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Independence Day – A play in four acts – assembled from the writings of Rabbi Meir Kahane

[First Act: While reading this, imagine you are standing on a crowded place, surrounded by music, lights, blue and white flags, beaming faces – celebrating. Planes fly artistic formations overhead, to the cheers of the crowd.]

“The State of Israel came into being not because the Jew deserved it, but because the gentile did. It came into being not because the Jew was worthy of it but because the Name of G-d had reached its fill of humiliation and desecration. “I do this not for your sake, O House of Israel, but for Mine holy Name's sake which ye have profaned among the nations.” That is the essence and foundation of foundations. We say Hallel on Yom HaAtzmaut, not because the government or we are worthy of the miracle but because G-d has decided to put an end to Chilul Hashem. The sins and demerits of the Jews who created that State are of absolutely no relevance to its creation. Israel came into being because Israel is the essence and the apex of Kiddush Hashem! Israel is the Jew who hits and is no longer hit. Israel is freedom and not bondage. Israel is living proof of the falsehood that is Christianity [and Islam]. Israel is Kiddush Hashem. And so, happiness for the Jew is watching the Phantoms zoom past the roofs of Zion and Jewish children shouting and waving at them. It is seeing “Jewish planes” after existing in a world for so many years in which every plane was “theirs”. In a world in which planes spit their deadly bullets into Jews, their swastika markings etched into Jewish souls as they pronounced “Auschwitz” upon us; in a world of planes wearing British bullseyes which guaranteed that a limping refugee ship would be stopped before it could reach the gates of Zion; in a world of planes with crescent and star promising to wipe the budding Jewish community of Eretz Yisroel off the map. But those are days that once were and will never return because today there are Jewish planes, too, and only those who endured the eternity when there was no such thing can understand true happiness and serenity.

Happiness is watching the Jewish army and knowing that the spirit of Zion cannot live without a body and that this army is the guarantor of that body's existence. And happiness is thinking, just for a moment, about what Jews have accomplished in just a few years since they returned home. From thousands to millions of Jews; from ghettos to cities and farms that are all Jewish; from a motley medley of foreign tongues to the resurrection of Hebrew – and how sweet it is to hear the military commands and the most technical of phrases spoken in the tongue of Abraham and the Book of Genesis. Happiness is to walk, on the eve of Independence Day, down King George Street, and have youngsters hit you on the head with the silly, plastic musical hammers that have become a permanent part of the day. Happiness is to thread your way past the incredibly crowded streets where cars are banned for the night and to listen to the music playing over the loudspeakers strung along the streets and the people dancing and laughing. Happiness is watching the non-Jews looking at a Jewish parade in the Jewish capital city of the Jewish State.

Happiness is knowing that most of the non-Jewish countries who have consulates and embassies in the City of David boycott the Independence Day parade lest their presence be construed as recognition of the Jewishness of the City – and not giving one solitary hoot whether they show up or not! Happiness is watching young Jewish children who never knew what it meant to be a minority and never heard the words “zhid” or “kike” or “yahud”. Happiness is knowing that if anyone did call them that, he would find his face attached to the end of a Jewish fist. Happiness is watching the soldiers with beards and yarmulkas showing that mastering the intricacies of a mere sub-machine gun is child's play for a Talmudic scholar. He who does not believe that the rise of the State of Israel is the hand of G-d is not only a non-believer; he is also blind. If this rebirth of a nation and state and language from the clutching jaws of the seventy wolves is not a miracle, then there are indeed no miracles. If the renaissance of a people in the face of every logic and sanity is not Divine decree then the Spring that brings rejuvenation to the dead earth is not Divine and the life that emerges from the mother's womb is profane and natural. Happiness is walking in Zion and embracing your father Abraham. Happiness, for the Jew, is Zionism.

