Speech: How to face adversity, from a Jewish perspective從猶太人觀點,談如何面對苦難?

19 Nov

Speaker: Raphael Gamzou, Israel economic and cultural office in Taipei
Location: KMU
Happened across flyer for this speech yesterday, what interesting luck!
The auditorium was packed today, with students coming in late and invited by the speaker to sit in the front. He spoke of Jewish history – how Abraham was told to leave home and travel to the promise land, how they flourished there for centuries (‘a civilization as old as China’) before being defeated and forcefully dispersed by the Romans. The Roman emperor then, Titus, built the l’Arc de Triomphe in modern day France to celebrate his victory. In the effigies are shown Roman Jewish captives carrying various Jewish temple spoils for the Roman army.
He spoke of the Holocaust (Chowa) and how a third of the entire jewish population were slaughtered. He spoke of survivors who went to live in Israel, who volunteered to fight for the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) when the Arab nations surrounding initiated war several years after the instatement of Israel, who died in the belief that with a nation for the Jews, the Holocaust would not have happened.
The graphs he showed were beautifully, tastefully the color of sand, with fine lined diagrams showing the journey of Abraham, the murdered population of Jews across Europe during WWII, the 6 day war in which the Israel army, in an amazing tactical maneuver against great odds that is still studied in military academies across the world today, took over Jerusalem. Finally, the jewel of their dreams which was inaccessible to them for centuries! Pope John Paul and candidate Obama praying at the wall (not together). Among these military victories he spoke of peace. How the Israelis desire peace with all the Arab nations about them, how they now have peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan but hope that someday they can have peace the others as well. Peace with Palestine as well.
He read parts of the bible for us in Hebrew. ‘This book is the foundation of our Jewish spirit, how we came back to rebuild Israel after two million years in exile. The Romans thought they could crush us by destroying our temple and dispersing our people, they thought they could make us forget… they were wrong.’ His accent was soft, was a lot of ‘hsh’s and ‘harch’ sounds. I was reminded of the beautiful voice of the defense minister’s wife in ‘Lemon Tree’. So gentle and lovely, the Hebrew language from the mouth of that particular Jewish woman. He spoke eloquently, slowly, and gazed at us with somewhat bewildered, puzzled eyes as he waited for the translator to catch up. He seemed frequently to look to the ceiling. I shifted in my seat, scribbled in my notebook, and turned to see rows of youths and maidens in gentle repose.
The speech very obviously hosted by Taiwanese Christians, which I found quite interesting – how is it that mainly Taiwanese Christians are interested in Israel and the Jews? I’m interested in Israel and that has little to do with my faith, though I suppose having read the bible has increased my interest in this area.
When he spoke of people about him who had suffered from effects of the Holocaust I recalled Stalin’s neat statement:” The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of a million men is a statistic”
And then I asked questions. Do you think that without the Holocaust Israel might have still been resurrected? Would Germany have won the war if they did not take the resources to exterminate the Jews? What is your position concerning Palestine? Do you think that after a few more generations Palestinians would forget their homeland? Is Israel likely to offer them full citizenship?
He said. Even without the Holocaust the instatement of Israel was in progress. Every day Jews prayed bowing towards Israel, no matter where they were. Yes, it is true that the Holocaust made the Western countries more willing to recognize Israel, for the British to withdraw from the land and cede it to the Jews. Families of Jews had moved there and settled before Israel became a country. If Israel had already existed before WWII, there would be no Holocaust.
And yes, Germany did spend a great deal of resources towards termination of the Jews. They had their top people, their greatest brains, their scientists, doctors, and engineers design methods to kill people quickly, in large numbers. They used this not only on the Jews and the Gypsies, but also on their own people – the retarded, the mentally unstable, the homosexuals and the physically disabled – those whom Hitler regarded unfit for the image of the perfect Aryan.
And now we have no time, but give me three minutes more and I must answer this very important question, the third question. It is very important : There was no Palestinian state before and not movement towards one. Israel did not replace a Palestinian State. In fact, the Israel national movement generated two national movements, our own, and the Palestinian national movement. Prior, none of the Arab nations had an idea of establish a Palestinian State… The first time there was an agreement of a Palestinian State was the time Israel had talks with Palestinians about establishing a Palestinian State… I do believe that the majority of Palestinians do not agree on a compromise. (in contrast) I do believe the majority of Israelians believe in compromise, in ceding land for peace. But what a compromise is is that once it is set down, you do not fire missiles into the other people’s area and harm Israeli lives, as Hamas has been doing…We let Palestinians have their own states, their own autonomy, and after their people chose Hamas their lifestyle worsened, and for eight years the Israelites have had to endure missiles fired into their land. For eight years the Israeli government was silent, and finally there was the war in the Gaza corridor and the media leaps at this. For eight years the world has ignored the missiles fired into Israel…For peace talks, both sides must recognize the existence and legitimacy of the other.
Of late I have been reading books that speak of one thing, than another book that speaks of a different perspective. I have spoken to individuals with different ideas than other individuals I have spoken with in the past. I have heard ideas from different positions of (perhaps) equal grievance to different things. Sometimes one side suffers ignorance while the other suffers from poverty. In this case, Israel suffers from the reputation of its girth – of having more good land, of being richer, more powerful, better connected… and the Palestinians, perhaps, from a belated knowledge of a need to put their home on the world map.

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