9/11: 13 Years Later
Va’yigdelu Ha’neorim — the boys grew up — Genesis (Toldot) 25:27
Thirteen years is a milestone. At that bar-mitzvah age one attains a level of maturity that should allow us to see things with deeper clarity. But have we grown up over the past 13 years since the attacks of 9/11?
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The day of September 11, 2001 — just plain 9/11 — lives on in infamy. Every one of us vividly remembers where we were on that morning thirteen years ago when we saw or heard the news. The day began as a beautiful bright Tuesday morning with a clear blue sky. For those heading to an airport weather conditions could not have been better for a safe and pleasant journey. And then on this cloudless picture-perfect summer day, against the backdrop of pure blue, the planes struck New York’s Twin Towers and Washington’s Pentagon, releasing dark billowing clouds and ash, killing thousands, wreaking destruction, that is still affecting us today. A regular day was transformed into a watershed juncture in history.
Thirteen years have passed since that fateful day. Thirteen years is a milestone. At that bar-mitzvah age one attains a level of maturity that should allow us to see things with deeper clarity.
Indeed, in Genesis we read that at thirteen years “the boys grew up,” referring to Jacob and Esau, the forbears of the Jewish people and the Western world respectively.
But have we grown up over the past 13 years since 9/11?
Has anything changed since that day in 2001? Today’s Middle East battles, the rise of ISIS, the raging gales of Muslim fundamentalism, the attacks on Israel, the rise of anti-Semitism, the imminent threats to the West, the tremors of change being felt throughout Europe, seem stronger than ever.
What have we learned over these past thirteen years? Are we any closer to understanding the enemy and its intentions? Beyond band-aids and temporary fixes, do we better know how to diagnose the roots of the issues?
President Obama, in his remarks Wednesday night about expanding a military offensive against ISIS (or ISIL), said: “Now let’s make two things clear: ISIL is not “Islamic.” No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim. And ISIL is certainly not a state. It was formerly Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq, and has taken advantage of sectarian strife and Syria’s civil war to gain territory on both sides of the Iraq-Syrian border. It is recognized by no government, nor the people it subjugates. ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way.”
With all due respect to the president many Muslims and former Muslims vehemently disagree with his take. They argue that ISIS is actually following the ways of Muhammad and the Koran more accurately than anyone else. See this interesting video. The leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has a PhD in Islamic Studies and was proclaimed Caliph Ibrahim of the new Islamic State. Maybe he should have debate with Mr. Obama about the nature of Islam and the role of ISIS. It certainly would make, at the very least, for great entertainment (if it were not so tragic), and perhaps it would also force us to open our eyes to the realities of our times.
So while we commend the president for taking some action against barbaric terrorists, we also wonder whether this is only addressing some of the symptoms and ignoring the root causes of these battles — a long-festering cancer deeply embedded in the Middle East.
All you need to do is listen to the words of the ISIS. Al-Baghdadi, like his cohorts and colleagues before him (including Bin-Laden of 9/11 infamy), has declared war on the Great Satan, the United States, a war against the Crusader-Zionistic plot, with the intention of marching on and conquering Rome and Jerusalem.
Or listen to some ex-terrorists, who describe in frightening detail how they were programmed from early age to kill Jews and Westerners, and thereby be rewarded with heaven. Millions of Muslim children are indoctrinated from young age with a radical vision of a secular, Western world of infidels that must be destroyed and replaced with Islam. Martyrdom is deified. Children are brainwashed that the greatest thing they can do is give their lives for Islam against the infidels. (See Back to Reality)
This is a profoundly religious and ideological war against terrorism, deeply rooted in centuries-old battles between Christians, Muslims and Jews, tracing back almost 4000 years to their ancestors living in the home of Abraham, as discussed in previous articles.
The only way to truly address the issues is by taking a birds-eye view of today’s conflicts and placing them in context by peering into their historical beginnings, going back to the home of Abraham and Isaac and their children. By doing that, we gain a sweeping perspective of contemporary events, empowering us to actually and decisively win these battles, instead of just putting out fires. This is a real historical and spiritual war, which must be fought not just with armies (to defend the innocent, and for short term relief), but with ideas, minds, education and ideology.
Yes, my friends, as we mark 13 years since the 9/11 attacks, and we are told that at this age “the boys grew up” — the boys meaning Jacob and Esau, the ancestors of the Jews and the Roman/Western world, who are under attack by the children of Ishmael — we must stop and ask the big question: The boys have grown up, but have their descendants followed suit?
I am afraid that the United States and the Western world are still as young as this 21st Century is, clueless to the defining battle of our times — one that will last long into this century, unless we mature quickly and face the task at hand. As the wise say: Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced. The only way out is through.
And the task at hand is: to challenge the Muslim world to live up to the true Abrahamic principles of virtue and justice. To embrace a policy of zero tolerance for Muslims who defy these divine laws. To begin a new era of education and inspiration of their youth — one that permeates their homes, schools and mosques — how to honor the dignity of every and all human beings created in the Divine image, even if you may disagree with them.
Nations of the world must unite and demand of the Muslim world to embrace the principles established by Abraham, father of all nations, to promote the deepest values of virtue and integrity, all with love and inspiration. To fight the pagan forces of the universe, not with violence, but with spreading light and warmth.
Today’s war must be waged with a powerful moral vision. It is not just a defensive war against terrorist attacks; it is an offensive battle for the ambitious vision of a world that will live in peace, while respecting the diversity of nations, cultures and faiths. We are fighting a war for a vision – first delivered at Sinai – which guided the Founding Father: That all people are created equal, with inalienable rights granted by virtue that we are all G-d’s children. Everyone has the right to practice and believe in their unique way. The enemy is anyone who breaches the universal and absolute law of hurting or killing another person; of denying and robbing any person of their fundamental, G-d given rights.
Bar-mitzvah — 13 years from 9/11 — is the right time for the boys to become men, to begin maturing and looking at the world with a bit less naiveté.
What will it take for us to grow up?
And once the children of Esau and Jacob grow up, can the children of Ishmael be far behind?
Go here to view Rabbi Jacobson’s latest class on this topic.