Posts Tagged 'Gaza'

All Alone Together- Reflections on the Lone Soldier and Tisha B’Av

About a month ago at the start of the Gaza conflict with Hamas I was in Israel for a conference on Israel Education. As part of the conference we had some meetings at the WZO offices on Har Herzl. At the end of the day found myself with about 30 minutes on my hands before my cousin Dubi was going to pick me up. So I decided it would be a good time to go visit Mike Levin’s grave. Mike was a Philly boy turned Chayal Bodeda lone soldier in the Israeli army. Mike was the only American born Israeli soldier who died in the Second Lebanon War.  Mike was also a camper of mine from Camp Ramah in the Poconos. At the bottom of his grave the stone read, ” AN AMERICAN OLEH [immigrant] WHOSE LOVE OF G-D AND ISRAEL IS ETERNAL”. As you can see in this picture here his grave is adorned  by his many visitors who connect to Mike’s love.

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While I was there paying my tribute to Mike and decided to take a picture of the sign indicated the section he was buried in so I could find it easier in the future (Area Deled Section 6). In so doing I noticed the empty plots near at hand. At the time it seemed sad to think that Israel needs to plan ahead for future casualties of those who would die in defense of the State. It is depressing to realize that as long as there are Jews in the world there will be antisemitism and we will need heroes to protect us.

 

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I think about Mike Levin every year on Tisha B’Av. He was most certainly one of those heroes. Now looking back at this picture I am filled with horror realizing just how many people have died this month.  How many people are now in Har Herzl?

Among them have been a number of other lone soldiers. One of these lone soldiers was Max Steinberg from Los Angeles who volunteered in the Israel Defense Forces. He was killed along with 12 other soldiers in the Gaza Strip, amidst an Israeli operation to quell rocket fire and destroy underground smuggling tunnels.  An estimated 30,000 people attended his funeral at Har Herzl  on July 23.  I cannot imagine more than a few actually knew Max. Why did so many people show up?

To some degree I think the answer to this is found at the beginning of the book of Lamentations which we read on Tisha B’Av. There we read:

How does the city sit solitary, that was full of people! How is she become as a widow! She that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces, how is she become tributary! She weeps sore in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks; she has none to comfort her among all her lovers; all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they are become her enemies. ( Eichah 1:1-2)

Hamas clearly lost the military war, but I am not sure their goal was ever to win. Their goal seemed to be to kill Jews or get Jews to kill Palestinians.  We have yet to see the full extent of damage and harm inflicted on their  people. No one else stepped up to neutralize Hamas and liberate the Palestinian people. Israel was alone. For these demented terrorists this as a victory. In terms of the media Hamas seems to have done very well. Israel is alone and there are none among all of the nations to comfort her . Zion is the city that sits in solitary יָשְׁבָה בָדָד- – yashvah badad. Badad is the same word as Chayal Boded– a lone soldier. The nation mourns the loss of the  Chayal Boded because together we are a nation that has experienced isolation throughout history. We are all alone together. May the memories all of our heroes be for a blessing.

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Eicha: Questions to Consider

This coming week on Tisha B’Av we will commemorate the destruction of the Temple. Unfortunately this year it will be easy to connect to this holiday. Between the senseless missiles and attacks coming at Israel and the devastation of Gaza  it is all too easy to conjure up the images of destruction.  Glued to the news and Red Alert we all have these images of destruction and the sound of the sirens locked in our heads. When we finally achieve a lasting cease-fire we will have many questions to answer. Similarly, Lamentations is full of questions as to how this destruction came to be. There we read:

How has the Lord covered with a cloud the daughter of Zion in His anger! God has cast down from heaven unto the earth the beauty of Israel, and has not remembered God’s footstool in the day of God’s anger. ( Eicha 2:1)

Between the senseless violence and hatred from Hamas, their desire to kill Israeli soldiers and citizens alike, their disregard for their own people, the rest of the Arab world being eager to let their children die in the name of their own media efforts against the Jewish State, the media giving legitimacy to the heinous inhumanity of Hamas, and the reemergence of Antisemitism in Europe, there is a lot of cause for anger.  It is easy to give into this self-righteous and all-consuming feelings of divine anger. We need to defend our own, but when this is all over we will need to wage peace. We need to withstand the temptation of acting out of anger.

