And What Did Your Child Do?

Jerusalem - May 1976. Yesterday was the Fifth of Iyar, Yom Haatzmaut. In my little son's country it was Independence Day. In his country they did not speak about a Bicentennial and the stores and shops were not open for business as usual. My son is nine years old and he did not go to school yesterday because he was celebrating his country's independence. And what did your child do yesterday, Jew?

Yesterday evening my son went to Heichal Shlomo, the seat of the chief Rabbinate, which is the official religious body in his country. And before that he changed into a white shirt and clean Shabbat pants and helped hang the flag of his country out the window. It was not red, white and blue and had only one star and that was six-pointed. And while my young son did all this, the radio of his country - in the language of his country, Hebrew - played Jewish music and told of the war of Independence whose heroes were not named Patrick Henry, George Washington or Tom Paine. And what did your child do yesterday, my Jewish friend?

In the synagogues of Heichal Shlomo my little son prayed with hundreds of others who, along with him had walked down the streets bedecked with their Jewish flags, and each four cubits taken was another guarantee of the World to Come. And he heard a prayer for the President of his country - and the name was not Ford. And he heard a prayer for the soldiers of his country - the ones who defend Jews. And he said Hallel - thanksgiving - for the fact that he had seen the miracle of Redemption and was living in it. And he heard me tell him of the mitzvah to live in the Land and he smiled softly to himself because he was observing that which Roshei Yeshivas and Hassidic Rebbes were not. And he was living in the holiness of Israel, and not the impurity of Exile. And what did your child play in yesterday, religious Jew?

And after praying, my little boy went into the streets that were jammed with Jews, singing and dancing and hitting each other in the head with silly little plastic hammers that make a tinkling sound when they strike. And he saw twenty of his friends and their families in the crowds and called to them in Hebrew. And my little son watched the soldiers - Jewish soldiers - and touched one's Uzi - a Jewish gun - and dreamed for a fleeting moment of the time when he would be big and serve his country. And how many of your children, Jew, looked forward with pride to Vietnam or anything else?

And the night before last night my little son listened to the siren's wail pierce the Jerusalem night air as Yom HaZikaron - Memorial Day - for the Jewish soldiers who fell so that he might live there, began. He has never heard of Arlington Cemetery but he heard his Jewish President speak at Mount Herzl. And he said a chapter of the Psalms with the sirens sounding and he knew what it meant to be in his own land, with his own holiday and his own majority and his own government and his own army and his own police and his own destiny. And what did your child feel yesterday?

Yesterday, my son observed a Torah life, a Jewish life, the way it was meant to be. Why did you, Jew, give your child another day amidst the gentiles?

By Rabbi Meir Kahane
The Jewish Press
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