Monday, April 15, 2024 -
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What’s the secret?

Most of us are familiar with the famous Mark Twain quote in which he marvels at the continued existence of the Jewish people, when so many other nations have ceased to exist.

Many of us, myself included, feel that the threat facing Jews today is existential. From the time of the Second Exile until the establishment of the State of Israel, Jews had no guaranteed haven in the face of persecution. Israel was a gamechanger. One example: The number of French Jews who migrated there in the wake of the growing anti-Semitism that ratcheted up with the gruesome murder of Ilan Halimi in 2006.

Yet, even as Israel and world Jewry are under threat, in the months since Oct. 7 I have become more confident in our continuing existence. Oddly, the more groups became outspoken against Israel and the Jewish people, the more secure I started to feel. But I struggled to reconcile these seemingly contradictory feelings.

The epiphany came at a “Purim in Israel” night, as I watched a beginner’s demonstration of Krav Maga, the martial art developed by the IDF.

Actually, it started the previous night, hearing the Megillah. 
 As a kid, I was always baffled (and subsequently a bit bored) when, having reached the plot of Haman being destroyed, it turned out that there was still a third of the Megillah to go. This year, however, I found myself paying close attention to the story of the Jews’ bloody war and the laws that emanated from their victory. It wasn’t enough to foil Haman. The larger threat had to be eliminated.

That crystallized for me the following night. Munching on flavorsome falafel at Chabad of Cherry Creek’s Purim party, the audience was rapt as instructors from Colorado Krav Maga demonstrated self-defense techniques and shared the martial art’s philosophy: Defense, then offense. Make specific, tactical moves to address the most immediate threat and then essentially whale on the attacker. “Fight until you don’t need to,” is how the instructor summed it up, “fight until you’re safe.”

“All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains,” wrote Mark Twain in 1899. “What is the secret of his immortality?”

The secret, Mr. Twain, can be summed up in three words: Am Yisrael Chai. Our belief that the people of Israel live, that the people of Israel are eternal, and our readiness to stand up, is the secret of our immortality.

Shana Goldberg may be reached at [email protected]

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