I took today off so as to not lose an unused vacation day by the end of the year. I just finished peeling and cutting up a bag of potatoes that my wife will turn into latkes tonight, since it’ll be the first night of Hanukkah.
In brief, Hanukkah commemorates the victory of the Jewish rebellion lead by Judah Maccabee over the Seleucids who had officially repressed the Jewish faith and desecrated the Second Temple in Jerusalem.
Back in 2004 I put up a Hanukkah post bemoaning the choice of many of my co-religionists to support gun control. The Shoah (Holocaust) was a mere 65 years ago, within living memory of many, and still, many, perhaps most Jewish Americans still fear and loathe guns and would see civilian controlled or banned. For a people who values learning so much, we can be damn stubborn.
Thankfully, the past couple of years have seen two major victories for Americans who value their right to keep and bear arms, as a safeguard against criminals and rogue governments.
In the 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment does indeed protect an individual right to keep and bear arms, independent of membership in the militia. In 2010, SCOTUS extended the RKBA by applying it to the states with its ruling in McDonald v. Chicago. As with earlier decisions which extended the protections in the Bill of Rights to the states, the full extent of the protection the RKBA will be afforded will only be seen after more protracted litigation. But Heller and McDonald were major steps in preserving our liberty.
As Jews, we should be especially thankful for the right to keep and bear arms. Since the Romans sacked Jerusalem and forced the Diaspora, Jews’ ability to defend themselves against violence has been curtailed as a matter of official policy. In contrast, Jews in most of the United States can take up arms to defend themselves and their faith.
While the likelihood of official repression of Jews in the United States is remote, we cannot be complacent and adopt the “it can’t happen here” mentality. Not in the age of resurgent Islamic fundamentalism, lax border controls, and jet air travel.
Since 1972, over 300 Americans have been killed by Muslim terrorists, not including the over 2700 who died on 9/11. Many of them were targeted because they were Jews.
Unfortunately, the leaders of both major parties have been skittish of calling a spade a spade, with President Bush’s description of Islam as a “Religion of Peace” being the most notorious example.
Perhaps even worse is the current administration’s pro-Islam stance. Beginning with Obama’s duplicitous 2009 speech to the Muslim world in Cairo and continuing with a policy toward Israel which can be described at best as ambivalent, but more accurately as pro-Palestinian, Jews should be wary of Washington’s stance towards them. We should not be fooled by his close association with kapos like Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod, or the worst of all, George Soros.
Overseas, we’ve seen a resurgence in anti-semitism in Europe, while Arab children continue to be fed a diet of anti-semitic propaganda in the form of entertainment. See this for example. And need I mention the Iranian quest for nuclear arms, promoted by Holocaust-denier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, against which the West seems ready to do nothing?
Instead of taking serious steps, the current administration engages in security theater, the most obvious example lately being the TSA’s “porno scanners” at airports.
Worldwide, the situation for Jews is probably more perilous now than any time since 1945.
So what should we as Jewish Americans do?
First, stop supporting politicians who support gun control. Not only is gun control counter-productive in reducing violent crime, supporting it foments anti-semitism when you have people with names like Bloomberg and Schumer backing it. Being armed may not save you from a nut who’s turned a 747 into a human-guided cruise missile, but a pistol can give you a fighting chance against terrorists in a Mumbai-style attack.
Second, stop supporting politicians who refuse to call Islamic extremism and terrorism by their proper names. Stop supporting politicians who think American vets returning from Iraq are more of a terrorist threat than Muslim radicals.
Third, stop fearing the “religious right,” in which the mainstream media has included pretty much anybody who regularly attends church. Guess what? Observant Christians are some of the best allies that Jews have today in the US. While we may disagree on theology, many of them accept Jews as G-d’s Chosen People and are staunch supporters of the State of Israel. Indeed, many Christians are more supportive of Israel than a lot of JINOs (Jews In Name Only).
Fourth, take the coverage by the mainstream media of the Tea Party movement with several helpings of salt. You may hear some Tea Partiers talk about social issues, but the bedrock of the movement is about getting the government out of your life. Historically, governments have been the Jewish People’s worst enemies, whether the government in question was lead by a Pharoah, Seleucid king, Roman Caesar, a Caliph, a Pope, a Tsar, a Furhrer, or Politburo.
Finally, exercise your right to keep and bear arms. In Biblical times, the Jews were an ass-kicking people. More recently, Israel has repeatedly stunned the world with its feats of arms. In contrast, most Jewish Americans have adopted a pro-government victim mentality. It is past time that this passive attitude be discarded. “Turn the other cheek” is not a concept consistent with Jewish theology. In the Talmud, we are instructed that, "if someone comes to kill you, get up early in the morning to kill him first." (Berakhot 58a; Yoma 85b; Sanhedrin 72a). Judaism does not require you to submit to an assailant. Indeed, precisely the opposite is true.
Happy Hanukkah and may you dreidel always land on gimel.