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Running on Empty

Running on Empty

Israelis are feeling a sense of desperate tension.


March 7 -- Anyone who has driven an automobile for some period knows the feeling now gripping the Jews of Israel. It is the feeling a driver has when the gauge on the dashboard signals the gas tank is empty. The driver is aware there is still some gasoline left in the tank - the gauge always allows for that -- but is not certain how far he can travel on that invisible reserve.

The uncertainty of the situation, the lack of knowledge of where the next filling station will appear, and the frightening thought of being stuck alone on a deserted road all contribute to the feeling of desperate tension gripping the driver.

Well, that is pretty much how we in Israel feel today. We are driving on empty.

In our heart's heart, we know the current Saudi proposal is a non-starter. Saudi Arabia has trotted out this very same plan every so often to repair its fraying image in the West. It does not address any of the hard issues that are part of the current struggle. It is simply the old "land for peace" mantra that has proven so ineffectual until now.

How much land? What about just a little peace? Yasser Arafat already had in hand 99% of what the Saudi proposal purports to give him, and he has repaid us in blood and terror for our efforts at peace. Who can really trust him?

Even the most fervent peace-seekers in our midst know deep down there is very little fuel left in that gas tank.

And who can trust Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, Bashar Assad, Hizbullah, the Iranian mullahs, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and his Hamas terrorists, the whole gang of evil that confronts us? Even the most fervent peace-seekers in our midst know deep down there is very little fuel left in that gas tank.

The use of additional force against the Palestinians may also not provide us with the security we seek. Destroying the infrastructure of terror in the West Bank and Gaza Strip may minimize the frequency and deadliness of the attacks against us, but the psychology of hatred and the continuing incitement of that hatred against us will not be crushed completely by force. In fact, the very triumph of force may enhance it. There will continue to be those who somehow see blowing themselves up to kill Jewish babies and innocent civilians as a noble and spiritually uplifting act.

Of course, given the choice of these imperfect options -- surrender to terror cloaked in a false peace process or the use of force to attempt to control that terror -- it is logical force must be employed to prevent our destruction. But ultimately, it may not be the answer to our dilemma. Therefore it is not clear how much fuel is left in that gas tank either.

If the outside world was not so cynical in its attitude toward the struggle here in the Middle East, it could serve as a filling station for us. It could demand an end to the hatred and incitement, a reasoned approach to the problems, a recognition the previous solutions based purely on land for peace have failed and allowing the Arabs to exploit the "refugees" for more than half a century was a terrible error. It could then have legitimacy in providing a forum and plans for easing the pain of both sides and laying the groundwork for a framework that would, over time, probably a long time, serve to settle the outstanding issues of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

However, the statements and behavior of the European Union, Kofi Annan and the UN, much of the world media, and the resurrection of both open and winked-at anti-Semitism in so many countries give us little confidence that this possible filling station is really open for business. So we have no choice but to keep on driving.

No people in the world has endured what we have and yet survived and even prospered in spite of all the odds.

The Jewish people's automobile has always had an unseen and impossible-to-measure reserve in its tank. No people in the world has endured what we have and yet survived and even prospered in spite of all the odds. There is a reservoir of faith that sustains us, no matter our level of observance. Faith that there will be better days, that the God of Israel will not forsake us, that somehow there will eventually emerge a way out of this morass, that somewhere on our road there is a gas station open and prepared to fill our tank once more.

Even as we weep over our innocent victims and mourn the seemingly implacable hatred driving our enemies, we should renew our faith in ourselves and our future.

We are experts on driving on empty. It is a skill painfully learned over millennia. It will stand us in good stead now, when all of our other skills seem to be insufficient to help us.

March 10, 2002

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Visitor Comments: 5

(5) RiMi Berger, March 12, 2002 12:00 AM

I don't really like the reference to the outside world being a refuling stop. The only one we have, to rely on is our wonderful God! He controles all, not Sharon or Bush or Arafat!

(4) nichael mckeehen, March 11, 2002 12:00 AM

Don't give in to terrorism. One crack in the wall is all the terrorists need .Peace at any cost will be paid for later in blood.

Be forever vigilant. Remember your past don't let anyone convince you to give up one inch of your country. America wouldn't.You're our only beacon hope.Show the way through your courage and resolution.

(3) Rachel Glyn, March 11, 2002 12:00 AM

Great Metaphor

Rabbi Wein's article about looking for a gas tank when you're running on empty reminds me of Yaakov Avinu. He alwo was worried about running on empty. He prepared gifts for Esav, he prepared for war, and he davened. Similarly, we can put out peace feelers, we can wage war with ferocity, but we must always remember that it is only Hashem who will ultimately fill our gas tank. Yisagevch shaim Elokei Yaakov!

(2) Phillip Kruse, March 10, 2002 12:00 AM

Our God is sufficient!

Dear Rabbi Wein -

In the midst of the terrible atrocities which we are now witnessing on almost a daily basis, a few tiny rays of light persist in shining through, even though the tank reads "empty". One is the guarantee from the very word of God itself, that "The God of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps". We can be guaranteed that, having wrought the miracle of the re-establishment of Israel in the first place, He hasn't gone to sleep on the job. Second is the fact that, search your Bible as thoroughly as you choose, there is NO mention of any further Dispersion. Yes, there was the Assyrian captivity, the Babylonian captivity and the destruction of the Temple by Rome. But a "Palestinian captivity"? Trust me - it's not there. The nation of Israel WILL survive. You can put money on it.

(1) , March 10, 2002 12:00 AM

What a great analogy

You described perfectly that sick feeling that I have inside all the time now. It's scary that we are only experiencing an iota of the losses of the Holocaust and a fraction of the desperation Jews must have felt then. "When will this madness end?" I keep reminding myself that we survived even that. More and more people are saying that only Hashem can resolve this.

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