Thursday, September 24, 2009

Jews with Guns: The Other Partisans

"Zog nitkaymol . . . Never say that there is only death for you,
Though leaden clouds may conceal the skies of blue,
As the hour that we longer is now near,
And our marching feet beat out that we are here!"
--Lid Partizaner, The Partisan's Song by Hirsch Glick, Vilna Ghetto, 1943

Yesterday, I was reading through some blogs, in the comments on one, I came upon a statement that puzzled me. The commentor was replying to some discussion about Fiddler on the Roof, and then he mentioned the movie Defiance, about Bielsky Partisans of Beylorussia. He said:

"I can't recall a single instance in the film where an action is explicitly informed by religious values. They do some things that are Jewish in character but it's more of a cultural tradition . . ." Comment from "Der Hahn" at At Assistant Village Idiot .

So yesterday afternoon, the Boychick and I sat down to watch movie. At the end we looked at each and said, "That blogger does not understand."

The whole movie was religious in the Jewish sense. The Partisans, in their desire to save the lives of their people from the Shoah, also built a community in the forest that preserved their way of life. For most Jews, secular or religious, our faith is not something external to us, it dwells within. By saving lives, and by making mighty and awesome miracles with their own hands, by praying and marrying, teaching and healing, by music and argumentation--and chess--those partisans were being Torah, even while living on the edge of deluge.

Perfect, the Bielsky brothers were not. And yet, as a character acknowledged in the movie, they were "sent by G-d to save us." Like Moses, like Deborah, like Gideon, like David, Llke Judah the Maccabee. The greatest Jewish value is life. By living their lives as menschen--human beings--they defied the Nazis and all their evil minions. They said, "We are here!"

In the movie, when the partisans are in weapons training, one of the leaders says:
"Remember! This is not a gun. This is Saul's sword, this Gideon's spear, this is David's sling with which he killed the monster Goliath."

There is the idea in the United States that Jews don't do guns. And yet, if all of us were New York Jews who fight only with words, we would not be here. Consider what it took for the Partisans of WWII, for the American Jews who fought that war, for the IDF special forces, like Yoni Netanyahu, who died freeing the hijacked passengers of the Air France plane at Entebbe. They were all Jews with guns, warriors who go back to Moses, to Saul and Jonathan, to Gideon, to David. See the movie Defiance. Or watch the Israeli movie on Entebbe, Mivtsa Yonatan (Operation Thunderbolt). Then view thedocumentary Innocents Betrayed, which documents the use of gun laws to disarm the victims of nine different genocides. And then go to Jews for the Preservation of Firearm Ownership and make a donation in the name of the Partisans.

Eternal Vigilance is the Price of Liberty.

"This song was written with our blood and not with lead,

It's not a little tune that birds sing overhead;

This song a people song admidst collapsing walls,

With pistols in hand, they headed to the call . . ."

--The Partisan's Song

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