[II Act: Now, imagine the lights going dark and the music fading away... think of the other, the darker side of Israel as a cold breeze touches your face:] They came at night. A knock on the door. And then another. There are four of them. One flashed his card. Good evening, Rabbi Kahane, we are from the police. I regret to have to ask you to come with us for a small clarification. What is it about? He smiles: I prefer to speak about it at the station. It is not new to me. Just the previous week others had come – at midnight. I sat in prison for a week and was suddenly released. No charge. I assume this is one more petty harassment on the part of the government. I take my tefillin on the reasonable charge that I will be held overnight and tell my wife: I will see you soon – don't worry. She will, but not too much – she has seen this many times before. - The Arab in East Jerusalem is not an Israeli, does not want to be an Israeli, hates Israel, and looks forward to the day of his “liberation”, when all Israel will become “Palestine”. - It is for saying self-evident truths that I am being arrested and I muse ruefully about the fact that even the weather has turned bitterly cold on this unsmiling holiday. A sudden shift in the weather has brought uncommon rain for the middle of May and the cold wind seems to mirror the feeling in Israel and the country drifts, as a ship without a hand at the rudder.

We arrive at the Russian compound, the main police station. The officer in charge jumps out. I wait patiently, knowing the procedure. I will be taken inside for questioning. As always, I will greet the police – whom I know – and smilingly say: “I have nothing to say concerning any question.” I will be either released or held for 48 hours and brought before a judge. This is the usual procedure. But not this time. Israel has progressed. The officer returns. In his hand he has some paper. He gets in and turns to me. I regret that I must do this in the automobile but I must read to you the following. He proceeds to read: “Under my authority as Minister of Defense and under the administrative detention orders, I hereby order that Meir ben Yechezkel Kahane be held in Jerusalem and Shata prison for a period of six months.” (signed) Ezer Weizman. That is it. No trial, no judge, no attorney, no charge, no opportunity to defend. I think: This is what the “one democracy in the Middle East” has come to. I remember the little blue and white Jewish National Fund pushka I would put a penny into each day as a child. The dream was to build a Jewish State – someday. I remember the years I gave as a youth to Begin's Zionist youth movement – Betar, and the final words of martyred Jewish underground soldiers going to the gallows under “emergency” laws. I think of how many speeches I have made pleading for Jews to come home – home to Israel. I regret nothing. The dream remains and will be, long after the neo-Hellenists and gentilized Hebrews of today are gone. Weizman is not Israel. He represents all that is foreign and un-Jewish in the land. He will pass but the dream will remain – and be fulfilled.

[III Act: Now the scenery switches again. Imagine yourself sitting in an auditory, listening intently] The Rabbi used to give a shiur every Saturday night in the museum of the Potential Holocaust in Jerusalem, usually informal and relaxed talks on the weekly Torah portion with direct implications for everyday life and current events. His audience was mainly young Americans vacationing in Israel, who had come to hear his message, and one theme that the Rabbi always emphasized was the obligation for Jews to make Aliyah. It was in the spring of 1990 that a young American woman confronted the Rabbi on this issue: “I am studying in Neve Yerushalaim,” she introduced herself. “I do understand the obligation to live in Israel – but I hate the government so much, I couldn't stand it here.” The Rabbi looked at her in disbelief: “You hate this government?” he echoed her words. Then he continued, giving his famous gentle smile though his voice was as hard as steel: “I've been arrested 68 times – and you hate this government?!” Even she joined in the general laughter, as the Rabbi hammered his point home: a Jew does not come to Israel because he loves the government, but because he loves the land, and because it is a mitzvah to live in Israel.

[Fourth Act: You are sitting at home in front of your computer, reading all this. From now on, it's in your hands. What will you do? If you haven't made Aliyah yet – will you flee your obligation and bury yourself in the impurity of the exile, because it seems to be the easy way out? If you are already here in Israel – will you curse the secular State and “exile” yourself on a windy hilltop or in a Hareidi ghetto, disengaged from the rest of Am Yisrael because you are “better” than them? Maybe instead, do you feel tired and want give up on idealism, join the rush for blind materialism “like everyone” and just forget about why we are here? Or will you continue the thorny, grueling path of pushing and pulling Israel from what it is now towards what it is meant to be? A JEWISH State, the beginning of our redemption, Kiddush Hashem? It's a long way that may need a Referendum or a Revolution, a keyboard for writing or a sword to be drawn, a tent on a hilltop or an office in a Tel Aviv skyscraper. This is your chance - think and do.]

The quotes and excerpts in this compilation were taken from Rabbi Kahane's book “Listen World, Listen Jew” pp. 122 -125, from Rabbi Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane's booklet “Confronting the Holocaust” Chapter “A knock on the door”, and from Lenny Goldberg's “The Wit and Wisdom of Rabbi Meir Kahane” p. 211-212. Compilation and conclusion by Tzipora Liron-Pinner.

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