A Reflection on the Current Situation by Rabbi Alan David Londy
Judaism affirms the fundamental sanctity of all life. All human beings are of infinite value and worth. In Judaism, life is valued above almost all else. The Talmud notes that, since all mankind is descended from a single person, taking a life is like destroying an entire world while saving a life is like saving an entire world.
The conflict between Israel and Hamas is a tragedy of unspeakable horror. Hamas has continued to send missiles against the State of Israel and its population centers. Their acts reflect a complete disregard for the sanctity of human life. Israel has an absolute right to defend itself. Anyone who questions that right is in effect saying that Israel does not have a right to exist.
Despite what is said, the Israeli military carries out its defensive measures against Hamas trying to limit casualties. When a building is to be attacked, the occupants are warned to get out. Sometimes these warned terrorists ignore the notification in order to make a political statement. War is imprecise and innocent men, women, and children are killed. This tragedy is unavoidable and heartbreaking. Israel does not celebrate those killings; they mourn them. I have many connections in Israel and the citizens of Israel are distraught about any unnecessary loss of life. Gold Meir’s statement continues to resonate: “When peace comes, we will perhaps in time be able to forgive the Arabs for killing our sons, but it will be harder for us to forgive them for having forced us to kill their sons.”
The conflict will stop when Hamas stops firing missiles at Israel. That is the ceasefire that is necessary. Of course, Israel should be open to a ceasefire, but it must be connected to the absolute commitment of Hamas to the end of nightly missile attacks. Innocent Israelis should not have to live under the on-going terror of random missile strikes. My own family in Tel Aviv has endured them and their trauma will not quickly dissipate.
This battle between Hamas and Israel unfolds in a dangerous context within Israel. Violence has arisen in major cities especially with a large Arab population. Acts of vandalism, violence and hatred by both Jews and Arabs cannot be tolerated by any factions within Israelis society. Civil unrest will not achieve anything except creating more distrust, and insecurity.
I am a devout Zionist. Israel’s existence and wellbeing are foundational to my very being. I believe that too often Israel is held to a higher standard than any other country. But Israel must also undergo a soul searching. Twenty percent of Israeli citizens are Arabs. In so many ways, coexistence between Jews and Arabs has strengthened over the years. That fact is often neglected. These current internal struggles nullify all trust building that has been taken place without proper recognition.
Yet, much more must be done. Israeli Arabs must feel that they are integral to Israeli society. Strengthening their social, economic, political, and cultural lives must be a priority. Their absolute right to the free expression of their religion must be affirmed. They must feel a welcomed and protected part of Israeli society. Jewish extremists who reject the idea of Israel being a multi-ethnic, and religious society must be marginalized. When necessary, they must be tried for crimes and incarcerated. They do not represent Jewish values or the ethical standards of the people of Israel. Arab extremists must be held accountable as well.
I have no simple answers to these great challenges. But nothing can be done until Hamas stops trying to destroy Israel. The Reform Movement in Israel is dedicated to the absolute security of the State of Israel and to creating a just society where co-existence among the various elements in Israeli society can be created. I believe that Israel must be a Jewish democracy. The Jews need a homeland and the diverse minority populations of Israel must be honored. All because this path to peace and co-existence is so daunting does not mean that it is impossible. People of good intentions can never give up.
It is only through peace that God comforts Jerusalem. (Numbers Rabba)