The sinews of our humanity were stretched last weekend to the full flex of compassion, tears and resolve.
The stunning images from Japan of the massive earthquake, the tsunami, volcanic eruptions and the threats of possible meltdown of nuclear reactors were as humbling as they were horrific. The chain of devastation unleashed by nature upon the people of Japan sent chills down our spine.
How does one defend against the relentless deadly lashing from walls of water more than 30 feet high?
Where does one look for the members of one’s family swept suddenly into a sea that surrounds what once was home and hearth?
One cannot defend, one does not find, but one must always rebuild. Such is the imperative of life: to go forward. Never to give up.
Jewish communities around the world and the government of Israel are joining with the Japanese to help in rescuing anyone who may have survived the various disasters and in rebuilding that which was destroyed.
For example, Jewish Federations of North America, including of course those in Canada, are sending aid.
ZAKA, the Israel-based organization that locates and identifies victims of disaster, has offered its service to the government of Japan.
In addition, IsraAid, an Israel-based co-ordinating organization for 17 Israeli and Jewish humanitarian groups, has two teams of rescue personnel, emergency medical officers and water pollution specialists ready to deploy to Japan.
Most human beings try to help alleviate the suffering of fellow human beings. The gruesome images, however, from the community of Itamar in the northern West Bank of the slaughter of five members of the Fogel family were simply horrific. The ghoulish murder – while they slept in their beds on Shabbat – of Udi Fogel, 37, Ruth, 36, Yoav, 11, Elad, 4, and Hadas, three months, sent screams of anguish and disbelief piercing into our hearts.
What manner of individual is so twisted and misshapen by hatred that he plunges his knife into an infant, a child, a youngster?
What manner of national cause does not abjectly reject and cast out from among its champions those who embrace and pass off evil as a legitimate expression of “resistance to the Israeli occupation?”
Against such malevolence Israel must – and always will – defend its citizens. Israel will always rebuild. It has no choice. Israel will never give up. It has no choice. Its enemies will one day understand this.
The inconsolability of these enormous sadnesses overshadowed somewhat the preparations earlier this week for the holiday of Purim. It was very difficult to focus on joyful matters as we are instructed to do at this time of the year by our sages.
But we find room in our hearts for both: the unique celebration of the holiday and the overwhelming sorrow of the Japanese and of the Fogels.
That is not to say that comically surreal events were not also reported by news channels last week.
Perhaps the most head scratching was the story reported by JTA that Syria is seeking to replace Libya on the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). Libya was suspended from the 47-nation body on March 1, the first time a country has been suspended since the council was founded in 2006.
Syrian President Bashar Assad said his country would seek membership on the council in the May 20 elections.
Assad is as familiar with the notion of protecting human rights as he is with the idea of respecting all religions, which is to say, not at all.
Notwithstanding his lack of credentials, he is, however, as worthy a candidate for the UN Human Rights Council as was Moammar Gadhafi, which is also to say, not at all.
Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, who writes in this issue of The CJN about the woeful lack of accountability of the head of the UNHRC, was quite succinct in his response to Syria’s intentions toward the council.
“It’s an outrage. The Assad regime runs a notorious police state that denies the Syrian people the right to free speech and freedom of assembly, jails journalists and tortures dissidents. It sponsors some of the world’s most vicious terrorist groups and has assassinated numerous journalists and opponents in Lebanon. The UN and the cause of human rights will be severely damaged if Syria’s Assad regime wins a seat.”
Syria’s record on human rights likely assures that it will win a seat on the council. Except for the fact that we are on the verge of Purim, we would normally lament, rather than laugh at such a turn of events.
Despite the absurdity, we press on.
Despite the sadness, we go always forward and get ready, as we must, for the celebration of our holidays.