March 18, 2007

Antwerp's Passover Plot

A family friend from Belgium stopped by over Purim and I asked him where he would be going for Pesach. For the past several years he has taken the whole family to Israel. I was therefore very surprised when he answered: “Turkey”.

The surprise turned to shock when he told me that a large number of Antwerp families were going to Turkey for Pesach this year. After he left, the surprise that turned to shock, then turned to little less than revulsion at the thought of Jewish kids sitting around a Seder table in the Moslem capital of Europe.

It's bad enough to see Israelis travelling to Egypt for Pesach. But these are mainly secular folk for whom it’s more of a holiday than a holyday. Here we are talking about strictly orthodox families who – for what I must assume is a small saving on a hotel package – are prepared to trade the purity of their eternal capital Jerusalem for the squalor of a Muslim casbah.

What on earth has become of our people who, for 2,000 years have yearned for Jerusalem only to pass it up for a caterer’s discount in Ankara.

I often think of my father gazing out the window of his freezing barrack in Auschwitz and how he and thousands of other inmates must have dreamed and yearned for the warmth and security of Eretz Yisrael.

What if someone told him that 60 years later, Eretz Yisrael would be an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital. That it would have the most powerful economy and army in the Middle East, with world-class kosher hotels to cater for all tastes on the three annual festivals. And that it would cost just a few hundred dollars a ticket to fly there any day of the week.

His face would have beamed in wonderment that the struggle in Europe and the slaughter of 6 million of his people would not, after all, have been for nothing.

So what do you think he would say to the Antwerp families today, many of whose grandparents were survivors of the Shoah ?

I wish them a lot of luck when they open the door for Elijah.

It may well be Mohammed that walks in.

And it will serve them right.


FOOTNOTE:

It’s always possible that Turkey represents a refreshing change for Antwerp’s Jews when you consider what is happening in Belgium. This piece in the Washington Times is a real eye-opener.

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