gaza war

Jewish Star Editorial: Standing with Israel unequivocally

Sadness on our most joyous day


Our marching orders for the holiday of Sukkot, which climaxed last weekend, were straightforward: eat in a sukkah, and be joyous.

This year, that was obviously a difficult command to follow.

The height of our joy is reached on Simchat Torah (celebrated around the world on Sunday, but in Israel on Saturday). Dancing with the Torah and singing took place on queue, but they were muted and accompanied by worries and tears.

In my synagogue and in my extended family, as in many others throughout the Jewish world, what happened on Saturday was unimaginable and still not quite comprehensible.

We had dinner Friday night with a couple planning to fly to Israel right after yom tov for a grandchild’s wedding; on Saturday in shul, congregants — Orthodox people who are isolated from the news cycle on Saturday morning and do not normally answer their phones on Shabbos — reported seeing repeated messages from their children, siblings and parents in Israel; they answered. Others, IDF reservists, received their call-up orders when they answered their phones.

The first I heard the news was when one of our rabbis added a special prayer on Saturday morning while referencing a large but unknown number of casualties. It was all quite vague. We’ve prayed for terror victims before. But this was different.

I understand that not everyone is plugged into what’s happening in the Middle East, and that the lives of Israelis or Jews in general is not at the top of their worry list. The best I hope for is that they’re not among those described by Dara Horn in her book, “People Love Dead Jews,” but many in fact are; after all, for centuries Jews have been viewed as a nuisance, as the cause of all problems from the Black Plague to 9/11 to conflict in the Middle East.

Always, in many eyes, the Jews are at fault; if they’d just go away life could be much simpler for everyone else.

But if 2,000 years of murderous persecutions didn’t eliminate the Jewish people, we’re certainly not going away now … not now when, for the first time in 2,000 years, we can defend ourselves.

There’s no moral equivalence between the actions of the terrorists (not “militants,” as they were called throughout Sunday’s New York Times) who explicitly targeted civilians and tortured, kidnapped and murdered more than 1,000 civilians, wounding and maiming a couple of thousand more, in one day. This was Israel’s 9/11, but as if more than 40,000 — and not 3,000 — Americans were killed.

During Israel’s 75 years as a modern state, there have been many opportunities for peace, but the best of these were rejected by Palestinian leaders and ultimately by the Palestinian street. 

For anyone who has not previously comprehended the meaning of the cry, “Palestine will be free from the river to the sea,” as a call for the liquidation of the Jewish state and its people, this weekend’s slaughter ought to be a wake-up call.

But I won’t bet on it.

This is not a kumbaya moment when we rush to end a conflict. Rather, it’s one in which Israel’s been shaken awake (even if the world isn’t fully there). Israel will not — it cannot — turn the other cheek. Having for decades searched for peace while mitigating the scale of its wars and their toll, Israel will seek to comprehensively deal with a deadly and entirely immoral adversary … a foe for whom peace itself is the enemy because it would block an unquenchable desire to add Israel’s 8 million Jews to Hitler’s 6 million body count.

At this moment, we should be on Israel side unequivocally. Those who are not should stand back. Anything short of that is to endorse the evil that unfolded on Judaism’s most joyous day.

See also JNS editorial: Israel at war; An end to politics and diplomacy as usual

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