Author: Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis
“Poverty of the Soul”
In our society, we tend to associate poverty with financial deprivation. But there is another poverty that is by far more devastating, and that is poverty of the soul, when a person doesn’t know who he is or from whence he has come. When he lacks self esteem because he feels rootless and empty, he is suffering from poverty of the soul. In vain is such a person heir to a great fortune – his ignorance of his inheritance renders him a pauper. Such is the condition prevalent among many of our brethren nowadays. Descendants of Mamlechet Kohanim, a Kingdom of Priests; Goy Kadosh, a Holy Nation that stood at Sinai, they have no memory, no recollection of their past. Their G-d-given inheritance is unknown to them.
This spiritual deprivation holds sway throughout the world, but it is especially visible among our secular government leadership in Israel. The stakes are high, for if they live in ignorance of their Divine heritage, of the fact that it was G-d Himself, who granted them this land, then the very presence of our people in the land is at risk, and alas, that is exactly what has been happening.
But even those of us who are aware very often remain unaware. As dichotomous as this may sound, it is part of the reality of the machinations of the yetzer hora. We became oblivious of the obvious and take for granted that which is readily available. We no longer wonder at the miracle of having returned to the land, of standing in places where for centuries, our forefathers could only have dreamt of standing.
I remember interviewing many years ago for my TV program, Yosef Mendelovitch, a prisoner of conscience who had just been freed from the notorious Soviet prison system.
‘Tell me,’ I asked, ‘while you were sitting in the horrible darkness of solitary confinement, did you ever dream that you would be free again?’
‘I never gave up hope, I never stopped dreaming,’ came his immediate reply.
‘Did you ever try to imagine the very first place that you would visit upon being
‘Yes, I knew exactly where I would ask to go,’ he answered without hesitation.’
‘Could you tell me?’
‘Hebron…’ I repeated. The words shot out like a bolt of lightening, pierced the walls of the studio, spanned the centuries, and took us thousands of years back to our roots, to the cradle of our existence, to our patriarchs and matriarchs. Today, we can all go to Hebron – we can all pray at the grave sites of our holy ancestors…Today we can all stand in the presence of the shechina, before the Wall in Jerusalem. Today, we can all breathe the air of our holy land, but somehow, we’ve lost it. We don’t feel the magic – We no longer have the vision. We have forgotten our royal past. As for our secular leadership, regarding them you can’t even say they forgot – they just never felt it.
Time and again, through this column and my speeches, I have posed a simple question to those who are our policy makers: If we have no right to Hebron, then by what right are we in Tel Aviv? This question has become especially poignant since the ill-fated Oslo accords, but amazingly, no one wakes up. No matter how many terrorist attacks Israel is subjected to our leadership continues to make suicidal concessions (and it doesn’t seem to matter who is in office, from the far left to the far right, they all fall prey to it).
On the very day that the horrific bus bombing took place in Jerusalem and innocent people were killed, seriously wounded and maimed, on that very day our leadership continued to negotiate with the murderers, releasing hundreds upon hundreds of terrorists with blood on their hands.
‘What should Israel do?’ you might ask. ‘After all, Israel has no option but to face reality and recognize a Palestinian state.’
We are a nation that lives by the laws of a different reality. Our reality stems from the Torah – from our G-d given destiny. But I’m not even going to discuss that, for our secular brethren scoff at such truths, so may I suggest that they deal with what they consider to be reality and heed the advice of a former PLO terrorist, Walid Shoebat. Through independent study of the Bible, Mr. Shoebat came to realize the error of his ways and now lectures to Jewish and non-Jewish audiences. In a recent address at the campus of the University of Toronto, he said, ‘Most Jews believe in a two-state solution. I do not believe in this. A Palestinian state will concoct its own rules and laws to continue the killing of Jews.’ He suggested instead, that ‘Israel wake up and smell the Hummus. Israel must return to the status quo – the occupation. There were jobs then, people went to work and supported their families, and whoever got involved with terrorism was exiled or imprisoned. – like in any modern country in the world. I think Israel should stand strong and fight – dismantle Hamas and take away all the weapons, and return to the way it used to be. The introduction of weapons into Palestinian society by Israel (under the Oslo accords Israel gave assault rifles to Arafat’s police force) was a disaster and they must be confiscated. (The latest tragic bus bombing in Jerusalem was executed by one of these PLO policemen).
