I don’t claim to be a movie critic, but I highly recommend that everyone go see Steven Spielberg’s "Munich." It’s not an entertaining or even comforting experience, but it is both thought-provoking and challenging. Despite the pre-release reviews that I read, I did not see "Munich" in any way as conveying a message of moral equivalency between terrorism and the response to terror. As I watched the news clips that Spielberg masterfully wove into the opening and closing of the movie I vividly remembered watching the events of "Munich" unfold on a television screen with my teachers and classmates at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati and then going out to lead High Holy Day services at my first student pulpit. My prepared sermons had become irrelevant, and I was forced to speak from my heart. The one thing I remember was reading the names of those 11 Israeli athletes at Rosh HaShanah services, a practice I have continued for the last 33 years.
As I watched the Mossad characters transformed from self-assured proud defenders of Israel into tormented souls, my mind flashed back to November 1977 when on the day that Anwar Sadat announced he would be going to Jerusalem, I heard Golda Meir say in Dallas, "If I get a chance to speak to Mr. Sadat, my question to him will not be ‘Why did you send so many of your children kill our children, but rather why did you force so many of my children to kill so many of yours?’"
Spielberg’s "Munich" made me proud to be a Jew and a Zionist. It reminded me of the unbelievable challenge that faces every Israeli in balancing survival by self defense against the spiritual costs of those acts of self defense. Seeing this movie just after having lit the first Chanukah candle reminded me that, to paraphrase Peter Yarrow’s Chanukah song, we must not let the light go out on either the survival of the Jewish people — as it says in Hatikvah, "to be a free people in our own land, the land of Israel and the city of Jerusalem" — nor on the responsibility to be true "b’nai Yisrael," children of Israel, the God-wrestler, who struggle to balance the prohibition against murder and the responsibility to proactively fulfill the mitzvah of "pikuach nefesh," the saving of lives.
Rabbi Neal Borovitz is religious leader of Temple Sholom in River Edge.