Prayers for Peace in Israel

As I write this blog, Israel is under fire. Not only are rockets threatening the peace and lives of millions of Israelis, but the media outlets of Israel’s enemies are casting her in an incredibly hateful and harsh light. My heart is heavy thinking of my Israeli colleagues, friends, and family living in fear. My soul is sickened with the bloodshed that I know an escalating military situation will inevitably bring.

Every country has a right to defend itself against a military attack. According to Judaism, Israel is obligated to defend herself. The removal of the missile launchers attacking her is a necessity to keep Israel’s citizens safe. While efforts to stop the attacks on Israeli civilians are necessary, it pains us to know that in any military effort there are innocent lives that can be lost. Sadly, that situation is exacerbated by the reality that Hamas is launching rockets from densely populated areas, using human beings as shields, and thus endangering innocent lives.

Golda Meir, the former Prime Minister of Israel, shared the pain that war brings in saying: “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.” (Statement at a Press Conference in London, 1969). We profoundly pray that this military action will be limited, effective in bringing about a quick peace, and that loss of innocent lives will be minimal. We cry out with Meir’s affirmation, “I am convinced that peace will come to Israel and its neighbors because the tens of millions of Arabs need peace just as much as we do. An Arab mother who loses a son in battle weeps as bitterly as any Israeli mother.”

My mentor and the leader of our movement, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, issued the following statement: “We have long made clear our distress at the barrage of rocket fire from Gaza targeting Israelis, and just a few weeks ago called on the international community to pressure Hamas to bring an end to the attacks. Instead, the rocket fire from Gaza has increased, necessitating Israeli military action. We are, as ever, greatly saddened by the loss of innocent lives – Israeli or Palestinian – and hope that the military operation can be completed with speed and in a way that minimizes the loss of life. We in the Reform Movement continue to pray and advocate for the safety of Israelis who have for too long been the targets of violent and unremitting rocket attacks.”

Even though we are thousands of miles away, may we defend Israel with our words, may we support the victims of these attacks with our tzedakah, and may we, with our prayers and our advocacy, work tirelessly to create a world where peace for Israelis and Palestinians can become a reality.

Please join us in praying for Israel’s peace at Temple Beth El at Shabbat services tonight at 6:00 pm and at 8:00 pm, and at our Congregational Shabbat tomorrow morning at 11:00 am. We also invite you to join us for two special Religious School assemblies offering Prayers for Peace in Israel at 10:10 am and 12:40 am in our Blumenthal Sanctuary.

To give the Israel Terror Relief Fund, an effort of the Reform Movement in partnership with Jews from across the North American Jewish landscape, go to: http://urj.org/israel/.

By Rabbi Judy Schindler

3 thoughts on “Prayers for Peace in Israel

  1. Jeremy Kaplan

    I always thought that quote by Golda Meir was a crock and still do. I am sure the victims of the Holocaust were all very righteous also, and they are all dead. I see absloutely no reason why we should pray for peace for Palestinians, who in Gaza voted overwhelmingly for Hamas and continue to support it’s actions in large numbers. And in Judea and Samaria, as in much of the larger Muslim world, support for those who murder Jews is taught at the dinner table, in the mosque, in the university, in the coffee houses and in the souk, and yes, even at mother’s knee. Just as Jews in Europe were an excuse for Christian bad behaviour, so Israel is an easy, ever ready excuse for Muslim lies, rage, murder and genocidal ambition.

    Sorry, Rabbi J, — very inspiring only if we first take leave of our senses. Not all the world is worth healing. If nothing else, asking us to take pity on the “other” while the rockets are flying is bad timing. I respect and admire you, but you are simply wrong.

    Long Live the Jews!

  2. Rabbi Judy Schindler

    On one hand, your concerns are echoed by some esteemed Jews on websites containing international debate. On the other hand, there are many esteemed Jewish thinkers who understand the terrorism Hamas employs and espouses but know that there are Palestinians who support peace and a two-state solution. Our movement, as is evidenced by Rabbi Jacob’s words, our URJ President, looks toward paths to peace rather than divisive words that lead to war.

