We support our Publishers and Content Creators. You can view this story on their website by CLICKING HERE.

Those who know the history of the Jewish people know that the terrible event of October 7, during which at least 1,163 Jews were murdered by Hamas terrorists was not unique.

Those who still grieve over the Holocaust and now over the recent losses are not the first or last to lament, nor are they the first or last to long for justice.

Israelites living in the sixth century B.C. faced a similar attack by the Babylonians, whose practices of war were as cruel as those employed by Hamas.  Infants had their brains bashed out on rocks, men were taken as prisoners of war, and women were taken as hostages and raped.  The first Temple was destroyed, and Jerusalem and its surrounding settlements were burned to the ground.  Thousands of Jews were sent into exile, forced to live in Babylon.  The intent was to ensure that never again would there be a Jewish homeland.  The entire nation was to be extinguished and its people annihilated, either by death or through gradual absorption into the Babylonian culture.

An exile of those times ensured that the experiences of the exiles would not be forgotten.  He wrote a lament that Jews and Christians alike know as Psalm 137.

By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars
we hung our harps,
for there our captors asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

How can we sing the songs of the Lord
while in a foreign land?
If I forget you, Jerusalem,
may my right hand forget its skill.
May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
if I do not remember you,
if I do not consider Jerusalem
my highest joy.

Remember, Lord, what the Edomites did
on the day Jerusalem fell.
“Tear it down,” they cried,
“tear it down to its foundations!”
Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction,
happy is the one who repays you
according to what you have done to us.
Happy is the one who seizes your infants

and dashes them against the rocks.

Then, as now, war is cruel.  The composer of Psalm 137 is truthful about the horrors of war, including exile and genocide.  He is truthful about his desire for vindication against the enemy who wished to extinguish him and his people.

He remembered Jerusalem. 

What is particularly striking is that the psalmist’s captors demand that he put on a pleasant face even though he is in despair.  He is supposed to forget what is happening and has happened to his people by singing happy songs.  “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

Essentially, the exiled poet was commanded by his tormentors to deny the reality of his agonies.

Fast-forward hundreds of years to the times shortly before and during WWII.  In the death camps of Auschwitz, Buchenwald, and the lesser known Sachsenhausen, Jews were forced to play and sing happy songs.  

As Juliane Brauer writes, music became an instrument of torture.  She cites the words of Wolfgang Szepansky, a survivor of Sachsenhausen:

Whenever it struck his fancy, the camp commander would demand a song. Then a step-ladder would promptly be found for the conductor. He would climb up, announce the title of the song, and then raise his baton. … The most popular songs were “Haselnuss” and “Fröhlich sein.” [“Be Happy!”] In spite of the cheerful text and jaunty melody, it sounded more like a dirge when from the raw throats of tired men the slow and tortuous line would issue forth: “Then let us sing and be cheerful.”

Jennifer L. Lefleur reports in her article “Music in the Holocaust” that the Nazis “specifically used [music] as an instrument of torture against the prisoners and to promote a common purpose and ideology — that Jews were a subhuman race who must be expelled from the world. … Violence was normalized, legitimized, and celebrated within the camps.”

Forced singing was a chief means of making the prisoners “forget” what had happened and was happening to them even while their suffering was going on.  It was a means of reminding them there was to be no remembrance of Jerusalem.

Fast-forward again to the present-day circumstances in which Israel finds itself.  The Jews of Israel and the diaspora essentially are being told by the actions of the Biden administration to get over the October 7 massacre — to normalize the violence.

From the beginning of the conflict, secretary of state Antony Blinken made it clear that too much anger from Israel was not to be permitted.  He urged the nation not to get carried away.

In fact, from the onset of the war until now, the Biden administration seems intent on pretending nothing of enormous and ineradicable portent happened on October 7.  It seems that for Biden, past and present events still do not justify the fight against the terrorists who perpetrated the atrocities — terrorists who still vow to erase Israel from existence, terrorists who truly believe that genocide of the Jews is justifiable.

Instead, it is as if the event never happened.  Indeed, Biden has decided that a not yet vanquished or even mildly repentant enemy must be given a helping hand even while the war rages.  Biden has insisted on giving Hamas the moral equivalent of a Marshall Plan before hostilities cease and while hostages remain in dungeons suffering God knows what kind of tortures.  Who knows but that they are forced to sing happy songs.

At the very least, the callously political Biden administration, ever mindful of the coming election, is normalizing and legitimizing violence against innocent people by its schizophrenic equivocations.  It is saying by its actions, “This did not happen.”

It is saying, “Sing a song of Zion.”

But perhaps there is hope.

In Orleans, France last month, a flash mob sang the Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves (“Va Pensiero”) from Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Nabucco.  Whether all the people singing “Va Pensiero” knew the history behind the haunting lyrics and melody they were singing is unknown, but some almost suppressed or forgotten memory of oppression moved them to burst into song.

Almost as soon as the opera debuted, the “Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves,” the lyrics of which are loosely based on Psalm 137, became familiar to nearly everyone.  Most also knew the story of Israel’s suffering under the Assyrian and Babylonian empires.  They knew the narrative and applied the meaning to their own situation.

They remembered Jerusalem.

Since Verdi composed Nabucco, many of the grand biblical narratives concerning release from tyranny have been nearly forgotten.  But even today, Psalm 137 is embedded within the consciousness of the West, most especially within liturgies and hymnody.  It is recited or sung in the Jewish, Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran, and Anglican traditions.

It may be that some or even most of the people did not know the Bible story, did not know why they were singing a chorus protesting tyrannous rule over Jews.

Sometimes protesters are afflicted with narcissistic perturbations that stay within and do not exhibit themselves in meaningful ways — a love of the melancholic and poetic sentiments that are mere self-flagellations, only appearing to do the soul some good.  Sometimes the sentiments accompanying protests are loved more than the actual release from or substantive war upon actual oppression. 

But the fact that the chorus was sung by the people of a nation that still vividly recalls the oppression and exile of the Jews within their country offers hope that many are determined not to countenance a repeat of the past.

There is hope we will not forget Jerusalem.

Fay Voshell has been a frequent contributor to American Thinker and other online publications.  She may be reached at fvoshell@yahoo.com.

<p><em>Image via <a href=Pxfuel.

” captext=”Pxfuel” src=”https://freeread.causeaction.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/04/252925_640.jpeg”>

Image via Pxfuel.