Auschwitz or Masada: Is it time to choose again?

Thursday, December 02, 2010 |  Roger Johnson  

This is a guest post by retired US Navy Commander, novelist and political cartoonist Roger Johnson.

On a hot October day in 2010, my wife and I stood atop Masada during a tour of the Holy Land. While our guide told us that most dramatic story of the 960 Jewish Zealots, tears ran down my cheeks. We had just come from the Holocaust Memorial at Yad Vashem where we witnessed the horrific images of Jews put to death in unspeakable ways in Hitler’s death camps—most notable Konzentrationslager Auschwitz.

There is no purpose in my recounting the horrific number of Jewish victims or the varied ways that the Germans found to torture and kill them—except to say that the final count and the methods of killing are numbing to the soul and must never happen again.

Masada and Auschwitz have certain similarities. In both cases, civilians were besieged by an irresistible military force bent on the death or enslavement of Jews. But one huge difference stood out as my wife and I looking down on the Roman ramp that was the eventual downfall of Masada. Those Jewish Zealots made a choice to slit their own throats rather than to submit themselves to slavery, rape, torture, and humiliation by the Romans.

On 23 March 1775 a great American patriot stood in a church at Richmond, Virginia and included the following three sentences in a speech that lit the fuse for the American Revolution. “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” In my historical fiction novel—THE TREASURE OF DEAD MAN’S CHEST—I describe in much more detail how Patrick Henry wrote down those words while the true author—an elderly Minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ—spoke them just moments before he was flogged to death with a cat of nine tails. Another great patriot—this one a Jew named Eleazar Ben-Yair—gave a similar declaration to the besieged Jews atop Masada. According to the two women who survived that awful day, his speech began and ended thusly: “Since we, long ago, my generous friends, resolved never to be servants to the Romans, nor to any other than to God Himself, who alone is the true and just Lord of mankind, the time is now come that obliges us to make that resolution true in practice…for they (food and water) will be a testimony when we are dead that we are not subdued for want of necessities; but that, according to our original resolution, we have preferred death before slavery.”

The Israeli Defense Forces swear in their new soldiers atop Masada, and at the end of the ceremony, a wooden banner is ignited. The words on that banner read, MASADA SHALL NEVER FALL AGAIN! The World needs to hear that message from Israel. The world needs to know that the Jews will never slit their throats again—never—for anybody! What better way to tell the world this message than to hold all subsequent land-for-peace talks at either Masada or Auschwitz?

Two men and two speeches that are separated by thousands of miles and thousands of years—but both cry for the same freedom and liberty. Now, not only do the 960 Jews who chose death before Roman slavery, but the six million Jews who were slaughtered in the Holocaust cry out for Israel to stand and make another choice. With the exception of the Zionist Christians and a few others, the world hates the Jews and the Jewish state of Israel. Nothing is going to change that. Every American President for the last half-century has struggled with the problem of peace between the Jews and the Arabs. In a grand experiment to satisfy its enemies, Israel gave away the Gaza strip for a promise of peace. That experiment failed miserably. Now, the Arab states are demanding that Israel give away the so-called ‘contested’ West Bank—nearly a third of the nation—to the Palestinians for a similar promise of peace. How does the old saying go? ‘Fool me once—shame on you. Fool me twice—shame on me.’

Back to the title of this short essay. AUSCHWITZ OR MASADA: IS IT TIME TO CHOOSE? I say it is time for the Jews to choose. On 13 November 2010 I sent a recommendation to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he make the following proclamation to the world. “All future Israeli-Arab land-for-peace negotiations shall be held at one of two locations—either atop Masada or at the Auschwitz Death Camp.” The PM’s office acknowledged receipt of the message the next day.

I appeal to all Jews and to all Zionist Christians to take up this banner with me. Stand on your rooftops and yell these words to your Senators and Representatives. “MASADA SHALL NEVER FALL AGAIN!”

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