This Shabbat we read the Haftarah of Hazon which describes the vision of the destruction of Tisha B’Av. In the Haftarah we read:

Wash you, make you clean, put away the evil of your doings from before Mine eyes, cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek justice, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. ( Isaiah 1:16-17)

The only way out of this, that I can see, is that the Israelis and Palestinians have hope. We might be angry, but the Palestinians need to know that we are better for their future than Hamas. In the wake of the conflict in Gaza and in light of Tisha B’Av, we have a lot of questions to answer. There is no doubt that the Arab world also has many questions to deal with as well. Here is one: Where is the voice of the Arab moderates?

 

Coming in the Tunnel: The Ordeal in Gaza and Tradition

Amidst all of the violence it is hard to find words to write anything in this very dark time. Having our brothers and sisters in Israel in mind I wanted to learn one mishna . The mishna is called, HaBa B’Machteret-  the one who comes in by the tunnel. We learn :

[A thief] who comes through a tunnel [into one’s house] is judged on the basis of his end. If he came through a tunnel and broke a jug: if he has blood-guilt, he is liable; if he does not have blood-guilt, he is exempt. ( Sanhedrin 8: 6)

On this Rava asks, “Why may one kill the person that comes in through the tunnel?” There is a legal assumption of  human nature that one does not restrain himself when someone takes his money. According to Rashi, the thief anticipates that the owner of the house will oppose him  and try to kill him, therefore the thief plans to kill the owner of the house. The Torah says, if someone seeks to kill you, you should kill him ( Sanhedrin 72.) In the case here we  assume that the person coming in the tunnel is just coming to steal from you, but in fear of being killed by the owner he is ready to kill the owner. So we are instructed to kill him preemptively.  Our tradition seeks to preserve life, but still we understand human nature.

This mishna took on new meaning for me today when I read the report from Ma’ariv that, “thousands of terrorists were meant to cross over to Israel from Gaza through the tunnels and kill and kidnap as many Israelis as they could. The source added that the army learned about the huge planned attack during the interrogations of Hamas prisoners, captured during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza.” Reports state that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu informed his cabinet about the foiled plot during a Thursday cabinet meeting. The leader of the Jewish State reportedly expressed to officials that if this attack was not stopped, the number of Israeli fatalities may have been higher than the over 2,200 deaths Israel suffered during 1973 Yom Kippur War.

In looking again at this mishna I am not seeking a moral justification for the killing of terrorists whose mission is to kill Jews. That does not deserve our attention. All efforts to question Israel’s need to defend itself are just thinly veiled  anti-Semitic opinion. In this case the would be thief coming in the tunnel is not coming to steal, they are only coming to kill and capture Jews. Israel has a responsibility to seal the tunnels, but then what? How do we make sure that our people did not die in vain? How do we create a lasting peace?  I think this is hidden in our mishna.We need to share what it means to live a good and free life. We need to convince them that we will value our lives and their lives more than just our stuff. We need  to convince moderate Palestinians that we do not need to give into this human nature. It is only then that we will remove ourselves from the  cycle of violence described in the mishna. After we finish waging war on Hamas and removing this threat to the Jews and Palestinians alike, we need to wage peace to preempt terrorists tunneling into our homes and destroying our  lives.

Shabbat Shalom – And I mean Shalom.

Question of Focus: A Reflection on My Past Week in Israel

This last week I had the pleasure of going to Israel for the First International Dialogue on the Israel Educator. The program brought over 120 Israel educators from around the world to explore the future of Israel education. As part of the program I spend part of Tuesday hearing from social innovators who are bringing different flavors of spiritual rebirth to Tel Aviv. These innovations were exciting and spoke of a mutual relationship between Jewish life and expression in Israel and in diaspora.

