Israel, Our hope
Israel, Our hope
From the desk of Rabbi David Lyon
I stepped outside this morning to walk the dog in the front yard. As I stood there, my next-door neighbor pulled into his driveway. We greeted each other, as usual, but this time with added words of mutual concern about the crisis in the Middle East. My neighbor is Palestinian and a secular Muslim. He has family in Gaza City, and north of Gaza, in Ashdod. He is a doctor, a published poet, and a fine family man whose children we’ve watched grow up over the last 17 years.
His hopes and mine are the same. We want peace in the region accompanied by human dignity. We might disagree about borders and whose land is whose, in any given historical period, but we won’t disagree about the human need for economic opportunity, freedom to build for the future, and safety to raise a family without fear. Israelis outside Gaza, and now across Israel, fear the same loss of opportunity to live without fear. How do we reach a resolution that puts human life first and political power second? In whose political hands will we place the lives of millions of Israelis and Palestinians, respectively?
First, let’s stop using the media’s body count as a measure of the war’s impact. Thousands of rockets are being fired indiscriminately from Gaza into Israel, reaching as far north as Tel Aviv, and as far south as Eilat. Without the Iron Dome, Israel’s defense miracle, more Israeli lives would have been lost. The same can’t be said for the loss of life in Gaza. The difference is not that Israel cares less about Gazan lives; but Hamas, the terrorist organization that rules Gaza, puts its rockets aimed at Israel, in schools, hospitals, public buildings, and even private homes. Israel knows their locations, sends warning before firing to destroy them, and then fires. Israel is not a terrorist regime. Hamas is a terrorist regime with a mission, as an Iranian proxy, to destroy Israel, even one Jewish life at a time.
Second, the appalling lack of education of Middle East history has led too many Jews and Muslims, in the region and in America, to misunderstand what they see only on the internet. Since Israel’s founding in 1948, when the British Mandate outlined two lands for two peoples, Palestinians rejected it, and the first of many battles for Israel’s young life began. When Ehud Barak, prime minister from 1999-2001, offered more than 95% of the West Bank in exchange for peace, it was rejected. When Israel withdrew completely from Gaza in 2005, and forcibly removed Israeli families from homes they made there, Hamas was democratically elected to rule and began its regular assaults on Israel.
In one of my trips to Israel, I stood on the hillside in Sderot, a southern Israeli town, and looked across the distance towards Gaza. The fence line and the Israeli troops that monitored the border were the only defense between Hamas and Israel. What we couldn’t see were the terror tunnels that were being dug by terrorists to enter Israel and kidnap and kill Israelis. In 2019, I was on the northern border of Israel, where I entered a terror tunnel that had been dug by Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon and discovered by the Israeli army. I spoke about it on High Holy Days two months after I returned. The lengths to which Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad will go to destroy Israel, rather than build its own people’s future, is left out of every report in every source in print and on the internet.
It has been asked: if enemies launched rockets to destroy your life and land, how would you respond? Would you aim to destroy their rockets, destroy their capabilities to re-arm, or call for a cease-fire until the next round of rockets threatened your life? Texas upholds gun laws to defend life and property. Texas prosecutors don’t charge those who kill in order to defend themselves against pursuers on their land. Does Israeli sovereignty mean something different than it does for other nations and landowners?
Jews have prayed for a return to the Land of Israel since they were exiled in 70 CE, after the Roman invasion and destruction of Jerusalem. The Holocaust was not the beginning of their hope to return to their land; it was always their hope, and after liberation in 1945, it was their only hope for self-rule and sovereignty. The national anthem of Israel is “HaTikvah,” The Hope. If you didn’t know that, then begin here and learn as much as you can about Israel, her history, and the history of the Jewish people. Judaism is not just a faith; we are a people devoted to God, Torah, and Israel, a people and a land.
My neighbor and I will speak again, but rather than wait for our paths to cross, again, I will be intentional about reaching across the invisible line that separates his yard from mine with sincere good wishes for peace between us here and in the Middle East.
God bless Israel with security, prosperity, and peace. God bless the Palestinians with security, prosperity, and peace. God bless all those who value life.
This weekend, Sunday, May 23rd through Tuesday, May 25th, each day from 11:00 am to 12:30 pm, everyone in the congregation is invited to join us for our Online Journey to Israel. We cannot attend in person this year as we normally would, so our guide, Lyana Rotstein, will be leading us on a special tour through Israel, while helping us understand the current situation on the ground. To register for this special program, please visit https://beth-israel.shulcloud.com/calendar. There is no cost to participate, and we will see you “on the bus!”