Editor's Note: This parable has been slightly updated from the original in 1994]
THE TALE OF THE MYSTIC BUFFALO
A Jewish Parable
By Bernard J. Shapiro
My interest in the history of the Old West has led me many times to study the buffalo. No creature in America, except possibly the horse, has had as much influence on the course of history as this noble animal. Standing over 6 feet at the shoulder, it was indeed and impressive creature. To the Native Americans of the Great Plains, the buffalo was the source of all their needs. They harvested food and clothes from the buffalo and even used their hides to construct their homes. It was common for a warrior, who had gone many days without finding water, to save his life by killing a buffalo. The warrior would cut out its heart and drink the blood trapped in its chambers. The blood provided enough liquid and nutrition to continue his journey. The buffalo was so important to the Indians that it was worshiped in their rituals and ceremonies.
The buffalo were very brave and would fight vigorously against the wild animals that sought it as prey. But the buffalo had a great weakness: they could not understand man and the devastation that he brought. One could stand upwind from a large herd and shoot one at time with a Sharp's 50 caliber or Hawken rifle. The herd would keep grazing, as if nothing happened. As the white man moved west it became clear that the best way to destroy the Indian was to destroy the buffalo. And so it was done. The vast herds that once covered the horizon for over 20 miles at a time were exterminated. The brave Native Americans were reduced to paupers dependant on government handouts of beef and grain.
Has it ever occurred to you that Jews and the Israelis are unfortunately like the buffalo? The non-Jews have been picking us off for thousands of years, yet we continue to act as if nothing has happened. Then came the Holocaust and we were exterminated in large numbers like the buffalo, but in a more efficient manner. Israel was founded as a rebellion against the impotence and weakness of the buffalo-like Diaspora.
Israelis stopped being easy prey like the buffalo until recently. Then the Palestinians swooped down on the Israelis and started picking them off one by one. First they were cautious. Then when they saw that the Israelis would not react forcefully, they got bolder. The sight of Israeli soldiers, unable to react to 12 year old Palestinian boys throwing stones, strengthened their resolve to throw the Jews out of Israel. Israelis interpreted the behavior of their military as moderate and compassionate, but the media thought it was brutal, and most important the Palestinians thought it was weakness. The poor buffalo (Israelis) were attacked everywhere, on the roads, in the cities, in the countryside. Hunting for Israelis became a great sport.
Then Labor came to power, with a famed military men, first Yitzhak Rabin and then Ehud Barak, at its helm. They would know what to do, said the Israeli people. They would solve this problem. Barak's solution (as was Rabin's) was simple: The Palestinians don't want us to live in some parts of Eretz Yisrael, so we will retreat. An so it was with the buffalo, first they were slaughtered in the Great Plains and then in the deserts, the mountains and the forests. Soon there was no place to hide. And the Jews may retreat to the coast, leaving the hills of Judea and Samaria, but the hunters will come after them. There will be no peace, but the peace of the grave.
And what about the heart of the Jewish people. The Palestinians are cutting it out. They have claimed Jewish history as their own. Jesus was proclaimed a Palestinian prophet. They claim descent from the Canaanite, Jebusites, and Philistines as the rightful heirs to Israel. Jerusalem is really theirs and Yossi Beilin has a plan to give it to them. Hasan Tahboub, president of the PLO backed Supreme Muslim council, claims that Jews have no rights in the Cave of the Machpelah. That it is a Muslim site and Abraham was a Palestinian. Palestinians now talk about their "diaspora" and about their "holocaust" at the hands of the Jews. Yes my friends, they are cutting the heart from the buffalo and drinking its lifeblood.
When will the buffalo return to its true self: the Lion of Judah?
Bernard J. Shapiro is director of the Freeman Center For Strategic Studies, Houston, Texas and editor of THE MACCABEAN. This parable was first published in The Jewish Press (NY) on February 25, 1994 and Jewish Herald-Voice (Houston) on April 21, 1994 and in March 1994 issue of The Caucus Current.