After this I met up with a friend to take a walk and have dinner. As we were walking we heard the sirens announcing incoming missiles from Gaza. Not sure what to do, I started looking around for a bomb shelter. Across the street I saw a family of three in an empty lot waving us over. The father calmly said that we should stand up next to the wall. So there we were standing and I innocently asked which direction Gaza was. If  we were on the south side of that wall it would not help in shielding us from the approaching missiles. The same father immediately responded by saying that Gaza was on the other side of the wall.  A few minutes passed and then we heard the two pops of the Iron dome hitting the approaching missiles. We waited a few more moments to let what ever debris from the explosion come down. And just as fast as our little huddled mass banded together we disbursed to go about our day.

It was a surreal experience. These few minutes have left me with many questions. How could we just go back to our normal routine of life? How could we not? How could this have become the new normal for people in Israel? How might this new normal impact what we think of in terms of Israel education? How has this new normal impacted the constant state of geographic consciousness? The father just knew where we were relative to Gaza.

In the oft quoted saying of Rav Nachman, “Wherever I go, I am going to Jerusalem.” The Jew should always know where he or she is in relationship to Jerusalem.In writing this post I grasp the necklace I have worn since my Bar Mitzvah. The back of the necklace says, “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.” ( Psalms 137:5) With the constant barrage of missiles and growing range of missiles a larger segment of Israelis always need to  be aware of where they are in relation to Gaza. I cannot help but think how this consciousness overtime will ware at the Jewish soul. I know that we need to come up with a more peaceful, dignified, and sustainable reality with the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, but I do not want this existential crisis that Hamas has imposed on us to allow us to lose focus on our own moral grounding. We should stay focused on our hopes and dreams and not just our fears and nightmares. I hope that this situation resolves itself soon with no more needless bloodshed.

A Note on Israel for Our Children

I am blessed with a full life. I spend all of my time parenting, partnering,working, and learning. Recently I have found that with every spare moment I am trying to follow the news of what is going on in Israel. And if I get a brief moment to reflect I just cry thinking about what is going on in Israel. It is the 21st Century, why must we still fight to exist?

Earlier tonight Adina and I took our children out to join us at a community wide event in support of Israel. We could have left the children with Maria, our Au Pair, and just gone by ourselves. We realized that despite it being past their bedtime it was important for our children to join us. We want them to value Israel in their lives as we do in our lives. It was great to see the room packed with people in support of Israel. But I realize that at the ages of eight, six and three this might be a bit too much to ask for at this time. I remind myself that this is the very reason that I started writing this entire blog in the first place over threes ago. I hope that years from now you ( Yadid , Yishama, and Emunah) look back and read this blog and are able to connect all of the dots of our parenting choices over the years. I can admit that I often daydream about the your future lives. What do I see emerging in each of you, our children, and might that be a clue of what is to come. I am curious which if and of you will choose to live in Israel. There is a big part of me that would love to follow you.

As we read in Vayetzeh, this week’s Torah portion, Yaakov dreamed a dream about a ladder. There we read:

And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! ( Genesis 28:12)

As Yaakov was leaving Israel to go into Diaspora he had this vision. We need to be idealistic and have our head above the limiting details of life, but we always need to have our feet firmly rooted in the ground. As important as any of the ideas we might talk with you about are the actions that we model. While I hope to share with you my ideas and ideals, I realize that you will have your own. So I hope when you read this years from now you have seen our commitment to Israel in our words as well as our actions. On the way to the event tonight Yadid said, ” I was born in New York, I live in White Plains, but Israel is home.” Obviously that is a well rehearsed line in our home, but it is also important that it is not just something we say. It is important that we make sure that our ideals are founded on our actions. For a second there was a hint that Yadid was starting to get the point. Who knows? Maybe he will be reading this blog post from Israel?

Our thoughts, prayers, and actions are for the people of Israel in the land of Israel. May we see a lasting peace as soon as possible for all of our children.


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