Yesterday we all celebrated Martin Luther King Day in the USA by closing government offices such as the post office and having programs about him in many schools. How many of us knew that he was a speaker for Israel? He said that Israel was a great outpost of democracy and that it gave security to Jews. Everyone should be against bigotry and he certainly was. He was our staunch supporter.
Dr. King even spoke at a 1968 national rabbinical convention and said that it was a marvelous example of what can be done. He was impressed with how the desert land was transformed into an oasis-of brotherhood and democracy. This could have happened if the "Palestinians" had the greatness that he had and could have seen what could have been done between the two groups. He went on to state that Peace for Israel means security and that security must be a reality. Oh how I wish that he hadn't been assassinated and could still be our spokesman. Truer words were never spoken. Israel needs to be secure from constant attacks. Whether mortars land in empty fields or on someone's roof, Israelis are in a constant state of anxiety. He was one man who understood our history and our fight for survival.
In the early days of Black and Jewish relationships, young Jewish men were the first to go with Blacks in their fight in the South by marching with them to help them gain equality in America. Jewish organiations had offered material, moral and financial support to the Civil Rights Movement. Together they protested discrimination throughout the South, and sometimes died for doing so.
Blacks and Jews shared a spiritual base and both were born during oppressive times. The song, "Let My People Go" comes right from Moses's statement to the Pharoah of Egypt so long ago.
Somehow after Dr. King was assassinated, our bonds loosened with each other and we stopped being such close friends. I have often wondered if we didn't help a little too much and became rather offensive about it. A good leader delegates much and I wonder if we fogot that in this fight. Somehow more antagonistic Black leaders took over the helm and directed their ship in another direction that wasn't favorable to either Jews or Israel. If King had lived, I don't think this would have ever happened.
From now on I'll have more tears for Dr. King on his day, having more reason than ever to admire him.
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, President