In difficult times, we humans, when confronted with evil, an overwhelming enemy, or an uncertain, frightening future, sometimes secretly long for a super-human savior, someone who is stronger than mankind, and is able to fight for us and protect us-like, say, Superman, or Batman.
We, as well as the rest of the world, are living in times like these at least since the atrocity of 9/11, but really much earlier than that: recall the 1972 massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the 2000 USS Cole bombing, just to name a few. We were in a long, drawn-out war in Iraq and are still in a long, drawn-out war in Afghanistan, neither of which have completely defeated the Taliban or Al Qaeda. We are still threatened by terror attacks and suicide bombers globally, on our subways, in our malls, at our bases. Maybe this is why the new Marvel (remember Marvel Comics and Captain America? Iron Man?) movie just released, The Avengers, has done so well at the box office.
But here is a little known story: did you know that not too long ago, during World War II, there were real heroes, who were not a myth and not super-human, but in their actions, were larger-than-life? They were Jews, led by Abba Kovner, a Lithuanian Hebrew poet who became the head of a secret underground composed of Jews, some from the Partisans and others from the Jewish Brigade, called "Nakam" ("revenge"). This group was created after the end of WWII. They were not satisfied with merely gaining their freedom from the death camps, while most of the Nazis were able to walk away with no punishment (there were only 24 of them in the Nuremburg trials), and continue their lives unmolested. This was unacceptable to HaNokmim (The Avengers), and they began pursuing Nazis, hiding as ordinary citizens in various countries. Their goal was to kill 6 million Germans, one for each murdered Jew.
Now, at war's end, they saw that the guilty were about to walk free. The world wanted to move on; the Americans, especially, were anxious to absorb western Germany into a new alliance against the Soviet bloc. But these fighters were not ready; before they could be at peace, they would first have to avenge the blood of their fellow Jews.They succeeded in bringing their justice to hundreds, at least. These, were the true Avengers.
Some accounts suggest the group that would come to be known as the Nokmim, Hebrew for avengers, was born in the spring of 1945 in Bucharest. A Passover gathering of survivors was addressed by Abba Kovner, of the Jewish uprising in the Vilna ghetto, who would go on to become the uncrowned national poet of the State of Israel. He spoke passionately, invoking Psalm 94, in which God promises that he shall deal with the enemies of the people of Israel: "He will repay them for their iniquity and wipe them out for their wickedness." This, Kovner suggested, was the fate that should be meted out to the Germans. And if the courts of international justice would not do it, then the Jews should do it themselves.
Ironically, or in the light of the story above, maybe not so ironic--the creators of many well-known comic super-heroes such as Superman, Batman, and others, were Jews.