    1. Jeremy Kaplan

      It has become commonplace these days to describe the present conflict as one between only Israelis and Palestinians, when only a few years ago, it was correctly called an Arab-Israeli conflict. Iran was then largely an afterthought. By reducing the conflict and our understanding of it as one only between the Arabs of Gaza and Israel West of the Jordan — and the State of Israel, we ignore the very real animosity of other Muslim nations, whether in the Middle East or elsewhere on the one hand, and Israel on the other. Whether we call the land surrounding Jerusalem the “West Bank” or “Judea-Samaria” the fact remains that these mountains. this high ground, is a dagger in the belly of the rest of Israel. Geographically central, difficult to defend from the lower elevations that surround it, the West Bank in hostile hands is a wedge than can be used against that portion of Israel not surrendered in any future peace negotiations. The West Bank and the Arabs who live there have been used and continue to be used as a wedge against the legitimization of, and normalization of relations with the State of Israel by other, and, let us be clear, Muslim nations. Israel withdrew from Lebanon and received Hezbollah for her reward. In Gaza, she got Hamas. Arabs can read maps just as well as any Sabra general, and a careful study of a map of Israel and her environs is bound to be discouraging to those who would both champion Israel on the one hand and hope for peace based on territorial concessions by her, on the other.

      In recent history we have seen exchanges of ethnic and religiious populations that have secured peace between neighbours, that have removed irrrdentist elements within sovereign nations that had previously proved quarrelsome and had often provided excuses for atrocities and for war. Let us recall the Gerrman populations within East Prussia, modern day Poland as well as the German populations of Czechoslavakia, the western half of which, where the German minority often agitated and looked toward Berlin for support, is now known as the Czech Republic. After WWII these German populations were finally expelled, the borders between these countries settled and recognized by all sides. Similiarly, an exchange of populations occured after World War One between Turkey and Greece after seperatist movements in both countries’ Turkish and Greek minority brought conflict between both parent countries. In the cases of both Turkey and Greece, The border between these two countries, rid of their respective Greek or Turkish minority,– post population exchange– has been established, is universally recognized and has been honored by both countries for almost a century now. There is no love lost between Turkey and Greece but a flashpoint, emotionally charged by the consanguinity and stoked by the common culture and religion of their respective kin has been finally and permanantly removed. This border has survived a second world war, a cold war and the growing divide between the West and the Muslim polity and civilization– the umma.

      Six decades ago, a population exchange began between Israel and the umma when Jews of Arab countries, whose presence in some cases predated that of Mohammed by more than a thousand years, were expelled from their homes with little more than the clothes on their backs. Most settled In Israel where they were welcomed by their kinsman and correligionists. The Palestinians have proved less fortunate. Used time and time again by their correligionists as a weapon to be used against Israel, they have proved a destabiilizing and dangerous influence in those Arab countries which have allowed them in– never as equals as in Israel– but to live, often in some of the most well funded, well infrastructured and best provisioned refugee camps in the world. For Lebanon, the presence of Palestinians has been a scourge, in Jordan it almost toppled the government, Kuwait after it’s liberation by US Marines saw fit to expel its Palestinian population as it had, in an egregious abuse of Kuwaiti hospitality,almost unparelleled in the long and gracious tradition of middle eastern custom— and while in collaboration with Saddam Hussein’s occupying forces— murdered, robbed raped and terrorized the native Kuwaiti populatuion. It was with satisfaction that Egypt found itself without Gaza to govern after 67. It is noteworthyn that for Egypt, Gaza was never on the negotiating table at the Camp David peace accords Egypt felt itslef well rid of Gaza after 67, just as Jordan was well rid of the West Bank. If the Jews wished to pick up a snake and hold it to their chest, well, let them now try to let go if it. There is presently a sovereign state that is 70 percent Palestinian. It is called Jordan, and their will be no peace between Israel and the larger Muslim world until the population exhange that began in 48 with Israel’s independence and commitant expulsion of Jews from Arab countries is completed—- by the establishment of a Palestinian state EAST of the Jordan river and the removal there of the present Arab population contained within the heart of Israel.

