ASSOCIATED PRESS Refugees arrive at the border between Austria and Hungary on Sept. 14.
WASHINGTON – At the start of the Jewish New Year of Rosh Hashanah, which began Sunday night, congregants pray to God to bring peace, spiritual and temporal, to all mankind.
The High Holy Days’ “Days of Awe” are an appropriate time to consider the fate of a people who now are particularly in need of that peace – Syrians.
In this season of reflection, repentance and renewal, it is also appropriate to consider the moral and political obligations of Germany, Europe, the U.S. and the rest of the world to bring about that peace.
In sum: Germany is trying to lead, Europe is going slow, the U.S. is playing for time, and wealthy Arab states are doing nothing. In Israel there is talk of helping – the opposition leader suggested accepting some refugees – but it’s just talk. As for Iran and Russia, they have long backed the man who created the Syria chaos in the first place, Bashar Assad.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has led the European effort to welcome Syrian refugees, though last week she had to scale back her own adherence to the European Union’s liberal rules for admitting them. A steady stream had become a flood. Still, Germany probably will take in more refugees than the rest of the 28-member EU combined.
It is usually wrong, and always risky, to compare events of our time to those of Nazi years. Hitler’s “Final Solution” was singularly demonic: a brutal genocidal machine without parallel. And yet, in the beseeching voices of refugees fleeing the killing fields of Syria, an echo of those earlier dark and blood-soaked times is impossible to ignore.
Stern but caring, Merkel is all too aware of the history: In the 1930s and 1940s, German trains were packed with Jews on their way to death in concentration camps. Now they are packed with Syrians desperate to escape the Islamic State and Assad and to live in peace and prosperity in her country.
She is trying to offer her prosperous country as a model of humanitarian decency. Merkel is no prophet. No politician is. But if prayer is in the air, it might be worth saying one for her.
The rest of Europe, especially the east, is balking …Read More