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Israel in the Crucible: Update

05/16/2021 12:14:12 PM

May16

Dear Adath Shalom Family;

I have been asked to present a concise and I hope accurate description of the current crisis in Israel especially in the face of much misinformation and outright untruths that cloud the flow of information.  Clearly as a Rabbi, proud Zionist and Jew and father of a grown child in Israel, I make no pretensions to being objective but at the same time, I strive to be truthful and factual to the best of my understanding. 

I hope that this might be a useful outline both in general and specifically to the current crisis and would be happy to hear your reactions and thoughts.  Like all of us, I am doing my best to figure out how to play my own part in creating a better world. 

But first: a prayer… 

יהי רצון ה׳ אלוקינו ואלוקי אבותינו להשרות חסד ושלום בלבבות בני ישראל ובני ישמעאל והביאם לזכור את אביהם אברהם ואת הברכה שבה הוא שיטף עם בניו של שלום, חסד, אהבה וחמלה.

Yehi ratzon Milfanecha, Adonai Eloheinu V’Elohei Avoteinu- May it be Your Will, Adonai, G-d of our ancestors, to cause love and peace to infuse the hearts of all of the Children of Israel and the Children of Ishmael and to remember their common father Abraham and the blessing he shared with his children of peace, love, caring and compassion. 

Bless Your people Israel and all the citizens of the State of Israel with peace, safety and security and strengthen those  who strive to defend her from wanton violence, hate and destruction at the hands of those who hate and reject co-existence, negotiation and peace.  Guide the hands of those who defend Israel with wisdom and preserve them.  Guard all of the innocent lives so that the storm of death and violence pass over them.  See how so many are standing together refusing to hate each other and strengthen their hand and their hearts. 

ברך את עמך ישראל וכל אזרחי מדינת ישראל בשלום, ובטחון.  חזק את כל אלה המגינים אותם מחמס, שפיכות דמים, חורבן ואיבה מצד כל אלה שמואסים בדו-קיום, משא ומתן, דו-שיח ושלום.  הדרך את ידי מגיני ישראל בחכמה ושמור עליהם.  השגיח על כל נשמות חפי מפשע והעבר את סערת המוות והאלימות מעליהם.  ראה כמה עומדים ביחד בסירוב להיכנע לשנאה וחזק את ידיהם ואת לבם.

As so many of the Prophecies of peace and return have been fulfilled, fulfill also that great promise of Your Prophets:  In that day, I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the creeping things of the ground; I will also banish bow, sword, and war from the land. Thus I will let them lie down in safety. And I will espouse you forever: I will espouse you with righteousness and justice, And with goodness and mercy, And I will espouse you with faithfulness; Then you shall truly know Adonai.  Amen. 

כמו שהתקיימו נבואות ושבו בנים לגבולם, כן קיים את החזון הגדול של הנביא הושע בן בארי: כָרַתִּ֨י לָהֶ֤ם בְּרִית֙ בַּיּ֣וֹם הַה֔וּא עִם־חַיַּ֤ת הַשָּׂדֶה֙ וְעִם־ע֣וֹף הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם וְרֶ֖מֶשׂ הָֽאֲדָמָ֑ה וְקֶ֨שֶׁת וְחֶ֤רֶב וּמִלְחָמָה֙ אֶשְׁבּ֣וֹר מִן־הָאָ֔רֶץ וְהִשְׁכַּבְתִּ֖ים לָבֶֽטַח׃ וְאֵרַשְׂתִּ֥יךְ לִ֖י לְעוֹלָ֑ם וְאֵרַשְׂתִּ֥יךְ לִי֙ בְּצֶ֣דֶק וּבְמִשְׁפָּ֔ט וּבְחֶ֖סֶד וּֽבְרַחֲמִֽים׃ וְאֵרַשְׂתִּ֥יךְ לִ֖י בֶּאֱמוּנָ֑ה וְיָדַ֖עַתְּ אֶת־יְהוָֽה׃ אמן סלה

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 In many ways, tragically,  what is going on is a continuation of what has been happening for the last seventy years.  Since its founding in 1948, Israel has reached out to its neighbors in peace as written in its declaration of Independence: 

WE APPEAL - in the very midst of the onslaught launched against us now for months - to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions. 

