Euroasian Jewish News
Netanyahu talks faith with Kyiv Jew
Faith is Israel's secret to success, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said to Jewish leaders in Kiev on Tuesday in an address shot through with religious motifs.
"It is very moving to be here, and to again visit Babi Yar, and to understand the incredible distance we traveled from the fields of slaughter to the peaks of nations. Israel today is a world power, a rising power in the world,” he said.
“This people that was almost destroyed, that was slaughtered without mercy – this people stands today at the head of a strong, mighty, advanced, flourishing state – first and foremost because of faith. Without faith, nothing is important. Without faith we would not have brought about the miracle of Israel's rebirth in its land. A faith that was passed from generation to generation, even in the most difficult times.”
Netanyahu's faith-infused address to Jewish leaders in Ukraine – many of them affiliated with Chabad – is in stark contrast to the anti-haredi campaign being waged by Avigdor Lieberman, with whom Netanyahu is now battling for the Russian-speaking electorate.
Netanyahu participated in a memorial ceremony on Monday at Babi Yar, where some 34,000 Jews were murdered by the Nazis and their Ukrainian collaborators in September 1941. Referring to Babi Yar, he said, “In the fields of slaughter there were certainly Jews who whispered [the] ‘Shema Yisrael’ [prayer], and Jews who longed for the rebirth of Israel. It is possible that they may only have uttered a prayer and did not think it would come to pass, but it did because of faith.”
Netnyahu said that the Jewish people are full of faith and a sense of purpose that, in its modern manifestation, is expressed in the rebirth of Hebrew and the Jewish national movement. None of that would have been possible without the contribution of Ukrainian Jewry, he said, which gave birth to Zionist luminaies such as the poets Shaul Tchernichovsky and Hayim Nahman Bialik, and poltical thinkers like Ze’ev Jabotinsky and Ahad Ha'am (Asher Ginsberg).
“They were here, they came from here,” he said. “In fact, Ukrainian Jews gave us some of the greatest geniuses we have had, and they all were infused with a sense of tradition. They knew Jewish heritage, and did not conspire against it.”
He said that these leaders wanted to grab the future and build a state, but did not “slam the door on the past – on the contrary. They sanctified what was holy, embraced it and taught it.”
“We are fighting for the Glory of Israel (Nezah Yisrael),” Netanyahu said, using decidedly religious terminology. “God gave us a great opportunity not given to other people: to rebuild our lives in our land. And we are doing that in a logic-defying manner because of that faith. The combination of faith and mobilizing the special capabilities within our people is changing not only Israel, it is also changing the world.”
By HERB KEINON