On the last Wednesday of 2023, the Israeli media reported the heartbreaking story of a soldier’s posthumous letter to his bereaved parents. Sgt. First Class Yosef Gitarts wrote, “I fell honorably for my people. I have no regrets.” He closed his testamentary thoughts with a request of his parents: “Help Israel. I’m ok.”
A photo of Yosef, handsome and proud in his IDF uniform, was also made public. His selflessness took your breath away and readers likely choked back a sob.
Over 100 years ago, another Yosef, the one-armed Russian-born Joseph Trumpeldor, fell while fighting marauding Arabs at Tel Hai. Trumpeldor’s last words were: “Ein davar, tov lamut ba’ad artzenu”—“No matter, it’s good to die for our country.” Trumpeldor’s iconic words and sacrifice are remembered and honored with a bold stone statue titled “Roaring Lion.” It overlooks the Galilee valley he defended with his life.
These two Yosefs were brave brothers in arms.
On Dec. 19, 1947, the poet Natan Alterman published his poem “Silver Platter.” In it, he predicted that the soon-to-be-declared State of Israel would be born only after the deaths of too many of her Yosefs. He referred to the fallen as “Dressed in battle gear, dirty. Shoes heavy with grime, they ascend the path quietly. … Then a nation in tears and amazement will ask: ‘Who are you?’ … And they will answer quietly, ‘We are the silver platter on which the Jewish state was given.’”
The Israeli battlefield now extends to America. Israel depends upon American diplomatic and military support as other countries retreat in the face of Islamic pressure. The United Nations’ disingenuous diplomacy treats Israel with unmatched duplicity and double standards. The International Committee of the Red Cross has once again failed to support desperate Jewish hostages. Israel’s nascent relationship with its Abraham Accords partners is being tested. The European Union equivocates and untrustworthy players like Qatar maneuver between the warring parties.
America is the best partner in Israel’s struggle for survival.
Gary Wexler’s recent Jewish Journal article “The Inside Story of How the Palestinians Took Over the World” describes a decades-long process in which malign actors brainwashed our youth with educational curricula that slandered the “bad Israelis” and extolled the “good Palestinians.” Wexler asks why the Jewish world, with its celebrated intellect, allowed this to happen.
This is a good question, but an even better one is whether the American Jewish leadership has learned its lesson and can now mount an effective counterattack. Unfortunately, unless Jewish leaders divest themselves of woke, intersectional and other progressive ideologies, they likely cannot.
For decades, the major Jewish organizations have been infected by leftist political bias. They have embraced the woke agenda at the expense of Jewish needs. Too many of them lack the vaunted diversity, equity and inclusion, at least in the political sense, with boards and management bereft of conservatives.
All the while, the woke binary narrative of “oppressor” and “oppressed” was used as a weapon against Israel. After Oct. 7, as Jewish students were attacked, mobs called for the slaughter of all Jews, and academia and the media slandered Israel at every opportunity, Jewish leaders failed to stand up effectively. They were too busy virtue signaling to the same groups that after the Hamas horrors called for the destruction of Israel “from the river to the sea.”
This failure can no longer be tolerated. The monstrous hatred of the enemies of Israel and the Jewish people demands clear, unselfish and immediate action.
Since Oct. 7, over 500 IDF soldiers have perished. Each one has left a family in agony. Feeling guilty from the relative safety of America, we watch the destruction play out on our televisions and computers. We see the faces of our boys and girls fighting Hamas in grimy Gaza or Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. These soldiers are fighting and dying on our behalf. We will not be the next Yosef, but there is much we can do to help.
Let’s press our leaders in their corner offices and stylish boardrooms to focus on the existential threats to the Jewish people and the Jewish state. Make your financial support contingent on their commitment to do so. If these leaders fail, find a solid organization that will put Jewish and Israeli needs first. Our leaders must move past their partisan political beliefs and their own self-interest. Ask them to show the same courage as the two Yosefs.