What I’d Tell My Dad
I’ve never known a time when there was not an Israel. As a child I’d look up at the big map on my Hebrew School wall and knew it was the country that belonged to my people. When I was five, the only other nation whose shape I could recognize as easily as that skinny slice of land in the Middle East was the United States of America, where I was born.
Israel was barely six years old then, yet it represented hope and a new beginning for the Jewish people—people like my parents, who had seen so much vicious anti-Semitic hatred and murder that they wondered where on earth God was through it all.
The Holocaust of World War II had turned my father into an atheist. “If there were a God,” he told me, “He would not have allowed the Nazis to murder 6 million Jews.” But my mother, who grew up Orthodox, never stopped believing, even after she learned how Adolf Hitler’s Einsatzgruppen (“death squads”) had infiltrated the Ukraine, where she had grown up, and ferreted out Jews and slaughtered them in cold blood. The Nazis killed her brother, two sisters-in-law, and all her nieces and nephews.
Jewish history overflows with tragedies. And for a reason probably known to God alone, many of them occurred on Tisha B’Av (ninth day of the Jewish month of Av), which falls in July or August. A solemn fast day was established on that date primarily to mourn the Tisha B’Av destructions of both the first Temple in Jerusalem in 586 B.C. and the second Temple in A.D. 70.
On Tisha B’Av 1492 my people were ejected from Spain. The expulsion destroyed the largest, most prominent Jewish community in all of Europe. In 1939 the Nazis walled up a section of Warsaw, Poland, that became known as the Warsaw Ghetto and forced more than half a million Jewish people into that tiny area to die of starvation and disease. Three years later, on Tisha B’Av 1942, they began deporting the 300,000 who remained to the Treblinka extermination camp.
As a child in Hebrew School, I thought, All that is ancient history. Never did I dream a Tisha B’Av catastrophe would strike in my lifetime. This year the ninth of Av fell on August 14. The next day began the heart-wrenching expulsion of more than 8,000 Israelis from their homes in the Gaza Strip. I watched on television as Jewish mothers wailed; Israeli soldiers carrying out the “disengagement” wept; and religious men wrapped themselves in their prayer shawls, begging God to perform a miracle and stop the evacuation. But He did not.
I’m glad my father wasn’t here to see all this. It would have torn his heart out and convinced him all the more that anti-Semitism will never cease and that God does not exist.
But I know something my father did not. I know that faith means believing even when everything we see in this evil, upside-down world would strip us of that faith. Scripture says, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). It also says, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isa. 40:8).
Whereas my father didn’t know God’s Word, I do. And it says God has given the land of Israel to the Jewish people forever:
For I will set My eyes on them for good, and I will bring them back to this land; I will build them and not pull them down, and I will plant them and not pluck them up. Then I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the Lᴏʀᴅ; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God (Jer. 24:6–7).
Moreover I will make an covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; I will establish them and multiply them, and I will set My sanctuary in their midst forevermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people. The nations also will know that I, the Lord, sanctify Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forevermore (Ezek. 37:26–28).
Instead of your shame you shall have double honor, and instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion. Therefore in their land they shall possess double; everlasting joy shall be theirs. (Isa. 61:7).
The Tisha B’Av tragedy of disengagement does not signal the beginning of the demise of the Jewish nation, because God said Israel will never die. Israel’s destiny is to live forever in the Promised Land of its forefathers. The Holy One of Israel has decreed it, and His Word stands.
My father died in 1970. If he were here today, this is what I would tell him: “Things may not look too good right now. But don’t worry, Daddy. In the end, we win.”