name their children after these madmen. They are universally despised by all who know of their atrocities.
Conversely, the children of Israel are replete with the names of their victims. You cannot find a division in the IDF where soldiers are not named for Jewish martyrs.
Mr. Assad, these Jewish young men and women will not let you use your poisonous gas to destroy their country. They are your worst nightmare. If called upon, they will go into Damascus to stop you because Jewish values are based on the protection of life, not on destruction. Like my grandfather, the Jewish people will not be defeated. If you knock us down, we will stand up again and again. We will always rebuild, even stronger than before.
Simply put, you can never win.
Rabbi Steven Burg is the Eastern Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center
By Rabbi Steven Burg