Let the Sun Stand Still Over Zion

What civilized person could fail to recognize the outrages committed by Hamas and its Iranian backers?

National Gallery of Art, District of Columbia.
'Joshua Commanding the Sun To Stand Still Upon Gibeon,' 1816. National Gallery of Art, District of Columbia.

The discovery of 40 dead babies slain by Hamas illuminates the evil that is unfolding before our eyes. They were found, according to what an Israeli commander told i24 news, at the town of Kfar Aza, whose name conveys its proximity to Gaza. Some of the babies were beheaded. They join the 260 music festival revelers, the 108 martyrs of Kibbutz Be’eri, the hundreds at Kibbutz Nir Oz, and more. This was not a military operation. It was, in many parts, a pogrom.    

That word is not ours. It was used at Kfar Aza by Major General Itai Veruv, of the Israel Defense Forces, the body created to give force to the post-Holocaust cry of “Never Again.” Describing the community’s slaughtered residents — the babies and at least 30 others — he says “it’s a massacre” and adds that “we used to imagine our grandmothers and grandfathers during the pogroms in Europe. It’s not something that we have seen in recent history.”

All Jews know the history General Veruv references. The pogrom was a feature of Jewish life for millenia. There was Elephantine in 410 before the common era, the obliteration of the Jews of York in 1190, the mass murder during the Khmelnytsky Uprising in the 17th century of at least 100,000 Jews in Ukraine, the Farhud in Iraq, and the Nazi extermination campaign. In the Polish town of Jedwabne, to take one example, 1,600 Jews were burned alive in a barn. 

This is only a partial list, but the Kishinev pogrom, in 1903, belongs in a special place. Approximately 49 Jews were brutally killed. A poet, Chaim Nachman Bialik, was dispatched to document the carnage. The future national poet of Israel wrote, in his fury-filled “City of Slaughter,” about the “spattered blood and dried brains of the dead.” Bialik’s outrage was so inchoate that he blamed the Jews  for not fighting back. Let the IDF redeem his soul.

His poem and its outrage inspired the generation that created the Jewish state a mere 45 years after Kishinev. Bialik’s poems, forged out of the Biblical language spoken thousands of years ago, are still recited. Prime Minister Netanyahu quoted from “City of Slaughter”— “Revenge for the blood of a little child has yet been devised by Satan”when he addressed Israel on Saturday, and promised that the final word has not yet been heard.  

What civilized person could fail to recognize the outrages committed by Hamas and its Iranian backers? Evidence for those grows by the hour. What happened during the last days in Israel will be remembered in future years the way Kishinev has been for more than a century. The defeat of those who perpetrated this evil will take time. Let’s hope that the sun will not need to stand still, nor the moon to stop, as it did in the days of Joshua.  

Which brings us back to Chaim Bialik. We have come  a long way since Bialik staggered through the streets of Kishinev. We like the way Conrad Black put it when he said Israel has been given a casus belli the world will understand. Now there is a war to wage, a Jewish state to declare it, Jewish soldiers to fight it, and a Jewish people — and others — to pray to God that the sun will, like it did for Joshua over Gibeon, stand still over Zion.  

The New York Sun

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