Reprinted from The Jerusalem Post of January, 11 2001

A NATION'S SYMBOLS

By Berel Wein

The difficulty in holding elections in such a time of crisis is now apparent to all. The drive for power is so strong that recklessness becomes the accepted method of behavior. There is no other word than recklessness to describe the current behavior of our prime minister and foreign minister.

The rush to sign an agreement, any agreement, with Yasser Arafat and Bill Clinton would be laughable if our eyes were not so filled with tears and our hearts with sadness. The strength of the elixir of power is so great that those who pursue it are convinced that they are selfless and have only the public interest at heart.

We are constantly told that the window of opportunity is closing and will never reopen. We are bombarded with threats that war, God forbid, is on the threshold if the Clinton plan is not signed. We are told that Israel will be blamed in the international arena for blocking the peace that the whole world is so anxiously waiting for if we do not surrender Jerusalem and bring back the Arab refugees.

What reckless statements!

Ehud Barak, Shlomo Ben-Ami, Yossi Beilin and the others who are pushing for the Clinton peace plan would have a much more receptive audience for their cause if they were not running for office. Barak's victory at the polls is essential for this group to stay in power. There is apparently nothing that will be allowed to stay in the way of this drive to stay in power.

The fact that Clinton's plan not only divides Jerusalem but tears the Jewish people and Israeli public into bitterly feuding camps seems to be of no concern to the peacemakers. The people who are not running for office - Lt.-Gen. Shaul Mofaz, Attorney-General Elyakim Rubinstein and others - have publicly warned against the Clinton Plan. No matter, though, because the drive for power blinds even otherwise sincere and intelligent people to the folly of their behavior.

The damage being done to Israel and the Jewish cause worldwide by the recklessness of accepting the Clinton Plan is immeasurable. One only hopes that somehow it will be reversible.

A NATION is united by symbols. A flag, an anthem, a common history, a sense of special pride are all symbols of national unity. The Jewish people, over its long centuries of exile when it had no flag or anthem, relied on other symbols to unite it. The Bible and the Talmud, Jewish values and tradition, became those symbols.

More than that, Jerusalem, Rachel's Tomb, the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, the Western Wall, were our flag and anthem. Zionism succeeded only because it promised Jerusalem and the reclaiming of Jewish history.

In all of the bitter contentious infighting within the Jewish people over the past century, there still remained a thread of Jewish unity - Jerusalem and the Western Wall. All Jews felt an affinity to the Holy City and to the place of the Temple. And now that slim thread of Jewish unity has been torn by those who preach unity and practice divisiveness.

One hundred and one "rabbis" in America signed a statement that waives our rights to the Temple Mount. Who authorized them? By what right do they possess the power to annul Jewish history and faith? Do they not care that they are ripping the Jewish people apart with their recklessness? The leader of the Masorti Movement in Israel writes an op-ed piece in this newspaper justifying abandoning the Temple Mount and Jewish sovereignty over much of Jerusalem. Is this an act of Jewish conscience? Will it further Jewish unity, a cause that he espouses?

Let us leave the military, political and societal fallout of the abandonment of Jerusalem, tragic as that will undoubtedly be, aside for a moment. Look at the damage it will do to the Jewish people and how it will cripple its fragile hold on its survival as a faith community. No one will recite "Next year in Tel Aviv." Think of how reckless this behavior is. Who can estimate the historical effect of the near-certain dire consequences of such reckless behavior?

Bill Clinton will be out of power soon. But he is desperately trying to play out a role in history, which is after all the greatest bestower of power.

His presidential statement about the Middle East and the peace between Israel and the Arabs is a play to the power thrust within him. And our feckless leaders kowtow to this nonsense.

But history is unforgiving, especially Jewish history. Those who wished to be remembered for bringing peace to Israel through the Oslo Accords have already seen their reputations and memories tarnished by the events of history. Those who now behave recklessly with the Jewish symbols of memory and unity and destiny will not be remembered as peacemakers. They will be remembered as those who needlessly divided the Jewish people and ripped out the heart of the people in the midst of a terrible moment of crisis.

Jewish history will not be blinded by the desperate reach for power. Loyalty to Jerusalem remains our strongest bond remaining. It should not and will not be torn asunder.

Shabbat Shalom.



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