by Gonen Ginat
To understand this story, we need to mention that according to religious law, once a Jew recites a blessing over the performance of a particular commandment, he or she must perform the commandment immediately, without interruption. Talking is not permitted between the recitation of the blessing and the act. Why? Just because. Now for the story:
“One morning, a Jewish wagon driver came to town and related what he had seen. A group of armed Cossacks was about an hour outside town, and from their speech it was plain that they were on their way to murder, rape and plunder. On hearing this, those Jews who could threw their most precious possessions into wagons and fled to safety until the danger had passed.
“Who was left? Only a few old men who had stubbornly refused to get on the wagons with the others. Rabbi Baruch Eigen was among them. He locked himself in his tiny shop in a shack at the edge of town and opened a book of Psalms. He heard the hoofbeats of the Cossacks’ horses and the cries of the Jews. Several minutes later, three Cossacks kicked his door open, burst in and pointed their rifles at him. Rabbi Baruch lifted his eyes heavenward and began to recite the blessing: “Blessed are You, O Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, Who has commanded us to sanctify His name publicly.” The Cossacks looked at this Jew, who seemed to them so odd that they decided to leave him alone and walked out. As they left, Rabbi Baruch ran after them saying, “Ummm! Ummm!” When they didn’t turn around, he shouted: “But I already recited the blessing!”
(from "Tales from Our City")
This week, one of the television channels reported a similar incident. But this time, it was not a group of helpless Jews facing armed rioters, but rather Jews who were trained and well armed. Yet their response was identical to that of the Jew who begged the Cossacks to do him in.
A report broadcast on Channel 2 TV showed dozens of Palestinians standing in front of an army position with an armed Border Police soldier inside — who was not responding. They threw firebombs at him again and again, and he did nothing. He was not the only one: his fellow soldiers stood at a nearby position and did nothing. All of them had weapons — and nothing.
The reason they allowed the Palestinians to throw firebombs and rocks at them undisturbed was that those were their orders, and they know very well that if any one of them should have opened fire, he would have found himself under investigation and court-martialed, with the violent Palestinians on the side of the accusers, right beside our own justice system. The Channel 2 TV commentator explained that the soldiers were acting according to orders: taking barrages of violence again and again, without responding.
Have we gone completely out of our minds? Is there any other possible reason?
Years ago, on reserve duty during one of the intifadas in the Rafah area, an officer appeared and explained that if anyone threw rocks at us, we had to think while the rock was airborne and then, if we reached the conclusion that after the incident we would manage to prove that the rock had put our lives in danger, and in addition, while it was in the air we saw that the person who had thrown it was aiming another one — only then could we fire into the air. This is the honest truth.
One of the reservists at the time, a fellow named A.H., was considered something out of legend. He was a ship’s mechanic who had emigrated from a South American country, repaired our jeeps with staples and pieces of rusty metal wire that he had picked up from the ground, and carried a machete wherever he went. One day, he was driving along the road that later became known as the Philadelphi Road. A group of young men started throwing rocks at him. They were on his left.
Now we need to exercise our imaginations a bit. He was driving an open jeep with a canvas roof. His left hand was on the steering wheel, and with his right hand he took the M-16, leaned it on his left hand — which was on the steering wheel — looked into the sight, and fired a single rubber bullet. All this while he drove at high speed. The bullet struck the ringleader in the middle of the neck as he held a large rock. Later on, the young man died of the injury. They said that the Palestinians buried him with the rock in his hand.
As expected, an investigation was launched. The reservist's main problem was that according to the orders at the time, a rubber bullet could be fired only when it was well aimed and the target was sure to be hit. This was to avoid harming innocent people. But the bullet was fired while he driving at high speed, with his gun in one hand. On the other hand, A.H. claimed that considering his skills as a sniper, hitting the target was a sure thing. It was a fact that he had indeed hit the target.
A.H. was so sure he promised that if the event were to be re-enacted, he would fire again while driving, with only one hand holding the gun, and hit the target precisely once again.
A colonel attended the re-enactment. I think he was the brigade commander. Beside him was an whole entourage of lawyers, all of them in well-pressed uniforms, chuckling over A.’s presumption.
And then they rode in the jeep. A.H. drove as he had during the incident, with the colonel sitting next to him. When they approached, the brigade commander told A.H. that his target was an electricity pole that was twice the distance from him that the ringleader of the rock-throwing group had been.
“No problem,” A.H. told the colonel. He took the M-16 in his right hand once more while driving at high speed, and this time, without looking into the sight, he fired at the electricity pole.
He was not court-martialed.
On the other hand, what happened afterward was that the ones who got stronger were the battalions of the military advocate-general.
Which is reminiscent of an incident that occurred several generations after the story we began with. A Jew was hiking in the Appalachians in the United States. Suddenly he saw an enormous grizzly bear in front of him. The Jew took a small book of Psalms out of his pocket and began to mumble. After a moment, he saw that the bear had taken out a small book and was mumbling, too.
Raising his head, the Jew asked the bear, “What are you saying?”
The grizzy looked at him and answered, “What kind of question is that? Aren’t you supposed to make a blessing before you eat?”
Which raises the question: would it not be appropriate for the IDF and the Border Police to consider giving some of the troops something that could be a good deal more useful than weapons, such as a book of Psalms?
It is all the same thing
Less than a week after we went over to standard time, dozens of essays and battalions of presenters and commentators of various radio and television news programs told us again and again what a stupid mistake it was to go off daylight savings time “in the middle of the summer.”
That is what happened last year too. Then, too, they talked endlessly about “the middle of the summer.”
And last year, right after we went over to standard time, it rained. Just like this year.
And last year, nobody looked at the rain, remembered the lectures about “the middle of the summer,” and said, “Sorry, I made a mistake.”
Yes — it was all just like this year.
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