By Michael Freund
First published in The Jerusalem Post on May 27, 2010
Yesterday at 11 a.m., air raid sirens sounded across the country. Emergency crews went into position, security forces entered a heightened state of readiness and thousands of people made their way to public shelters.
It was a chilling scene, as schoolchildren were shepherded to safety, and the innocence of our nation’s youth was disrupted by the din of the alarm. Thankfully, it was only a drill.
As Col. Chilik Soffer of the IDF Home Front Command bluntly noted: “Every country trains for emergency scenarios like earthquakes and fires. Here in Israel we train for those as well as for enemy attacks.”
Living in the Middle East, it would appear, like any tough neighborhood, requires taking all sorts of precautions, however unpleasant.
And while the government tried to calm the country’s nerves, assuring us that this exercise was routine and bore no relation to the dire state of the region, it was hard to escape the feeling that something ominous is in the air. Indeed, the headlines of late have been filled with all sorts of warnings and threats, as our foes dispatch daily reminders that their intentions are anything but peaceful.
In the past few days, Syrian dictator Bashar Assad spoke openly of war and embracing the “resistance option,” while Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reasserted his determination to bring about Israel’s demise. To our north, Hizbullah is busy rearming, and its thug-in-chief Hassan Nasrallah boldly declared that Israeli commercial and civilian shipping could come under attack.
Meanwhile, to the south, rocket-fire emanating from Gaza resumed, and Palestinian terrorists sought to attack soldiers guarding the frontier. In every direction, it seems, our enemies are gearing up for a war of extermination, each one trying to outdo the other in a frenzy of blood-curdling intimidation.
The arc of iniquity that stretches from Beirut to Damascus, and from there to Teheran and all the way back to Gaza, is not just rattling its saber, but may be getting ready to unsheathe it.
IN THE meantime, our closest ally, the United States, has increasingly turned hostile to us and our interests, badgering us to make still more concessions to the enemies gathering at the gate.
Like it or not, we are very much a nation that is dwelling alone.
In the face of all this, there is a knife-like question piercing through the fog of fear: Where is G-d?
Some might take this as a challenge to divine justice, but that is not what I intend. I am a man of faith, and I believe our deliverance will assuredly come.
What I mean to say is: Where is G-d in our public discourse? Why aren’t we turning to Him in this hour of need?
Sure, diplomacy and military readiness are crucial, and we must continue to invest our efforts in these areas, even as we hope for the best. But the piercing siren sounded yesterday brought to mind the wailing of the shofar on Yom Kippur, penetrating the serene obliviousness that characterizes much of our daily lives. This was a spiritual wake-up call, sounding to arouse us and jolt us into action. We can choose to ignore it, but we do so at our peril.
Each night, our generals and defense officials grace the television screens, insisting that “Israel is strong” and “we are ready.”
I’m glad to hear it and hope it’s true. But as we have seen in the past, overconfidence can breed arrogance, which is a recipe for disaster.
A dash of humility and a healthy dose of faith are just as critical to ensuring success. That’s why I’d like to see our leaders projecting a little less conceit and a lot more conviction.
How refreshing it would be to hear them invoking some reliance on the Almighty and putting G-d back into the national conversation, injecting the sacred into their public discourse – and ours.
This is more than just semantics; it goes to the very heart of the challenges we face. Belief in a higher power and in the justness of our cause is our spiritual ammunition, giving us the strength and determination to turn back any foe.
The great hassidic leader, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, once asked a student where G-d could be found. The surprised young scholar offered the seemingly obvious answer: Rabbi, He is surely everywhere! “No!” said the Kotzker, with fiery certitude. “G-d is only where we let Him in!”
Now, more than ever, would be the perfect time to do so.