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Lessons from the Terrible Events in Europe Today

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March 1, 2022
Sondra Oster Baras

Ukraine!  There is nothing else on anyone’s minds today but the terrible situation that has developed in the Ukraine.  An independent country in Eastern Europe, formerly part of the Soviet bloc, has been invaded by Russia.  Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer, has long desired the restoration of Russian imperial and Soviet powers, which included Russian influence or control over Eastern Europe. 

Many around the world are expressing surprise at the development of current events from two different directions.  On the one hand, there is widespread surprise that Putin dared to invade a country that did not pose a threat to Russia.  On the other hand, there is real surprise at the determination of the Ukrainian people to fight off the Russian Bear.  Vastly outnumbered and outgunned, they have managed to stall the onslaught to some extent.  Only time will tell how things will develop.

Here’s a recap of the history of Russia’s relationship with Ukraine in the 21st century.  Vladimir Putin has headed up Russia variously as prime minister or president since 1999.  He inherited the collapse of the Soviet Union and the independence of the various Eastern European states.  As an independent country since 1991, Ukraine moved closer to the west.  In 2004, Russia attempted to assassinate Victor Yushchenko, a candidate for the Ukrainian presidency who was known for his pro-western views.  He recovered from the attempt and served as president from 2005—2010. 

The next Ukrainian president tried to move the country toward a greater alliance with Russia, until he was overthrown for those views in 2013.  In 2014, Russia invaded Crimea, in southern Ukraine.  The world stood by and watched.  Since then, Russian separatists in two Ukrainian provinces have sided with Russia in their attempts to gain power over those two areas.

Like Hitler before him, who justified his initial European conquests in the Sudetenland and Austria, as a liberation and reunification with German people in those countries, Putin has justified his interest in Ukraine as defending the interests of the Russian separatists in that country.  However, his real interests lie in expanding Russian territory and influence, and separating Eastern Europe from NATO and Western Europe.

Putin made his intentions very clear.  American intelligence pinpointed the exact timing of the invasion and for weeks, warned people of the impending disaster.  And yet, so few believed and so few listened.  Like Europe in 1938, when people believed that Hitler would stop at Czechoslovakia and Austria, in 2022, the west believed Putin would stop at the Crimea and the separatist areas. 

Why is it so hard to believe that some leaders are evil?  Why is it so hard for people to prepare for the worst and protect themselves?  I guess there is a natural desire in all of us to believe that there are red lines that will not be crossed, that a country will not invade another country unprovoked.  But some political leaders regularly cross red lines.

The history of the Jewish people is fraught with evil people trying to harm us.  In order to survive, we had no choice but to develop a healthy dose of skepticism.   We have always welcomed strangers as friends but continue to make sure they are truly our friends and not some enemy in disguise.  We have been burned too many times.

Israel was born surrounded by evil. From the moment of its inception as a modern state in 1948, Israel was surrounded by enemies who wanted to drive us into the sea, to destroy the country and murder its people, before it even had a chance to exist.  David Ben Gurion knew that Israel would have to fight to survive from the first minute of statehood.  We had no weapons, no air force and very few trained soldiers.  But there was one thing we did have — a very real understanding of who our enemies were and what they wanted.  And that understanding continues to this day.

Israel has never been naïve and has always been on guard.  We have to be.  And while we treasure our friends and allies around the world, we have never relied on them completely.  We have invested heavily in our military, helped by American financial support, but we have never relied on the fighting forces of any other country.  We cannot afford to.  When the western countries negotiate with Iran in an attempt to renew the nuclear deal, we know this will spell disaster for Israel.  We are doing everything we can to stop the deal, but at the same time, we are exploring alternatives if the deal does go through. 

Israel is developing closer relationships with the Gulf States because we have a common enemy: Iran.  And one thing has become clearer today than ever before.  We cannot rely on other countries to come to our rescue.  The US withdrawal from Afghanistan proved that.  And Europe’s current refusal to fight alongside Ukraine has reinforced that.  Only those countries directly threatened will be willing to fight the battle.  These are the new rules of the 21st century.

My heart goes out to the Ukrainians as they struggle to fend off a brutal enemy.  I hope and pray that a way will be found to stop this insanity and return Ukraine to its peaceful existence, protected from Russia. But the people of Ukraine have to find ways to protect themselves.  They are deeply patriotic people and are overwhelmingly determined to defend their freedom.  We can draw inspiration from the Ukrainians.  I hope they draw inspiration from us. May G-d give them the strength to do what needs to be done.

