June 02, 2019

Yom Yerushalayim - the greatest miracle of our times

Text of my speech to Ner Yisrael in London this morning ....

This morning different shuls did lots of different things. Some said Hallel with a bracha, others without. Some said no Hallel at all and still others said Tachnun like it was any other day.
You could well ask: “If we’ve been saying Hallel with a bracha every month for thousands of years for such a natural event as moonrise, why on earth would we not say the same for the greatest miracle of our times, for which we waited two thousand years?”
I have an answer to that question. But first I need to take you on a trip.
Imagine that you had a time machine and could travel back to the date of any historic event or time and observe what was taking place. Some might take a trip to the time of the Exodus and Red Sea crossing. Others might choose the scene of the Kennedy assassination or 9-11.
You choose 1967 in Jerusalem and you set the dial to May 12th. Whoosh …! and you materialise in what is now the Mamilla area, just across from what is today the David Citadel Hotel. In the distance you see the walls of the Old City with Jordanian flags fluttering from the ramparts. In the
foreground you see Jordanian troops manning the Mandelbaum Gate, a barbed wire checkpoint that separates Jewish West Jerusalem from the Jordanian-occupied East and the Old City.
It’s a sunny Friday morning and nobody is thinking about any war. But there’s quite a lot of clamour coming from the park behind you: Independence Park. Turns our they’re doing rehearsals for Monday’s Yom Ha’atzmaut parade – it will be the 19th anniversary of independence.
The Jews were obliged to negotiate with the commander of the Jordanian Legion about how close the parade could pass to the border area, so tantalisingly close to the walls of our hallowed City of David.
On the newspaper stand you would have seen headlines about major allies boycotting the event for fear that their ambassadors’ presence might offend Jordan’s King Hussein. France, Germany and America all declined to participate. But in all other respects, it was the calm before the storm.
The first reports of Egyptian mobilisation would not surface till the following week.
Imagine if in the calm of that sunny Friday - you, from the future, tap an Israeli on the shoulder and say: “You know something? Just 3 weeks from now, there will be not a single Jordanian soldier here and Israeli flags will be fluttering from the walls of Jerusalem”. That person would have thought you were crazy.
But that is exactly what happened. One day we were begging for permission to pass within sight of our ancient capital city and 3 weeks later it was all in our hands. Our enemies had truly fled.
If you had hung around with your time machine to observe the war and how this miracle actually played out, you might have dialled yourself into the basement of the Knesset on June 5th the day it was shelled by Jordanian mortars. The war cabinet had been evacuated to this basement utility room, ministers huddled together, when opposition leader Menachem Begin popped the question to Prime Minister Levi Eshkol: ‘We told Hussein if he stayed out of the war we would leave him alone. But these are his shells falling on the Knesset. Why not use this chance to retaliate and take back Jerusalem?’ To which Eshkol replied in Yiddish: ‘Dos is ah gedank!’ (An interesting thought!).
And so it was – the most stunning victory in military history completed within 6 days, tripling our territory and delivering the most unexpected and most precious prize of all: Har Habayit Beyadeynu! (The Temple Mount is in our hands!)
But why waste a good time machine? Maybe go back further to 1945, and watch the skeletal remnants of European Jewry emerging from the Nazi death camps on liberation day – my own father among them, just 20 years old. And you, a visitor from the future, whisper in his ear: ‘In just 3 years from now a Jewish state will be created in Eretz Yisrael with an army powerful enough to make sure this never happens again'. My father might have thought you just as crazy.
And yet, after 2,000 years … just six days. After the Shoah … just 3 short years. This what is meant by the words: ישועת ה כהרף עין - the Almighty’s salvation comes in the wink of an eye. Just as Joseph woke up one morning in Pharaoh’s dungeon and was viceroy of Egypt by evening. This is the way salvation happens for our people.
Which brings me back to Rosh Chodesh and Hallel.
The moon has always been regarded as a symbol of our people and our national struggle through the ages. There are good times when we shine brightly and can light up the entire night sky. But there are bad times too, when we almost totally disappear seemingly never to return. But then, just as we seem to have totally disappeared, that small sliver reappears, the Shearit Yisrael (remnant of Israel) and we grow back to become as great as we ever were.
So, yes Yom Yerushalayim was the greatest miracle of our modern times. But our ability to survive the darkest hours and come back fighting from the lowest depths of tragedy, loss and despair is what truly merits the Hallel and bracha. And when we do that every month, it keeps us focused with faith and optimism.
Sadly we in the Diaspora are now living through another period of darkness – with a vile resurgence of antisemitism all across the world that seems to have taken hold with alarming
speed. But this too we will survive, as we now have Eretz Yisrael – a place called home where, as Frost put it, they have to let you in.
Significantly it’s not just Jews that are despairing of what’s happening in Europe and here in Britain. Douglas Murray is a well-known journalist and political commentator. He may not be Jewish but he is a staunch supporter of Israel and has spoken at many of our community events. He recently wrote a bestseller entitled: 'The Strange Death of Europe', in which he laments how the fabric of our society and the British way of life are crumbling before our eyes. He was recently interviewed by the journalist Mark Steyn and toward the end spoke painfully of how he truly feared for what was happening – “this is where live my life, this is my only home ….. I don’t have an Israel to go to."
Thank God we do!
Chag Sameyach.

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