In describing what life in Judea and Samaria was prior to 1967, he said, ‘We did not particularly mind Jordanian rule. The teaching of the destruction of Israel was a definite part of the curriculum, but we considered ourselves Jordanian until the Jews returned to Jerusalem. Then, all of a sudden we were Palestinians – they removed the star from the Jordanian flag and all of a sudden we had a Palestinian flag.’
Shoebat feels very strongly that the ongoing war against Israel has nothing to do with an Arab desire for a Palestinian state. ‘Never in history was there a Palestinian state,’ said Shoebat, ‘we’ve never wanted a Palestinian state – even today the Palestinians don’t want a Palestinian state’
‘Then what do they want?’ he was asked.
‘They want the destruction of the Jews, period. It’s a religious holy war. It’s in the tradition, the culture. Arafat is a chip off the same block as Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, Ahmed Yassin – they are all birds of a feather, they have a small difference, but are birds of a feather.’
Asked what his message to the Jewish people today is, Shoebat thought for a moment and responded: ‘Your G-d is an awesome G-d and your land and your people are awesome. Hold tight and be strong. Do not be weakened by the nations of the world and all those trying to weaken you and take your land.’
Amazing words from a Muslim, and his story is equally amazing. Shoebat was a religious Muslim who grew up hating Jews. The first song he learned in school was, ‘Arabs are our beloved and Jews are dogs.’ ‘I used to wonder who the Jews were,’ he confided, but he repeated the words with the rest of the kids without any knowledge of the meaning. As a Muslim, he was imbued with the prophecy of Mohamed, which foretold a battle in which the Holy Land would be recaptured and the elimination of the Jews would take place in a massive slaughter. ‘The day of judgment shall not come to pass until a tribe of Muslims defeat a tribe of Jews,’ it said, ‘in Jerusalem and the surrounding nations’.’
Shoebat became involved in various terrorist activities including Arafat’s Fatah group. He was indoctrinated to believe that the way to get to heaven and atone for his sins was to die fighting and killing Jews, and if he did, Allah would grant him a special place in heaven with beautiful women to fulfill his most secret wishes. He had been imprisoned in Israel for his terrorist activities, following which he came to the U.S. where he continued to be a PLO activist. His change of heart occurred when he married his Christian wife who challenged him to prove his Islamic belief that Jews corrupted the Bible and were prophet killers. In response, he obtained his first copy of the Bible to demonstrate to his wife the lies and corruptions for which the Jews were responsible. It was then that he saw the light and realized that it was he who had been fed a pack of lies, and the land was the G-d given inheritance of the Jewish people.
Shoebat expressed deep regret over his past which caused him to be branded a traitor among his own people and compelled him to go into hiding. Nevertheless, he is on a mission, determined not only to warn the Jewish people against the dangers of negotiating with Arabs, but he also feels the urgency of speaking out among his own people. ‘My dream is to go to the prisons where I used to be – Ramallah prison, Muskavit prison – whatever prison – to go there and say ‘hey, there is a different way you can live from the way Yassir Arafat and Ahmed Yassin are brainwashing you to believe. I want to debate them and tell them why there are not 72 virgins waiting for them in the heavens, or any of the other garbage that is being taught in their schools.’
Shoebat urges his Jewish audiences to take back the Land. ‘You are G-d’s people. It belongs to you.’
How sad it is that it is strangers who have to remind us of that – alas, poverty of the soul.