And one more thing.  For two weeks, Israel begged the Jews and Israeli citizens of Ukraine to leave.  Israel was ready to send planes to evacuate any Jew to Israel that wanted Israeli protection.  Only a handful took advantage of the offer.  Most were convinced that nothing would happen.  They were wrong. 

Israel is the home of the Jewish people and my country has consistently opened its arms to welcome our people home.
G-d has blessed us with a land that can be home to all Jews.  But it seems that for those who are not pulled to Israel, G-d has a way of pushing them towards Israel.  I pray that Jews the world over will be pulled to Israel.  We have our problems, of course, but together, and with G-d’s help, we will overcome them.  We are living in miraculous times indeed.

8 thoughts on “Lessons from the Terrible Events in Europe Today”

  1. Thank you for your comments.
    History seems predictable..
    One other observation..
    Russia has been eliminating the “labs” , similar to Chinas.. good news..the Wild West scenario has hidden events that the msm will never reveal..
    Our Father neither slumbers, nor sleeps!

    Reply
  2. I think it important that we should try to understand why Russia is doing this. And for this we need to understand on what principles Russia acts. This came up in a discussion on a Torah portion dealing with the rebellion of Dothan and Abiram and Korah. The principles on which leaders act are important. I’m indebted to you for your teaching on that. That’s why I say it’s important to understand Russia and not be led blindly by others against them.

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  3. Thank you Sondra. I have supported the aliyah for a number of years, when Phil Hunter was alive and was operating Exobus. I haven’t visited Israel for a number of years but I met with you in Gush Etzion with the group I was travelling with, having previously met you in a friend’s house in Milton Keynes. In 1996 I spent 2 months in the Ukraine and had the privilege of spending a weekend with people from Exobus, and I travelled with them to Kharkiv, where we picked up a bus full of olim and took them to Kiev airport

    That was a long time ago, but as soon as I heard about the plight of the Ukrainians I sent some money, albeit a drop in the ocean, to the Christian Embassy in Jerusalem towards the cost of bringing the Ukrainian Jews back home to Israel.

    I know that the G-d of Israel, who brought the Hebrews out of Egypt with great miracles, will do it, as the aliyah is close to His heart.

    Shalom,
    Yvonne

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  4. It all makes one wonder what might have to happen in America to “push” the Jews here back to Israel. A frightening idea.

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    • Hi Dale. Indeed, it does. I’m not sure Israel wants the American Jews since they have become so liberal in their ideology – we need to pray about that for Israel. One thing is for sure, America is hanging by a thin thread now – when we turn our back on Israel that threat will snap. It seems we’ve already lost focus on so much … I am praying for Israel to be strengthened and prepared for that which is coming. We must keep our eyes on Israel in all situations.

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  5. Shalom friends,
    It certainly is very sad when innocent people are persecuted. There have been many groups of people over history that have suffered this fate, Jews, Christians, those who have had their country overrun by dictators bent on power and control for example. Prayer is the most powerful tool we have to help fight these atrocities, but we can also try and offer help by other means, and try and listen to the pleas for help from these peoples when we hear them.
    There are many wonderful people fighting for the rights of these people and defending them against their enemies, and we should try and offer some financial aid in the form of donations to try and make their job easier, because mostly we cannot be there in person to fight these battles.
    I pray for the soon return of our saviour and for peace to reign on this Earth, under His rule there will be justice for all. May He come quickly.
    Love and support, Sophie xo

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  6. I think the mentality you comment on of simply not believing that Putin would engage in this horrific warfare underpins the resident stupidity of the general public who do not want to believe these tragedies will happen, deliberately perpetrated by such leaders. It is the same mentality that underpins the hatred of Israel, on the basis of lies and misinformation regarding the truth about Israel, with those who simply refuse to acknowledge their error and change course of their thinking. There is a refusal to change attitude, so we become like Pharaoh of Moses’ day, who, ultimately, had his heart ‘hardened’ by The Lord G-d. Israel no doubt has great familiarity of this scenario, I do not doubt!

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  7. The current situation in Europe is evidence that God exists and that He is in control, working out His plan to firstly, guard His people (Israel) and secondly (later) to open the eyes of the Gentile nations.
    At this moment, the agony of Israel and the nations is terrible, do not lose faith that God will fulfill His promises. In that regard I refer frequently to Joel, and particularly chapter 3. There is much background to that chapter and I don’t have time to explain that now but I am happy to do so when I am able. Just let me know when you would like to hear my understanding.
    Shalom to all.

    Reply

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