Pesach 2002/5762 Sermon Rabbi Moshe P. WeisblumMarch 28, 2002
Today we celebrate the first day of Passover.
I would like to share with you the story of Salach Taomri. The story of Salach Taomri is related to Passover and can illustrate the background of the unfortunate situation that we have now in the State of Israel. It is one of the reasons why we are still attacked by the Palestinians. Who is Salach Taomri and why is his story so important?
Salach Taomri was and still is a heroic figure for the Palestinian world. He received his recognition before the Lebanon War–1982 when he managed several big terrorist attacks against the Israeli army. He is tall and physically strong and he looks more like a stiff Englishman than a Palestinian or Arab. He is very proficient in English and his French, Hebrew and Arabic are excellent. Salach Taomri is one of the top scholars in the Palestinian world. He is bright, smart and charismatic. There isn’t one single Palestinian child that hasn’t heard about Salach Taomri. Every child knows what he looks like. By the time he turned twenty-four, his picture was hanging on the wall in almost every Palestinian household. If you stop a Palestinian child on the street and ask what he would like to be when he grows up, he will answer you that he would like to be Salach Taomri.
At the time that this story takes place Salach had already given up hope. He thinks, despairingly, that the Palestinians will never rule over the Israelis, never get even and never get their own Palestine. The only hope that he had left was that, if he fights, the Palestinians might get a tiny portion of land from the state of Israel. These anxieties were always on his mind. He had spent all his life wondering what will happen to the Palestinians. He was convicted for his terrorist attacks and became a prisoner in an Israeli jail where he stayed for many years. The jail in Nasser holds more than a thousand terrorist and suspects. In the jail, he became the leader of all the prisoners. The top Israeli prison officers, weren’t able to get anywhere with any of the prisoners without speaking to Salach in advance.
Aharon Bar Nae, a top journalist in Israel, wrote extensively on the character of Salach. Here in the words of Taomri, it explains the reason for the big change that occurred to him that would make a difference to every single person living in Israel. Salach Taomri says, " I was in solitary confinement, absolutely closed off and disconnected from the rest of the world. Only through the bars that divided me from the long hallway was I able to look out. In this hallway, for twenty-four hours a day walked an Israeli guard with his arms full of guns and ammunition. I called him to me, because I had noticed that he was eating a pita sandwich, with great gusto and relish.
"Are you Jewish?" I asked him. He shook his head yes, his mouth full with the pita. " If so, why are you eating Chametz on Pesach? Don’t you know that Jews are forbidden to eat Chametz on this holiday?" The guard was astonished and shocked to hear these words coming from a top terrorist. There was a moment of silence and then he replied." I am not obligated to the wonders that happened to my people more than two thousand years ago. I am secular, I have nothing to do with that."
Salach Taomri continued "...I sat on my dirty mattress, absolutely in shock. I said to myself, " A nation that has no connection to their history and past, and is capable of publicly desecrating its own credibility and beliefs, is a nation that has cut their roots from the land. Therefore, we, the Palestinians can achieve our goals."
That night, my attitude underwent an about face. I wasn’t able to fall asleep. In those dark hours of the night, I tried to figure out what happened in that short confrontation with the officer. As I sat thinking of everything, his words came back to me, " I am not obligated to the wonders that happened to my people more than two thousand years ago. I am secular, I have nothing to do with that." Then I said to myself, " If these Jews have no respect for their religion, why should we respect them?" I could not accept the idea that this Jew was willing to eat Chametz on Pesach with no concern in front of all the Arab prisoners.
The next day, the guards allowed me to go to the regular prison room. I gathered together all the leaders of the Palestinian prisoners that were there. I told the story of what had happened to all those who knew my opinion that we had no chance to win the war against the Israeli’s. I told them about the shocking event that I went through and my conclusions.
"We are changing our approach," I told everybody. "From this very day on, we are going down a new path, a new war. We want everything. We shall demand everything. Not just a little percentage of the State of Israel, not just the little bones that they throw down to us when they feel like it. We are going to battle for the whole ball of wax. We want all of the Holy Land, because standing against us is a nation that is not connected to its past. We will fight against the Jews in Israel for amongst them there is no concern for their history. We are fighting against the Jews in Israel, because they don’t care about their roots anymore. Since the Jewish people don’t care about their religious laws and traditions, they will have no strong motivation to fight and to go to battle. Therefore, we are going to win."
Salach Taomri went on talking, " Since that event, I have told this story to more than a hundred thousand of my people. I convinced them that we had to change our tactics. We must fight without compromise!!" Taomri was later selected as a member of the Palestinian Parliament. He was later offered a position as minister in Yasser Arafat’s cabinet, but he refused. The Palestinian world still keeps a very special and unique dignity for Salach Taomri. He continues to be a top instigator and preacher for the new war against the Jewish state. Salach Taomri adopted a new attitude and a new battle since that meeting on the night of Pesach with the Israeli officer several years ago in prison.
The damage was done. We cannot even come close to assessing the great damage that this officer caused to the Jewish people. There is no way that we can appraise the great harm that the Israeli guard at the prison put every single person into with his words and his actions. Can anyone estimate how much Jewish blood was spilt and is in danger’s path because of that?? Thousands and thousands of our people cannot fix the damage that has been done. Salach saw the pita on Pesach, and understood that it is possible to make the Arab revolution, because some of our people decided to disconnect from our path and roots. Those who want to cut the relationship and threaten our right to exist on our land should look at what one single pita on Pesach can do. If we don’t have a past we don’t have a future. This principle, the Arabs understood, and therefore they come to their terrorist attacks with the power of their faith and are willing to sacrifice their lives to become martyrs.
They call those who fight against the Jews, Jihad and holy. The sheik sends men, boys, girls and kids out to fight, and they meet with great success against the mighty Israeli army. Why? Perhaps it is because we have a lack of faith. If we have a fear of G-d, they will not be able to defeat us. Unfortunately this is the situation right now in Israel. This is what we must fix. If we return to our roots and teach our children and future generations to be proud of their roots and observe the mitzvot, and to be in unity among our people, then we may change the situation.