A Tearful Sabbath as Jews Contemplate Iran Deal

Israeli American mourning (Gali Tibbon / AFP / Getty)
Gali Tibbon / AFP / Getty

This weekend, I shed tears over the Iran deal–literally, and publicly.

It happened during a discussion among congregants at my synagogue about President Barack Obama’s capitulation to the Iranian regime.

That is how the deal is viewed in my Orthodox shul–universally.

No one has any delusions about what the deal means for the United States and Israel.

Our recent history, you see, teaches us that when someone vows to destroy us, we have to take them seriously.

“Never again!” really means something to us. Certainly to our Holocaust survivor, Moshe, who saw his entire family, save his brother, murdered, and who survived the Theresienstadt concentration camp. Certainly to the families among us who fled from Iran after 1979.

The discussion after morning services on Saturday turned to those American Jews who have come out in support of the deal, even though the Israeli left has joined Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in opposing it.

Everyone expects the radicals of J Street to support whatever endangers Israel. After all, they opposed sanctions against Iran from the start. They opposed Israel’s wars against Hamas in Gaza. They paraded Richard Goldstone around the Capitol when he was denouncing Israel for “war crimes” (before he recanted).

But the more mainstream Jewish leftists? The National Jewish Democratic Council, for instance, which announced its “strong support” of the Iran deal?

How could you show “strong support” for a deal that will give close to $150 billion to the Iranian regime–at least some of which, the White House admits, will be used for terrorism?

How could you express “strong support” for a deal that does not trade sanctions relief for dismantling Iran’s illegal nuclear program, but allows them to keep most of it, and build a bomb after a decade?

And how could you be willing to gamble on the goodwill of the Iranian regime, while it shouts “death to America!” and “death to Israel!” along with its cheering mobs?

One person said: it must be because these Jews who support the Iran deal are Americanized. They are assimilated. They are so eager to show the American people that we Jews can be just like them that they will back Obama no matter what he does.

My heart broke. I had to say something.

And so I stood and spoke, choking–embarrassingly–on my own tears.

What I said, or tried to say, was this:

It is not their “Americanness” that is driving American Jewish leftists to support this insane Iran deal. I don’t know what it is. We can debate what it is. But it has nothing to do with America.

I talk to the proudest, most patriotic Americans every day. The American people are against what is happening. Many wanted a deal with Iran, but now that they know what it is, they reject it.

The American people are looking to us, and to Israel, to know what to do, because Obama has abandoned them.

We know Benjamin Netanyahu as a man with flaws. But the American people see him as the last leader left in the free world. They are looking to Israel to save America.

After all, we have a president who refuses to see the evil of a terrible regime, or a terrorist threat. Five soldiers were murdered this week, and he calls it a “circumstance.”

The American people are lost. They are as distressed as we are, here.

The American people want Israel to lead. And it’s hard, because thousands of Israelis are going to die. I can’t bear it, but that’s the only future I see.

These are the “nine days” of Av, when we mourn the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Are we surprised that terrible things happen? Terrible things always happen at this time of year.

But I take heart from our rabbi, who reminded us that the Lubavitcher Rebbe used to turn the “nine days” into a cause for celebration by studying Torah and completing a tractate of the Talmud each day.

We have to find a way to turn this terrible time into something positive. We have to survive.