Ehud Olmert’s speech to Congress occasioned a beautiful essay by Ed Lasky regarding a prior occasion when the leader of a small embattled country, nearly alone and under barbaric attack, spoke from the same podium. Atlas Shrugged thought she was witnessing history.
The speech had flashes of eloquence, moments of genuine emotion, and symbols of Jewish history looking on, with Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel and the family of terrorist victim Daniel Cantor Wultz in the audience.
But there was a hole in the heart of the speech, a reference to history different from what Ed and Atlas saw. Here is what Olmert said:
For thousands of years, we Jews have been nourished and sustained by a yearning for our historic land. I, like many others, was raised with a deep conviction that the day would never come when we would have to relinquish parts of the land of our forefathers. I believed, and to this day still believe, in our people's eternal and historic right to this entire land.
But I also believe that dreams alone will not quiet the guns that have fired unceasingly for nearly a hundred years. Dreams alone will not enable us to preserve a secure democratic Jewish state.
Jews all around the world read in this week's Torah portion: "And you will dwell in your land safely and I will give you peace in the land, and there shall be no cause for fear neither shall the sword cross through the Promised Land".
Painfully, we the people of Israel have learned to change our perspective. We have to compromise in the name of peace, to give up parts of our promised land in which every hill and valley is saturated with Jewish history and in which our heroes are buried. We have to relinquish part of our dream to leave room for the dream of others, so that all of us can enjoy a better future.
You have to parse those four paragraphs, and then read the underlying biblical reference, to understand the magnitude of what Olmert was saying:
(1) he has always believed, and believes “to this day,” that Jews have a “historic right” to the “entire land;” (2) but guns have been firing for 100 years; (3) the Torah declares that Jews have been given the Promised Land in peace; (4) but the people of Israel have “learned to change our perspective” and will give up part of that land -- a part “saturated with Jewish history” -- to people whose dream, spelled out in their charter, is the destruction of Israel.
Olmert’s biblical reference was to Verse 6 from Leviticus 26:3-9. The full passage reads as follows:
3 If ye walk in My statutes, and keep My commandments, and do them;
4 then I will give your rains in their season, and the land shall yield her produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.
5 And your threshing shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time; and ye shall eat your bread until ye have enough, and dwell in your land safely.
6 And I will give peace in the land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid; and I will cause evil beasts to cease out of the land, neither shall the sword go through your land.
7 And ye shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword.
8 And five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall chase ten thousand; and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword.
9 And I will have respect unto you, and make you fruitful, and multiply you; and will establish My covenant with you.
It is Jewish history in a few words: a promise of land to be enjoyed in peace, a miraculous victory over enemies far greater in number, a covenant with God.
But now, according to Olmert, the people of Israel have learned to change their perspective. They will uproot Jews from land saturated with Jewish history and turn it over to enemies who dream of a Judenrein world, who are arming themselves to realize their dream, and who have already demonstrated in Gaza what they plan to do with the land once they get it.
And if they will not demonstrate that they will live in peace with Israel, Israel will uproot the Jews and give its enemies the land anyway.
He is very, very tired.(Update: thank you to Lynn-B for the extraordinarily generous link).