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"In the name of Emperor Hirohito, I shoot!"

April 3, 2008

In 1944, Lt. Hiroo Onoda was sent by the Japanese army to the remote Philippine island of Lubang. His mission was to conduct guerrilla warfare during World War II. Unfortunately, he was never officially told the war had ended; so for 29 years, Onoda continued to live in the jungle, ready for when his country would again need his services and information. Leaflet after leaflet was dropped, saying, "The war is over... please come out!" Newspapers were left. Photographs and letters from relatives were dropped. Friends and relatives spoke out over loudspeakers, but Onoda never believed that the war had really ended. Eating coconuts and bananas, deftly evading and shooting at searching parties he believed were enemy scouts, Onoda hid in the jungle until he finally emerged from the dark recesses of the island on March 19, 1972.

In the first half of the twentieth century the Zionist movement, with its appeal to the Jewish concepts of Zion, Jerusalem and the return from exile, quickly gathered momentum among Jews in Europe who wanted a way to leave Torah behind while retaining Jewish identity. The successes of the Zionists in founding their state and defeating their enemies captured the hearts of some religious Jews, who quickly jumped on the bandwagon. Other Orthodox Jews were less enamored of Zionism, yet felt they had to participate in order to make the state more religious. (The vast majority of Orthodox Jews continued to fight Zionism tooth and nail.)

Today we live in the era of post-Zionism. Israeli politicians are conducting negotiations to give back more and more of their country to the Palestinians. Israeli citizens are dodging the draft because they see their country's wars as pointless. More and more, they are feeling that the benefits of having a state are not worth the price of constant struggle with their Arab neighbors. The 2007 National Survey of American Jews found that less than half of American Jews under the age of 35 are comfortable with the idea of a Jewish state.

Hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens have already moved to other countries and have no plans to return. The Zionist Absorption Ministry, once famous for bringing millions of Jews to the State of Israel and providing them with housing and employment, stated recently that between 18,000 and 21,000 Israelis emigrate each year. There are 650,000 Israelis living abroad, and 450,000 of them live in North America. The Ministry is struggling unsuccessfully to recover these expatriates.

Yet among some Orthodox joiners, Zionism continues unabated. The religious parties are the most hawkish defenders of "Greater Israel". The West Bank settlers are mostly religious. The hesder yeshiva units are the most motivated soldiers in the army. Even as Israelis vacation in every part of the world except their own country, some Orthodox Jews in America and other countries make the State of Israel their destination of choice. Even as the Israelis leave their country in droves, the religious organizations are drumming up support for aliyah.

To them we say: "The war is over... please come out!" To err is human, and millions of former Zionists have already admitted their mistake. For the sake of G-d and His people Israel, join them in admitting that it was a mistake to undermine G-d's plan by trying to force the redemption before its time. The prophet Yirmiyahu says in the name of G-d, "They have left Me, the source of fresh water, to dig themselves broken pits that will not hold water" (Yirmiyahu 2:13). So listen to the prophet, and let us all wait for the day when we will see the fulfillment of the verse, "And those redeemed by G-d will return and come to Zion with song, with eternal happiness on their heads" (Yishaya 35:10).