‘Yes, for this we came!’

Rabbi Zushe Greenberg
For Cleveland Jewish News I May 31, 2017

When I was an infant, my family left the former Soviet Union and in December 1966 we arrived in Israel. In the ’60s, Russian immigrants were a novelty in Israel. My parents told me many times how excited they were to be able to come to a country where you could practice Judaism in public without fear of the Secret Police. 

At that time, the stress and tension between Egypt and Israel was building up. Gamal Abdul Nasser, the president of Egypt, intensified his rhetoric and threats against the Jewish state and all were worried about what the future holds for Israel, to the point that the country dedicated large parcels of land for cemeteries anticipating huge numbers of casualties. Many American parents whose children were studying in Israel brought them back to the states. 

The only source of strength for my parents at that time, was the optimistic voice of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneersohn. He continually reassured Jews Israel would be OK. 

To four students in the Yeshivat Torat Emet in Jerusalem, who asked whether to follow the advice of the American embassy and leave the country, the Rebbe replied: “Continue to study with diligence. It is an absolute certainty that, ‘The Guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps.’ I await good news.” To another parent who expressed concern over his son studying in Israel, the Rebbe wrote: “There is absolutely no cause for concern … The verse, ‘I will grant peace in the Land’ will be fulfilled.”

On May 28, 1967, there was a Lag Ba’omer parade at Chabad world headquarters in New York that was attended by thousands of children. In his remarks to the large crowd, the Rebbe addressed the tense situation in Israel, and he confidently assured everyone that Israel is a safe place and G‑d will make great miracles for the people of Israel. 

Less than a week later, the war broke out. My parents and their six young children found themselves huddled in a bomb shelter together with their neighbors. My mother recalls how one woman looked at her and said, “Bishvil Zeh Batem?” For this you came (to Israel)?

Six days later, the two met each other on the street. My mother looked at her with a smile and said, “Ken, Bishvil Zeh Banu!” Yes, for this we came!