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Purim and the War
Last uploaded : Monday 17th Mar 2003 at 21:33
Contributed by : The Editor

 

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(Ancient Megillah from the Venice Jewish Ghetto Museum)

Nothing could be more sobering than the idea that a military engagement that is unprecedented in American history in its scope and purpose unfolding during Purim. Yesterday in the Azores the heads of state of two old cultures, Spain and Britain, and the President of the great power of the New World met to discuss the twilight of diplomacy and the prospect of a conflict that could end in Armageddon. We are hearing tonight that Saddam Hussein, the modern-day Amalek/Haman, has placed his brother under house arrest for refusing to swear an oath to the Iraqi dictator.

As this article goes to press we are also hearing the ominous news of a new strain of pneumonia that is killing those who contract it around the globe. If this is the plague we had feared would be unleashed by a terror state then Armegeddon is nearer than we had envisaged. On Fox News, Geraldo Rivera is showing the audience the destruction wrought on the 1,500-year-old Buddhas of Bamiyaan by the Taliban in Afghanistan Readers will recall that we launched our website after this event and that the quotation on our masthead refers to this obscene destruction and desecration of the Buddhist faith.

These disparate threads lead to one all-consuming theme: that the world is one the precipice of a major upheaval that all decent people hope will end with the liberation of the Iraqi people and the birth of a new Middle East and an Israel living in peace. It gives pause that the United States is contemplating war on the eve of Purim, indeed as we begin our Fast of Esther. The single-mindedness of British Prime Minister Tony Blair has confounded even his harshest critics, and it is indeed an irony that as war approaches his staunchest support comes from the opposite side of the House of Commons. Blair has lost a Cabinet Minister, Robin Cook, and risks losing another, Clare Short, who has ?gone home to sleep on a decision.?

However, our minds and hearts as Jews go out to our family and friends in Israel, who tonight have been told to prepare sealed rooms and be ready for a chemical attack. According to the Israeli News Agency ITIM tonight, a senior Pentagon official has acknowledged that the soldiers of the Iraqi Republican Guard are armed with chemical launchers.

In the context of Purim we are aware that many Liberal synagogues do not have a Purim celebration due to the ?confrontational nature? of the story. The last time I celebrated Purim in Israel, 4th March 1996, the Hamas perpetrated an horrific terrorist attack on the Dizengoff Centre in Tel Aviv. Children on holiday were killed and maimed, and two new friends I had just made, Sylvia Bernstein and Gail Belkin, were blown to bits. I remember sitting in the steak bistro opposite in Rehov Mendele opposite the Dan Hotel and crying, crying and crying as I read the black -rimmed boxes in the Jerusalem Post?s overcrowded obituary pages. It was a Purim I will not soon forget, and lest we forget Shimon Peres, the ultimate peacemaker, was in power at the time. I do not find the Purim story unduly confrontational; it is a story of Jewish triumph over tyranny and should serve as an inspiration to those seeking to remove Saddam Hussein in the same corner of the world in which the Purim story unfolded.

As we pray for the safety of our loved ones in Israel and for the servicemen and women of the ?coalition of the willing,? we recommend the following Purim website:

http://www.holidays.net/purim/

To visit the Venice Ghetto Museum go to:

http://www.doge.it/ghetto/purp.htm
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