WE EXTEND our hand to all neighbouring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighbourliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. The State of Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.

Tragically, for the most part, with a few notable and wonderful exceptions, the response to this call has been violence, terrorism, and the three rejections stated in the Arab League’s Khartoum Conference in 1967: No peace, no negotiations and no recognition of Israel.   

I believe that the below represents a consensus summation of the different forces present; although the details of each of these forces, how they came to be and how powerful a part they play in the ongoing conflict is a matter of tremendous dispute. 

The continued refusal of most of the Arab world, the majority of Israel’s Arab population, the Iranian regime and the ruling party and president of Turkey to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, and these forces active use of deadly attacks against civilians,  the  status of the West Bank, Jewish settlements beyond the cease-fire lines of 1967, the status of Jerusalem and the  establishment of a sovereign Palestinian State alongside and at peace with Israel form a part of the constellation as well as the ongoing acts of violence against civilians and worldwide propaganda perpetuated in the main by those on the Arab side who reject Israel’s right to exist and work to destroy Israel in every arena.  Violence perpetrated against Arab communities on the part of Israel’s security forces as well as the growth of ultra-nationalist Jewish extremist violence such as Hilltop Youth, “price tag” attacks and the “Jewish Power” party and the ongoing issues of equality of the Arab sector and equal access to resources are also a part of the equation.

Regarding the current situation: 

What is Happening?

  • The Islamist terrorist (as defined by the US State Department) group Hamas which rules the 2.08 million residents of the Gaza Strip began on Tuesday and continues to launch hundreds of missiles, along with other terror groups at Israel’s civilian population centers. 

  • Millions of Israeli citizens- Jewish, Muslim and Christian-  of Tel Aviv, Lod, Ashkelon, Sderot, and other cities continue to be subjected to attacks, explosions, sirens and hours spent in bomb shelters. 

  •  The Iron Dome defense system continues to perform well intercepting most of the rockets.  

  • In Israel, growing numbers of innocents, including children,  have died as a result of deliberate attacks on the part of Hamas and other groups.  More Palestinians including children have died as a result of Israeli air strikes attempting to target Hamas launching points and infrastructure.   Israel says that 17 deaths occurred as the result of missiles from Gaza falling short and landing in Gazan territory.  All of these losses are tragedies.  Israel continues to try to minimize civilian loss of life while Hamas continues to try to maximize civilian loss of life. 

  • Israel seeks to defend its population and prevent attacks by strategic airstrikes and artillery attacks at Hamas’ mobile rocket launchers and underground infrastructure which it built with humanitarian building materials given to build hospitals and housing.  

  • Israel continues to make efforts to warn civilians before counterattacking missile launchers and terrorist infrastructure which are deliberately concentrated in civilian areas, effectively turning Gazan civilians into human shields.  Israel also continues to supply electricity and humanitarian aid to Gaza.

  • In Israel itself, there has been widespread violence in cities where Arab and Jewish citizens live together as well as in the West Bank where the Palestinian Authority and Israel administer civil affairs separately and together.  In the City of Lod widespread attacks by Arab-Israelis resulted in three synagogues and many cars and homes being set on fire.   A mob of Jewish-Israelis attacked and injured a man in the Tel Aviv suburb of Bat Yam, believing him to be an Arab- he was in fact Jewish. Damage has been caused to Arab-owned businesses including at least one mosque.  Several Jews have been attacked and one killed in other cities such as Akko.

  • President Reuven Rivlin has condemned extremist acts of violence on both sides and warned about the possibility of a civil war in Israeli society where over 2 million Arab citizens live with equal rights, serving in the Israeli government, academia, the medical establishment, the justice system and across Israeli society. 

What sparked this round of violence?

  • The Muslim holy month of Ramadan which brings thousands of worshippers to Jerusalem, is often a time of increased tension between Israeli police and Arabs with rock throwing, chanting and scuffles being frequent.  This year, as the Covid restrictions are relaxed, more tension than usual flared resulting in Israeli forces trying to limit gatherings at the plaza in front of the Damascus gate of the Old City, the most commonly used egress to the Temple Mount by Muslims. 

