You Can Be A Victim, Or You Can Build

Today is a very special day in Israel, and it highlights one of the main differences between the Jews and the Arabs.

There will be a hachnasat sefer Torah (bringing of a new Torah scroll to a synagogue) in the Old City of Jerusalem today. The Churva synagogue has been rebuilt and will receive its new sefer Torah this afternoon. (You can see the beautiful interiors and hear a historical recap here).

The Churva (meaning “destroyed”) synagogue has a long history. It was built originally in the early 18th century by Ashkenazic Jews who had just come to live in Israel under the leadership of Rabbi Yehuda HaChassid.  They had borrowed money from the Arabs, and when they could not pay the debt the Arabs rioted and destroyed the synagogue.  It was rebuilt again in the mid-19th century with the help of Moshe Montefiore and Baron deRothschild, who stipulated that the synagogue be named after his father. Although the official name was “Beit Yaakov”, the “Churva” name stuck.

This beautiful synagogue was destroyed again during the War of Independence, when the Arab League ordered it bombed to the ground. It was thought that this destruction would symbolize that the Jews would never return to the Old City of Jerusalem.

After the liberation of the Old City in 1967, there was controversy as to what to do with the synagogue. The arch was built in 1977, and the final future of the Churva was debated. Some, including Teddy Kollek, wanted to leave the synagogue in ruins, to show to the world how the Arabs wantonly destroyed our holy sites. Others, who ultimately won out, wanted to rebuild the Churva and restore it to its original beauty.

Why do I say that today highlights one difference between the Jews and the Arabs? It shows how we respectively react to misfortune.

In 1948 during the War of Independence many Arabs fled and became refugees. Despite billions of dollars in foreign aid over the past 60+ years, most of them, and their children and grandchildren, are still living in hovels. The Arabs use their poverty as a propoganda tool in order to gain pity and to bash Israel.

And what about the Jewish refugees? Many people hear the phrase “Jewish refugees” and are confused.  A quick history lesson: after the end of World War Two, Israel absorbed many Jewish refugees from Europe. In addition, between 1947 and 1948, hundreds of thousands of Jews who lived in Arab lands were persecuted and were made to flee these countries. Israel absorbed 586,000 of them. Israelis had to endure food rationing for years in order to pay for the expense of this absorption. Many immigrants were forced to live in tents for a few years, but then permanent housing was built for them.

In short, the Jews took care of their own. They did not force their own people to live in misery in order to “show the world” how cruel the Arabs were.

Today we celebrate the rebuilding of a beautiful synagogue, which will be a place for prayer and learning Torah. In short, Jewish life will go on there. The ruins will remain in pictures and in history books.

You can have your victimhood – we would rather build.

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jjoe
    Mar 14, 2010 @ 09:30:05

    Sweet and true.

    But the real difference lies in two things:

    1 – no separation of church (mosque) and state in Arab-Muslim countries.
    2 – the group still supersedes the individual in every important aspect of life in these countries.

    In other words – they are still living in the Middle Ages, the use of modern technology notwithstanding.

    Until these two aspects of Arab-Muslim society change – Arab-Muslim countries will be at war with the rest of civilized humanity.

    Most likely civilization will win out but we will not live to see it.

  2. anonymous
    Mar 15, 2010 @ 18:12:11

    How on earth are the arabs living in hovels supposed to build anything if Israel won’t let them import building materials anywhere. If they had the money – because that little old occupation of yours keeps the poverty rate higher than anywhere else in the middle east. (These facts apply, evidently, much more to Gaza than to anywhere else).
    Israel recieves more money from America than any other country in the world, and thus can pay for building, and rebuilding, and rebuilding again, all the synagogues you like.
    Are you really as ignorant as all that? Learn a little history from a non-Israeli source.

  3. westbankmama
    Mar 16, 2010 @ 09:03:38

    anonymous – How about checking some facts? The Arabs living in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza strip get millions of dollars in aid from all over the world – and if they wanted to build they could (and do, illegally, quite often). As to the “occupation” – there are no Jews left in Gaza, so who is “occupying” what? Israel receives LOAN GUARANTEES for loans that it pays back, and it receives VOUCHERS to purchase arms from American defense companies – America does not pay for our building expenses.

  4. Jameel
    Mar 17, 2010 @ 05:33:53

    Learn a little history from a non-Israeli source.

    He means: Learn a little propaganda, from a bunch of anti-zionist thugs.

  5. mrZ
    Mar 17, 2010 @ 14:22:50

    “In 1948 during the War of Independence many Arabs fled and became refugees.”
    – Or, more accurate, were forced to leave.

    “The Arabs use their poverty as a propoganda tool in order to gain pity and to bash Israel.”
    – That’s not true. Don’t buy all the anti-arab propaganda you hear in media.

  6. Y
    Apr 01, 2010 @ 19:44:12

    poor little arabs, having to pay the price for losing the genocidal war that they themselves started. forgive me if my pity is not suitably mustered.

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