Friday, January 2, 2009

I am (for) peace, but when I speak, they are for war (Psalms 120:7)

אני שלום, וכי אדבר המה למלחמה!
This verse, for me, epitomizes the deep philosophical divide between Israel and the Hamas leadership in Gaza. While our (because I consider Israel my motherland, though I am proud of my American birthplace and background) ultimate goal, despite the numerous accusations of genocide is that all citizens of the region should be able to live their lives in security and without fear, I do not see the same goal from the leadership of Hamas. I bemoan the death of civilians in Gaza, and mourn the innocent casulties of an irresponsible government (if one can call Hamas that). Overall, though, I believe Israel is targeting terrorist leaders and civilians are getting caught in the crossfire - but Hamas is succeeding in its goal of hurting and killing ordinary citizens, causing them all sorts of pain and fear, from traumatic stress to amputated limbs and death. Seven years is just too long, and Israel is fulfilling its obligation, that of any democracy, to protect its citizens from terror and threats.
In the Israeli media, a stark shift has been seen as Hamas has begun using more powerful and lethal grad missles, as the affected are no longer labeled as תושבי שדרות (the residents of Sderot), but now as תושבי הדרום (residents of the South). I was a resident of the South, as I lived on Kibbutz En Zurim and worked in the fields of communal moshav Massuot Yitzhak while on the Nativ program in the spring of 2007. At that time, the Shafir region, in which these communities lie, was considered a safe 30 kilometers from Gaza, and even Ashkelon and Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, much closer to the danger, were considered safe places to visit, which I did on a number of occasions. It is therefore scary and painful to me to hear that these special places, along with Be'er Sheva, where many of my friends lived, are now no longer considered safe, and their residents must join the ranks of those spending their days in fear.
This picture appeared in the front section of the January 1 New York Times. It depicts a classroom, where young children should be sitting and learning right now (schools in the South are closed indefinitely until the violence passes, as many of them are not properly protected against rockets). While this scence is sad enough in itself, the contrast between the aims of the educators here in Be'er Sheva and the terrorist firing rockets in Gaza is reflected in the quote written on the back wall, taken from Pirkei Avot: איזהו מכובד - המכבד את הבריות- Who is honored? one who honors their fellow creatures. It deeply saddens me when teachers, who are attempting to transmit a legacy of mutual respect to their students, are being prevented from teaching and learning by those who have no respect for the rights of others or life in general. Again, while all civilian death is tragic, there is simple no equivilency between the two contrasting worldviews, one which loves life and the other which has no value for it.
While some may think I am crazy for this, but it is times like this that make me wish I were in Israel more than ever. As my homeland, I would rather be there, with her and her citzens, than far away in the safety and cold of North America. I wish there were more I could do to sipport those, both in the IDF and ordinary citizens who continue to make the dream of Israel a reality. One response that is always appropriate is that of prayer, and their are many words of our tradition that reflect the feelings and concerns of these difficult times. One in particular is a prayer known as ועננו, and answer us, traditionally recited when the Land of Israel is desperately in need of rain. Today, the residents of the South need rain, but all the more so, peace and security. Please share these words with anyone to whom they would be meaningful.

ועננו בורא עולם במידת הרחמים, בוחר בעמו ישראל להודיע גודלו והדרת כבודו. שומע תפילה, תן טל ומטר על פני האדמה, ותשביע את העולם כולו מטובך, ומלא ידינו מברכותיך ומעושר מתנות ידך. שמור והצל שנה זו מכל דבר רע, ומכל מיני משחית ומכל מיני פורענויות, ועשה לה תקווה ואחרית שלום. חוס ורחם עלינו ועל כל תבואתינו ופרותינו ,וברכנו בגשמי ברכה, ונזכה לחיים ושובע ושלום כשנים הטובות. והסר ממנו דבר וחרב ורעב, וחיה רעה ושבי וביזה,ויצר הרע וחליים רעים וקשים ומאורעות רעים וקשים. וגזור עלינו גזירות טובות מלפניך, ויגלו רחמיך על מידותיך ותתנהג עם בניך במידת הרחמים, וקבל ברחמים וברצון את תפילתנו.
And answer us, Creator of the world, with your quality of mercy, who chose His people Israel to transmit his greatness and the majesty of His glory. You, who hears prayer, grant rain and dew on the face of the land, and sustain the entire world with your goodness, and fill our hands from Your blessings and the richness of Your gifts. Guard and save this year from all evil, and from all types of destruction and tragedy, and bestow upon it a legacy of hope and everlasting peace. Have mercy upon us and all of our produce of the the land, and bless us with rains of blessing, and may we merit life, sustenance and peace as in the best years. And remove from among us pestilence, war and famine, wild beasts, captivity (keeping in mind Gilad Shalit) and plundering, our evil inclinations and difficult and tragic illnesses and events. And decree upon us good tidings before You, and may Your mercies overcome Your judgement, as you act with Your children with the quality of mercy. And accept with mercy all of our prayers.

I have also begun adding a simple prayer the conclusion of my Birkat Hamazon, along with praying for Israel and Tzahal.
הרחמן הוא ישכין שלום בינינו - May the Merciful One cause peace to dwell among us.
...and may we work together to fulfill this ultimate dream!

Shabbat Shalom!

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