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Self Restraint is Fatal
By Fern Sidman
As a young person growing up in New York City, I was a member of Brit
Trumpeldor of America, better known as the Zionist Youth Movement, Betar, founded by
the great Zionist leader, Ze'ev Jabotinsky. When I joined Betar at the age
of 12, every potential member was required to enroll in the Tironut program.
Tironut, or basic training, as it were, was an intensive series of lectures
and seminars covering a wide range of topics including Jewish history, the
history of the Zionist movement and the glorious legacy of Betar and the Jewish
underground that valiantly battled the British during the mandatory regime,
prior to the creation of the State of Israel.
I learned about a young Jew from Poland named Shalom Tabachnik, a.k.a. Shlomo
Ben Yosef, a member of Betar who came to live in the land of Israel and who
settled on the northern settlement of Rosh Pina. On Thursday, April 21, 1938,
the 20th day of Nissan 5698, Ben Yosef and two Betar colleagues attempted to
defend the settlement of Rosh Pina from an impending Arab attack, emanating
from the neighboring Arab village of Djani. An automobile carrying Arabs
approached Rosh Pina. Ben Yosef and his two fellow Betarim stepped out on the
road and tried to stop the automobile. A single shot was fired and the Arabs
fled in panic.
A few hours after the incident the three young men were arrested by the
British police. They gave themselves up without any struggle.
"Despite the fact
that not a single drop of blood was shed at Rosh Pina and despite the fact that
the police knew very well that the three young men had only fired into the
air in order to discourage the Arabs from passing through the settlement, the
British decided to create a big "terrorist" incident out of the Rosh Pina
affair. The very fact that Jews had resolved to withstand an Arab attack made
them feel afraid. Their plan to frighten Jews from coming to Palestine would be
endangered if Jews were to fight back. They knew very well that the Jews
could put an end to the Arab "revolts" in a few days."
(Triumph on the Gallows,
Itzhak Gurion, 1950)
On June 29, 1938 Ben Yosef was hanged on the gallows by the British
authorities. His last words in a conversation with friends were, "Havlagah"
(self-restraint) is fatal."
Today I also thought of the brave and courageous defender of the settlement
Tel Chai. I thought of Yosef Trumpeldor, for whom Betar is named. I thought of
his efforts to defend Tel Chai against Arab attacks. No stranger to
military conflicts, Trumpeldor was the highest ranking Jewish officer in the Czar's
army during the Russo-Japanese war of 1905. I thought of him and of his last
words when he was gunned down by an Arab bullet while defending the
settlement in 1920.
Today when I read of Katyusha rocket attacks on cities in northern Israel, I thought of the last words of Shlomo Ben Yosef and Yosef Trumpeldor. I thought of Shlomo Ben
Yosef and Yosef Trumpeldor when I heard Ehud Olmert's response to the rocket
attacks by the Syrian backed Hizbollah militia in Lebanon. According to a
news report from Arutz Sheva, "Olmert was clear that the multi-pronged attack,
which involved ground forces as well as Katyusha rockets, was not an act of
terror, but “an act of war” and said the Israeli response would be “very
restrained but very, very painful.”
Seems like the word restraint keeps rearing its head. The Associated Press
reported that, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for restraint. "We
would not want to see an expansion, an escalation, of conflict in the region,"
he said. Mr. Annan was joined by US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, who
was quoted by Associated Press as saying, "All sides must act with restraint
to resolve this incident peacefully and to protect innocent civilians and
civilian infrastructure." If we've learned anything from this two front war that
threatens to explode like a powder keg, we've learned that the calls for
restraint from world leaders only apply to Israel. Seems like the age old double
standard concerning the actions of Israel are in full swing.
While the State of Israel engages Hizbollah terrorists on its northern
border and Hamas terrorists on its southern border, let us remember the words of
the young Betari from Rosh Pina. Let us remember the words of this simple Jew
whose courage and bravery move us to tears. Let us remember the actions and
examples that Yosef Trumpeldor set for his people and his beloved nation of
Israel, so many years ago.
It is these axioms that must shape our destiny in the current military
conflict. We must address the world clearly and unequivocally. The words of Shlomo Ben Yosef must be shouted from the rooftops. Yes, it is true. Self restraint
is fatal. We know that self restraint only emboldens our enemies. We know
that the Arab enemy mocks and ridicules Israel when self restraint is elevated
to the level of a religious commandment. We know that only swift action
without trepidation or hesitation can ensure our preservation.
The facts are clear and cannot be debated. Israeli soldiers are being
held captive by our Arab enemy and eight Israeli soldiers lay dead as a result
of the brazen attacks from Hizbollah. Jewish settlements, towns and
cities are being barraged by Katyusha rocket attacks on our northern front and
continued Kassam rocket attacks are being staged by our Arab enemy In Gaza. This
is the time to throw off the yoke of "restraint". Our survival and
preservation as a people and nation are at stake. Now is the time conquer our
proverbial nemesis, better known as fear of world opinion. Now is the time to reach
out to the Almighty G-d of Israel.
Now is the time to know that G-d marches into battle with us. As Jews, we
are never alone. G-d will be with us, if only we allow Him to be. If only
we bend our collective necks to the yoke of Heaven and walk in His ways and
remain faithful to His commandments. G-d commands us to show no mercy on
our enemies. We are commanded to fear only G-d and to treat our enemies
accordingly. To engage in bold and decisive military actions that will permanently
disable Hizbollah and Hamas. If we can summon up the strength to quash our
own egos and accept G-d's dominion, the battle will be fought for us.
Durring this difficult period, may our prayers reach the Almighty G-d of Israel
and may He protect His nation, Israel.
from the August 2006 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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