Sunday, April 30, 2017

They Shall Not Pass

My mother visited Israel not long after the '73 War and came back with a few records of Israeli songs from that conflict, part of the soundtrack of my childhood. Songs that became Israeli classics like Naomi Shemer's "Lu Yehi" (Let It Be) and Yehoram Gaon's "Ani Mavtiah Lakh" (I Promise You).

Songs that prayed for peace, for the safe return of loved ones serving at the front, about the desire to live normally without threat of conflict constantly hanging over Israel, the loss of youthful innocence as yet another generation underwent a baptism of fire, gratitude to God and the dedicated men and women protecting Israel's borders from enemies bent on the destruction of the Jewish state.

This song isn't one of the best known, but it stuck in my mind as a child. A song originally recorded by the Golani entertainment troupe during the war it's strident tone directed at the enemy "You shall not pass" and vivid imagery struck a chord, especially as I knew that some of my mother's friends or their children had fought on the Golan.

It wasn't until I learnt the biblical book of Amos as a teen that I fully understood the reference in the song's opening. I think of these verses often in recent years as the horrific war in neighbouring Syria goes on and on with no clear end in sight, every so often spilling over the border with a "stray" shell or rocket or mortar landing on the Israeli side, mostly without injury, but also killing and wounding Israelis working or living near the border fence, most recently hurting a young girl from the moshav of Alonei Habashan near the Syrian border.

The passage from Amos seemed to describe the chaos and displacement of the war in Syria and a government that had pushed its own people too far with its oppression and harsh rule.

ג כה, אמר ה", על-שלושה פשעי דמשק, ועל-ארבעה לא אשיבנו: על-דושם בחרוצות הברזל, את-הגלעד. ד ושילחתי אש, בבית חזאל; ואכלה, ארמנות בן-הדד. ה ושברתי, בריח דמשק, והכרתי יושב מבקעת-אוון, ותומך שבט מבית עדן; וגלו עם-ארם קירה, אמר ה" (עמוס, פרק א)
 3 Thus says the Lord: “For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, Because they have threshed Gilead with implements of iron. 4 But I will send a fire into the house of Hazael, Which shall devour the palaces of Ben-Hadad. 5 I will also break the gate bar of Damascus, And cut off the inhabitant from the Valley of Aven, And the one who holds the scepter from Beth Eden. The people of Syria shall go captive to Kir,” Says the Lord.

The truce that ended the Yom Kippur War kept the border with Syria quiet for decades with a clear DMZ between the sides policed by UN peacekeepers and a border gate that allowed the passage of Golan Druze from Israel to Syria for family visits, marriages and studies. When Syria combusted all of that gradually fell apart, peacekeepers held hostage by militias on the Syrian side, the rhythm of life on the Syrian side of the Golan turned to turmoil and atrocities.

More than ever this song from over 40 years ago is relevant to our region. Please Hashem keep the soldiers on the Golan strong and alert to protect our northern borders and all who dwell close to it.