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When Time Stood still

Tal Hartuv - 14 May 2024

It seems a universe ago when I wrote last month’s article, yet it is only a matter of 30 days. This is because it is hard to keep track of the monumental events that have happened, and are happening, in the Middle East and throughout the Western world. Events are happening so fast it makes time stand still.

“Events are happening so fast it makes time stand still”

Three historic events squeezed into a matter of days, have distorted time itself. Some of these events have not only changed the Middle East, but the entire globe, and one event, has been catapulted us from our past right into the present.

In no particular chronological order, let me start with the latter just mentioned, the 14th of Nissan, which in the secular calendar fell this year on 22nd April, the night of Passover. Passover, a biblical commandment, is the essence of the covenant between the God of Israel and His people which has been marked by the Jewish people for nearly 4,000 years.

It is impossible to overstate the importance of this festival. Passover is noted frequently in Jewish liturgy. In Jewish tradition there are many notable events which happened on Passover. Abel offered the lamb which was accepted by God. God forged a covenant with Abraham in what is known as the Covenant of Parts. Jacob wrestled with an angel, Moses stood in front of the burning bush, Gideon defeated the Midianites and Esther declared a fast on that day. In modern Jewish history, the iconic Warsaw Ghetto Uprising began on the Eve of Passover.

At the most basic level, Passover is the birth of our freedom from tyrants, it is the genesis of the formation of the people of Israel itself. It is hard to find an event in history such as Passover, where we can look back and say that it was entirely done by the Hand of God.

Plague upon plague (or miracle upon miracle) was followed by the Angel of Death passing over every Israelite home, and ultimately liberation for the Hebrew people. Not one Israelite could claim that all these miracles was down to him – or her. Therefore, we are called to remember that it was God who delivered us miraculously from Egypt with His outstretched arm and mighty hand, and nothing, no matter how sad, must ever stop us from celebrating that.

Yet this year, Passover was tinged with sadness. Many seders had an empty chair to symbolize the absence of many of our people who have either been murdered, fell in battle or are still being tortured in that hell hole called Gaza. Just like Purim which we had marked only weeks before, Passover too was toned down, but nevertheless it was celebrated.

“The commandments of God at Sinai also form the philosophy of many university campuses, now a hotbed of antisemitic Nazi-like thuggery where Jewish students are barred”

50 days after Passover the Israelites famously receive the commandments of God at Sinai, thus Passover and the Giving of the Torah are intrinsically connected. You can’t have one without the other. These commandments given to the Jewish people are more than a guide book on how to live a righteous life, they are our covenant, the essence of goodness, righteousness, kindness, commitment, justice and interestingly, they also form the philosophy of many university campuses. Many of these Ivy League universities have Hebrew in their logos. These logos are still on their letter heads and websites. Yet these now are the same campuses which are a hotbed of antisemitic Nazi-like thuggery where Jewish students are barred. Not since Hitler came to power have Jews been refused access on campuses or cries heard on the street from academic institutions to spill Jewish blood.

“It could very well be that the student demonstrations of today are setting in motion the demise of the West as we know it”

It is difficult to appraise the important historicity of an event while it is happening. But at the very least, from these universities comes future leadership, whether they be politicians, or scientists, or historians or artists.  It could very well be that these demonstrations of today are setting in motion the demise of the West as we know it, making way for a new “civilization” lead by students desecrating institutions ironically founded on the Ten Commandments and now calling for Jewish blood.

This is not just a tragedy for Jewish students who want to study at these Ivy Leagues institutions, it is a devastating and arguably mortal blow to what we once knew as Western Civilization.

It would be all too easy to get gloomy, if it were not for probably the most astonishing night in the history of modern Israel, since the Angel of Death passed over the Israelite houses thousands of years ago. The night of April 14th, certainly felt like the Angel of Death had passed over the Israelites once more.

A sense of an apocalypse has been building up ever since the 7th of October. Not that we are over that yet, but certainly as over 500 cruise and ballistic missiles and drones made their way to Israel from Iran, there was nothing to do but wait, and pray, and hope, that God would deliver his people once more.

The human achievement of a successful defence was staggering. The sheer logistics of bringing down all those missiles, and all at once, mostly outside of Israeli airspace – which took the cooperation of Arab nations – is not to be sniffed at. Confidence in our army was at its lowest after the massacres of October 7th, which made the Air Force achievement all the more surprising and spectacular.

With that, even the most sceptical scientists and agnostic statisticians have not been slow to point out the coordination required of successfully downing these missiles were very low indeed. The next day there was true jubilation and gratitude to the army, but for the first time since the war, there was a bit of a reverend hush. Did the Angel of Death just pass over us as he did back then? In that sense, the 14th and the 22nd April 2024, blended into one big Passover where thousands of years apart merged into the present. And this is what it made it feel like time stood still.

“It is not for us to know it all, and it is the unknown that brings us to our knees”

Let’s be honest, with all the people who have been murdered, attributing miracles when someone is saved from harm, can be an assumption and also insensitive. The Master of the Universe loves mystery. He says so Himself. It is not for us to know it all, and it is the unknown that brings us to our knees.

The sheer helplessness of it all, is a reminder of who we are and who we are not. Thousands of Christians prayed for us that night, and me, a sceptic by nature, am truly thankful both to those who prayed and to the Master of the Universe for taking note. Through what often seems to be a never-ending hell we have all been reminded that we are not alone. For now, at least Israel has been given a reprieve.

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