Congregation B'nai Israel

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Reflections on Israel at War … Again

Elul 5774/Tishrei 5775   –   September 2014

As of early August it’s difficult to know what the situation will be between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. News gets stale very quickly, and new challenges will most certainly emerge. I hope that by the time this Bulletin is being read, the guns of July and early August will have been silent and a ceasefire will have been in place for some time.

The images are difficult, the suffering among Palestinians in Gaza is huge, but the responsibility for the events falls on the leaders of Hamas – an organization that has never sought co-existence with its neighbors and has done all it can to undermine any possible peace agreement. The array of weaponry, the network of tunnels and the discipline of its fighters seem greater than even the IDF had imagined, and it has led to the harshness and tragedies of war that we witness. We need to do what is necessary to save ourselves, but even when we are protecting ourselves, we must allow ourselves to weep for the other.

As of my writing, more than 3,000 rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza; some struck Israel and some were intercepted by the amazing technology known as the Iron Dome. Each rocket fired was intended to do nothing but harm civilians and cause terror.

Also disturbing has been the increase in episodes of anti-Semitism, especially those in Europe. While Israelis remain in the firing zones, we are reminded that, like it or not, we are connected. In recent weeks, pro-Palestinian rioters marched into a Jewish suburb in Paris. They torched cars, lobbed firebombs into a synagogue, and burnt Jewish owned stores to a chorus of “Death to Jews!” and “Hitler was right!” In Berlin, mobs urge the destruction of the Zionist Jews, in Italy graffiti desecrated Jewish businesses, and in England there has been a doubling of anti-Semitic incidents over the last several weeks, from verbal abuse to physical attacks.

Even in Boston, Jewish students reported that police had to rescue them from a “die-in” protest against Israel’s operation in Gaza. The demonstrators had swarmed the students, pushing, shoving and screaming “Jews back to Birkenau” and “Drop dead, you Zionazi whores.”

The episodes remind us that as Jews, we are linked not only in our own selfunderstanding, but in the minds of others. Interestingly and significantly, emigration of Jews from France and other parts of Europe to Israel has never been higher. It seems that some Jews would gladly trade the protection of the French legion or local police for that of the Israel Defense Forces.

And the reason has little to do with the operation in Gaza. I have long believed that what Jews do or what Israelis do does not lead to anti-Semitism; it just reveals and gives cover for what sadly has long existed.

This summer marked the 20th anniversary of the bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people. In two decades no suspect has ever been detained or taken to court. Many Argentinian and South American Jews moved to Israel in the wake of that event.

It’s why Israel matters to those who live in situations more vulnerable than they at times would like to admit. Because only in Israel can these Jews know in their bones that that they will be defended.

We are rightfully proud that the Modern State of Israel has moved the Jewish people from powerlessness to power. That has meant much for worldwide Jewry. And we continue to pray that Israel always uses this new power with a strong memory of what it was like to be powerless. That memory makes us responsive to the suffering of others even as we defend ourselves.