      Geography matters. Mountains, deserts, and rivers make for good borders, and good borders, like good fences, make for good neighbours. The Jordan river valley, and the escarpments that look down on it from the high ground on the Israeli side of the Jordan river are valuable military terrain. One can practically chuck rocks down on an enemy and slow him down enough to have time enough call up reserves and otherwise make an invading army’s life difficult. Israel’s army is largely a reserve army. It takes time to draw weapons and ammunition and to form up into coherent units capable of punishing an invader or an attacker. When you hand over high ground to a sovereign, and in the Palestinian case a likely hostile state, you have no say over his actions. No sovereign state yet devised, has denied itself an army and Muslim nations more than most, prefer to spend their money on weapons. Mohammed was a successful merchant and military commander. He died full of years, wealthy, powerful and successful by every measure— even today. He was not tortured to death like Jesus and he was not denied entry into the Promise Land as was Moses. I would argue that it is Mohammed’s life that is an inspiration to Muslims and not that of Jesus or Moses. There is a warrior ideal in Islam– likewise a commercial or merchant ethos prevelant in Muslim culture. We would be foolish if we pretended that nations or civilizations– or religions– do not have a character of their own. Those characters may change and in some cases we hope earnestly that they will. Christianity today is not the Christendom of the Dark Ages and the world is better for it. Yet the Muslim polity of today, can arguably be compared to that the Dark Ages in Europe. A similar level of barbarity, ignorance, violence and religious fervor exist. Yet today’s warriors of the prophet are fast obtaining weapons of mass destruction when they do not have them already. Does any one really think that Hamas, or others of a similar mentality would show any more mercy towards Jews when they are able to kill them by the thousands or even millions than when they are able to kill only a score here and a score there?

      There are good Muslims, Muslims who want peace. But they are largely silent, and as we have seen in places like in Egypt, they are disorganized, weak and largely innefective. Frankly, they are amateurs, innocents whom hardened organized groups like Hamas. Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood can outthink, outwit, out organize and intimidate into uselessness. Who would stake one’s peace and security on such people? The only possible alternative to Hamas is Fatah, and their record of peacemaking is arguably not much better than Hamas’s Israel is called on by the world to give more. Europe has a difficult time accepting that there are men -and women– who want only to kill Jews. How soon they forget. Britain refuses to understand that Hamas and Hezbollah and yes, Fatah are not the Irish Republican Army. Had the IRA blown up even one schoolbus the British Army would still be in Ulster.

      If we are determined to wear folly like a cloak over our eyes and treat with our enemies as if they are our equals than Fatah is likely our only hope for anything resembling a truce– for that is all we shall ever acheive with an enemy so firmly in our midst– than our only alternative is Fatah. It seems Israel is determined to leap from crisis to crisis with no long term strategy for either a lasting peace, or for lasting security. The two are not necessarily the same., One can very reasonably argue that war and not peace is a more realistic view of human affairs. Human beings like to kill each other. The Talmud Babli may have maintained that peace is the natural, preferred state of things but the Talmud was largely written in exile, by a minority, whereas the Tanach — much more warlike in its views of the world, was composed largely by a sovereign people, a majority in their own house. Not entirely so, but certainly far more so than the later religious writings that still, so balefully, influence fora such as this. But, to embrace those who hate us. The success of Fatah in the West Bank cannot and must not depend upon Israel. No nation born of charity will long enjoy the respect of it’s peers. To the victor go the spoils. Yet whenever Israel wins a war she sues for peace. This is not a successful foreign policy and it does not have the makings of one. Rather, still, this is the enduring influence of two millenia of Diaspora thinking at work. The New Jew that the founding generation of the State of Israel often spoke of, has yet to be born.

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