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Israel Under Fire

L’Fi Dati: As I See It

A message from Rabbi Weintraub

Dear Friends,

I write from the Synagogue. I want to finish this letter to you, with several attachments, work a bit on my Beit Midrash class for this week and then head over to Trader Joe’s to buy some groceries. The weather is crisp and dry and I’m looking forward to a break. It’s about six blocks to Court and Atlantic, the site of Trader Joe’s. It should take me about five minutes to get over there.

But I wonder: What if someone, stationed in Paramus or Yonkers or Old Westbury was so committed to my destruction that he was, over the past several weeks, indiscriminatingly training hundreds of weaponized rockets toward Cobble Hill? Do I need the Empire chicken and trail mix that badly? Can I race to the store in 90 seconds if a siren sounds? Are there stairwells and bunkers identified along the way just in case? Whose house can I run into if need be? Will they be at home or at work? Where are my two children?

These are the maddening calculations which now about five and one half million Israelis, from the South to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem — Jewish, Muslim, and Christian — must make before the most casual expeditions. And the whole nightmare was forced on them.

Our brothers and sisters in Israel now organize to protect themselves and prepare, G-d forbid, for war, even as their diplomats work feverishly for a cease fire.

During this painful and frightening time, we, American Jews, have a unique and critical role. We thank President Obama for his clear support of Israel’s right to defend itself. We are grateful for the American-supplied Iron Dome anti-ballistic system. Earlier this afternoon, I joined other Conservative, Orthodox, Reconstructionist, and Reform Rabbis in a conference call with Dr. Michael Oren, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States. Ambassador Oren told us that Iron Dome had intercepted 90% of the incoming rockets at which it was aimed. This has not only saved lives, but given Israel and friendly nations time to maneuver diplomatically.

We, as Jewish citizens of the United States, have a unique and important role to play here. Our country is Israel’s greatest ally, but we cannot take that support for granted. With all Americans, we read and hear the bias in media accounts: Palestinians launch indiscriminately thousands of rockets against Israel but when Israel responds it’s an “offensive” operation. The thorough and sinister use by Hamas of Palestinian human shields is completely disregarded.

We are deeply grieved and pray for the innocent victims on both sides of this conflict. In the eyes of G-d the blood of an innocent Palestinian is no less precious than that of an innocent Israeli, and the tears of an Israeli parent no less tragic than those of a Palestinian. We should have the same feelings and the same perspective. The State of Israel was founded to further human life and freedom.

Israel is very aware of the dangers to civilians caused by its defensive operations. It is also important for you to know and tell others that in Gaza terrorists, rockets, launching pads, munitions factories and assembly points are deeply embedded in schools, hospitals, mosques, playgrounds, and residential buildings. Israel has already dropped tens of thousands of flyers and sent tens of thousands of phone and text messages cautioning Palestinian civilians to move away from terrorist operatives and facilities.

Michael Oren is doing an excellent job, but in this painful and frightening time, each of us should regard him or herself as an Ambassador of the State of Israel. This does not mean endorsing any particular domestic or foreign policy of the current Israeli government. It means teaching other Americans about the necessity and dignity of the Jewish state, about the justice and failings of both Israel and the Palestinians, and about what a true peace requires from both sides.

I received and have attached two very informative documents from the Israeli Consulate in New York to help you educate yourself and others. (I also recommend the website honestreporting.com.) In a conference call last Thursday, Hon. Ido Aharoni, the Israeli Consul General of New York urged us to use social media to discuss these issues, to send statements of gratitude to elected officials who stand by Israel, and to engage members of other faith communities to strengthen diverse support for Israel. Every “casual” conversation you have with an uninformed or misinformed Christian, Muslim, Jew etc.— at work, at the health club, at social occasions, at your child’s school, wherever — builds understanding and support for Israel in this difficult hour.Operation Pillar of Defense Israel Under Fire-Talking Points

We also join together in prayer. In times of distress, it is customary to add Psalms to one’s daily prayers, and I suggest Psalms 34, 42, 90, 130, and 142. I have also attached a prayer from our sister Masorti/Conservative movement in Israel which we said in Shul last Shabbat. Prayer

Finally, a number of you have asked about ways to financially support the citizens of Israel, especially in the South. There are many worthy organizations. Because the United Jewish Appeal-Federation is our umbrella, municipal “Kehilla,” I recommend the Israel Terror Relief Fund, under the auspices of the Jewish Federations of North America (jfna.org). This fund is now prioritizing helping children who have been trapped in shelters since the beginning of the operation last Wednesday, providing them with assistance while in the shelters and in addition with respite activities away from the epicenter of the violence. The Fund also aims to help children with disabilities and special needs, seniors, and adults with disabilities who need immediate help with food and home care, and families who are victims of terror. Interested donors can also text ISRAEL to 51818 to donate to the fund.

On December 1, Shabbat Vayishalch, we will read in Shul Genesis, Chapter 3, about Jacob’s preparations for a possible war against the forces of his brother, Esau. Rabbinic tradition learned from Jacob three requirements before war. These includes methodical preparation of whatever military strategies may be necessary, as well as imaginative efforts at negotiation, and prayer:

May G-d grant strength to our people, and bless Israel and all people with peace.

Amen.
Rabbi Sam Weintraub

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