  • Some Arab sources  claim that Israeli police attacked worshippers in the Al Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan or that Israel has acted insensitively to the holiday. Israeli sources say that some young Muslim visitors to the mosque, Islam’s third-holiest site, stockpiled stones and bricks to throw at police and starting a fire in the Al Aqsa compound with thrown flares.  Police chased the rioters into the compound.  This was widely filmed and sent through social media which quickly enflamed the Arab community.  Whatever claims are made, it was Hamas’ and Hamas’ decision alone to fire missiles at civilians that sparked the conflict.

  • A property dispute in a neighborhood in East Jerusalem, called Sheikh Jarrah by the Arabs and Shimon HaTzaddik by the Jews, has been highlighted by groups favoring the Arab rejectionist narrative with claims that this dispute- involving land seized from Jews by Jordan in 1948 and then settled by Jordan with Arab families who were themselves displaced by the fighting- is an example of “Israeli apartheid” and “ethnic cleansing”.   In reality, this is a very specific and well-documented case  dating back to the 19th century. When the land was transferred back to Jewish hands in 1967 after the Six Day War, the Arab families remained in place and the dispute between them and the original Jewish owners has continued for decades with the Arab families refusing to pay rent on property whose owners have clear documentation of their ownership from the days of the Ottoman Empire. 

With this background, Hamas, seeing an opportunity to co-opt these protests (which it had nothing to do with initially) and establish itself as the premier force fighting for the Palestinians,  demanded that Israel vacate the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood and the Temple Mount/Haram Al Sharif threatening to attack if they did not.  Israel continued to try to maintain civil order while also continuing to allow access by Muslim worshippers to Al Aqsa.  On Monday, Hamas opened fire and to date has launched more than missiles. 2,500 missiles.

Why did Hamas attack?

Factors such as the declaration and then cancellation of elections in the Palestinian Authority, a change in American leadership and Hamas’ ambitions to present itself as the true representative of Palestinian Arab interests and defender of rights may all be involved in Hamas leadership’s decision to attack Israeli civilian centers.  The Iranian regime and military has long supported Hamas with materials, weapons and guidance- this pro-terrorist force  is likely a factor in what is going on as well. 

 

International Response

Many on the Tiktok website and other social media and popular television have attempted to demonize and discredit Israel with much misinformation.  Vandalism on synagogues in Europe and anti-Israel demonstrations which have turned violent in Europe,New York and other cities have occurred.  The American administration has supported Israel’s right to self-defense and sent a special envoy to the region to attempt to de-escalate the conflict.  In the US Congress, several representatives have condemned Israel while others have expressed support.  

 

Jewish Extremism

Many in the Jewish community in Israel and the Diaspora were particularly heartbroken to see live coverage of a brutal attack by Jewish extremists on an innocent motorist in a Tel Aviv suburb.  The sad reality of Jewish Israelis destroying Arab Israeli property and attacking their fellow citizens, condemned as “lynchings” by Prime Minister Netenyahu, is tragic and calls for self-examination.  At the same time, attacks by Israeli Arabs on Jewish Israelis with whom they have lived in peace for decades is also unacceptable.

 

Signs of Hope?

Although it is underreported, there have been many demonstrations by Arabs and Jews in Israel in favor of co-existence and rejecting hate and violence.  These have ranged across the country including calls by Rabbis, including the Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel Yitzchak Yosef, to reject violence.  “We must be a light to the nations and not, G-d forbid, the opposite,” he declared in a statement two days ago.  

 

Action that we can take

-Help others understand the reality on the ground and avoid misinformation, labels or sound-bite summations. 

-Support Israel’s right to defend itself by calling on Congress to condemn Hamas and other terrorist group’s attacks on civilians and to ensure that American financial support does not contribute to the ability of the Palestinian Authority or Hamas through means such as the United Nations funding which has been used to further an anti-Semitic agenda and to provide financial support for the families of terrorists. 

-Reach out directly to Israeli friends and relatives with a message of support.

-Reach out to Muslim friends and neighbors with wishes for a joyful Eid al Fitr Season and a message of seeking peace and refusing to be sucked into a narrative of enmity. 

-Donate to lifesaving rescue organizations such as Magen David Adom who provide services to Israelis of all religions and backgrounds. 

 

Links for more information, background and resources, organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington: 


 

 


 

Wed, October 20 2021 14 Cheshvan 5782