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Lessons Learned, Lessons Forgotten
His eyes burned from trying to focus into the distant horizon. It was beautiful, a red flash that spread across the heavens while one watched as a glistening yellow fireball slowly ascended into the sky. It was as if one was witnessing the birth of a second sun. Then the smoke arose in a thick billowing sheet, rising from a stem to form the image of a treetop suspended in the air. The brightness caused him to squint, and tears flowed from the strain, but he had to keep looking—his eyes transfixed on the image. And although he fully understood the horror that was unfolding before him, he still could not help but feel awestruck at the sight of it.
Gone forever was the city of his childhood, the city where his parents had struggled to build a new life, the city that he loved most in all the world. Tel Aviv was no more, its 1.2 million inhabitants evaporated in an instant before his very eyes. As he stood there he felt he had witnessed the physical expression of a question he had often asked. Jacob Yaeger was sure that he had finally seen the true face of God. "So that’s what he looks like," he thought to himself, "so beautiful, and his touch so remorseless."
Jacob stepped out of his stalled vehicle and began to walk toward the city. All around him, people scrambled and fled in the opposite direction. But Jacob walked towards the city, the city where, within that fireball, he once had a wife and son. He walked on, oblivious to the chaos all around him.
The heat was unbearable, and the closer he came to the city the greater the burning sensation in his throat and lungs. His body began to redden and the skin on his exposed arms and face began to blister and crack. As he walked his legs became increasingly heavy, and a throbbing pain began to rack his eyes and head. He became increasingly unsteady with each step, and began to fall every few yards or so. Finally he collapsed onto the pavement, unable to move, barely able to breathe.
Jacob began to sob, and the image of his long-deceased grandmother filled his mind. His grandmother whom he had loved so much ... he could see her face now. Suddenly she was there, sitting beside him. She began to speak, and he could hear her soft voice, repeating a line from Shlonsky’s Oath. The words began to fade just as the life began to fade from Jacob's body. And in the last minute just before he died, he repeated along with his grandmother, "Cry heaven if in vain passed that night of rage, cry heaven if by morning I resume my trod, not learning the lesson taught me by this age."
The above story is an allegory for an event, which unfortunately could easily transpire within the next few years. In the years that lie ahead of us, the topic of nuclear proliferation by Islamic theocracies will increasingly dominate the news. Voices from all sides of the political spectrum will lend their expert advice on the issue. The loudest voice that you will hear is the ever-present voice of appeasement and pacifism: the voice of the guilt-ridden and self-hating Western nations.
If the voices of appeasement prevail, the victim and ultimate casualty may or may not be Israel, but the final result will be identical. The words "never again" have become almost exclusively associated with the Holocaust and the Jewish people, but the lesson to be learned from the Holocaust is not a Jewish one, but a lesson for all humanity. It is a lesson that every man who values freedom and life would profit from. It is a lesson that, if forgotten, can lead only to tragedy.
What led to the Holocaust was no historical aberration, but the logical culmination that follows from compromise and appeasement. It was Edmund Burke who once warned, "The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." We live at a point in history where Burke’s observation may be tested once again. Jacob’s final cry is the cry of a man who lived to see the day when history repeated itself in spite of the lessons that stood before us. It is the last line of an oath that was meant as an admonition to prevent a horror of that scale from being repeated.
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