Friday, July 15, 2005

Sharon Has Isabella Syndrome

by Shelomo Alfassa

Yehudah HaLevi once wrote the tearful words: "My heart is in the east, and I in the uttermost west. How can I find savor in food? How shall it be sweet to me? How shall I render my vows and my bonds, while yet Zion lieth beneath the fetter of Edom, and I in Arab chains?"

When Yehudah wrote this, Edom represented the Christian Crusaders that were occupying Jerusalem, while he existed under the thumb of Islamic rulers in Muslim Spain. Today, Jerusalem is liberated from Crusaders and the Jews have been able to return, but Islam remains a driving force in the world, as it was during Rabbi Yehudah's life. In our day, Islamic terrorists and politicians - sometimes one and the same - have caused such great havoc for the Jewish State that the State is willing to pacify them, handing them an important portion of the Jewish homeland that has belonged to the Jews since Samson toppled the Philistines.

Years after Yehudah's poem was written, Spain fell into the hands of the Christians and in 1469, Queen Isabella married Ferdinand of Aragon. Isabella's marriage to Ferdinand united Spain's two largest kingdoms and laid the foundation of the Spanish state. The Edict of Expulsion issued in the Spring of 1492 and promulgated in July of the same year, declared that no Jews were permitted to remain within the Spanish kingdom; they all would have to leave forever. The king and queen of Spain felt the Jews committed "most dangerous" and "contagious" crimes, and if they were expelled, all would be well. The Jews were told they had to the "end of the month of July" to "depart from all of these our said realms and lordships, along with their sons and daughters." They were given "until the end of the said month of July" to better "dispose of themselves, and their possession, and their estates...."

The Jewish people would be banished from the land where they had lived for over 1,000 years because the Spanish felt the Jews had caused great "injury" against the non-Jewish community by observing religious festivals and remaining observant of their religion - a religion despised by non-Jews. In the end, hundreds of thousands of Jews were forced to depart, "never to return or come back." But did this disengagement of a people from their land help Spain, a country that had declared that the Jews were the cause of the problem in their kingdom? No. It led to the economic demise of a country that was once a world power. Only a century after the Jews were expelled, Spain fell as the world's most powerful nation.

In our day, Ariel Sharon and the radical Left have what can be termed Isabella Syndrome, a sickness that manifests itself by development of hatred towards the religion of Judaism along with the idea that if you marginalize religious Jews, all will be better. This month, 513 years since the Expulsion from Spain, Jews are once again faced with being forced from their homes, primarily because of non-Jewish pressure. What makes it unique this time is that pressure is also coming from within the Jewish community.

Jews in the 15th century thought their persecution was a message sent from God because they had sinned, because they had become increasingly secular in their day-to-day life. The same can be said for the issues which face the Jewish people today; ultimately, God is in charge. That said, Ariel Sharon and others who are not Torah observant should realize that expelling Jews from their Biblically ordained land is decisively wrong. As the rabbis have said, it is not Sharon's right to give away pieces of Eretz Israel.

There is an important lesson for Sharon and the others in his camp to heed: it is one thing not to be religious, but it is wholly another to do something that causes your own religion and people to suffer. By removing Jews from their land, by devastating their lives and destroying their livelihood, we do nothing to help the Jewish nation. By labeling Jews who are observant of the laws of Judaism as "radicals" we do nothing to help, and everything to hurt, our image in the non-Jewish world.

There is a famous legend of Jewish history saying that the Sultan of Turkey laughed when he heard Isabella was expelling the Jews from Spain, for it was a foolish thing she was doing. Today, expelling Jews from their modern homeland is no different. In fact, it is worse than foolish; it sets a dangerous precedent to which the world will hold Israel in the future. Expelling the Jews from Gaza sets up a legal paradigm to expel the Jews from Hebron and eventually from Jerusalem. Isabella thought that if the Jews of Spain were marginalized, then Spain would be better off, but that did not happen. Sharon feels that if the Jews of Gaza are marginalized, then Israel will blossom and all will be well between Jews and Arabs. She was dreaming and he continues to dream.

Most important, giving in to demands of Islamic terrorists who have declared they want nothing less than the total annihilation of the world Jewish community is about the most absurd thing one can imagine. It is without question the most absurd move to reward murderers who have caused the street to run red with the blood of our people. The slippery slope we are now perilously perched upon grows smaller each day.

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