10 Suggestions For Elul

Despite all the turmoil in the Jewish world, war with Hamas, intensification of anti-Israel feeling in Europe, racism in Missouri, Isis, destabilization in so many places in the Middle East, Africa and Ukraine, the High Holiday season is the time for the Jewish community to return to itself, to God, to family and community, to Torah and the central life of the spirit.

This does not happen by itself. Our effort is necessary.

The month of Elul begins this coming Wednesday evening. It is the “get ready” month before the High Holidays, and the more we do in preparation in advance of the holidays, the more we will personally benefit. We need that focus as individual Jews now more than ever.

Ala David Letterman, I offer ten suggestions in descending order of importance to think about and do starting Wednesday evening, if not before in the spirit of t’shuvah (return).

#10 – Break your daily routine. Identify one bad habit you wish to break. Focus on the good qualities of others and not their bad qualities. Begin to let go of your anger, resentment and hurt. Clean up your language. If you wouldn’t say certain things in front of a child or your mother, then don’t say it at all, ever.

#9 – Take your shoes off. A USA Today study reported years ago that those who habitually kick off their shoes under the dining table, desk or pew tend to live three years longer than the average American. Your feet are like the soul. Feet bound for too long begin to stink, and cloistered souls prevent divine light from shining forth.

#8 – Meditate - The American Institute on Stress reports that 75-90% of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress-related complaints. Meditation is a means to become more aware and conscious. It can be done at any time, when listening to music, looking at fine art, reading a good book or poetry, exercising, or sitting still. Meditation trains us to listen to what is happening within and around us, and consequently to be more present with our loved ones.

#7 – Exercise every day – Walk, swim, ride a bicycle, and keep your body toned. Whenever possible, walk the stairs. Park at the far end of a parking lot. The number of calories we burn this way will result in the loss of pounds over the course of a year, lower your heart rate, reduce your blood pressure, create a healthier physique, and enable us to feel a greater sense of well-being. At the same time, reduce the number of calories we take in, eliminate sugar and salt, and eat well (see #6 for occasional relief!).

#6 – Do one “wild” thing each day, such as:
• Have an ice cream
• Eat chocolate
• Buy a loved one a gift for no good reason at unexpected times
• Laugh whenever possible
• Stretch everywhere
• Sing in the shower
• Say hello to a perfect stranger
• Smile at a attractive woman or good-looking man (as long as you are alone and not with your spouse or partner), and for God’s sake, smile back if you’re smiled at
• Be kind for no reason at all
• Let the guy cut in front of you in traffic
• Pet a dog and look into its eyes – there is more sweetness and love there than you are ever likely to see anywhere else

#5 – Learn to say “No” more often when you are overtaxed and exhausted. And say “Yes” to spending time doing those things that feed your soul, inspire you, infuse you with strength, and draw you closer to the people you love and care most about. Read great literature. Find great teachers. Do mitzvot that accentuate kindness. Give tzedakah every time poor people ask it of you, and don’t question their motives or worthiness. Visit the sick. Call the lonely. Touch, hug and kiss an elderly person who might not have been touched in a very long while.

#4 – Strengthen your friendships – express gratitude to your dear ones more freely. Tell them why they are precious to you.

#3 – Come to worship services more often. Join with others as a community in praise and prayer. Studies indicate that those who worship regularly are less lonely and actually live longer.

#2 – Light candles on Shabbat even if you are alone. Buy or bake challah and fill your cup with good wine to the very top – and then drink it all! Acknowledge God’s presence everywhere. Feel humility before the Creator. Know that all creation is interconnected within the great Oneness of God.

#1 – Learn Torah. Take advantage of adult learning opportunities. Find one verse or more in the Hebrew Bible that speaks to you personally, and let it become your “mantra.” It may be “Vay’hi or – Let there be light!” V’ahavta l’reiacha kamocha – Love your fellow as yourself”, “V’ahavta et Adonai Eloheicha – Love Adonai your God”, Tzedek tzedek tirdof – Justice, justice shall you pursue. “Shiviti Adonai l’negdi – I have set God always opposite me.” “Sh’ma Yisrael – Listen O Israel, Adonai is our God, Adonai alone!” Commit the verse to memory. Make it your own. Say it to yourself frequently and become its words.

These are my 10 suggestions for this Elul. I wish you well in fulfilling one or more of them. May the 30 days from Wednesday to Rosh Hashanah be time well spent. May these days create a pathway filled with sweetness, wisdom, light, and love.

Shabbat shalom!

My Tribute to Leibel Fein

Leonard Leibel Fein’s death is a particularly painful loss to the liberal social activist progressive Zionist world. He spoke and wrote always the truth as he understood it, inspired by a deeply Jewish vision, with an eloquence and a precision of language that inspired, opened the heart and renewed a sense of purpose and hope in anyone who was open and receptive enough to resonate with his message.

I first met Leibel 44 years ago when I was a college student at the summer Aliyah of then Brandeis Camp Institute (now Brandeis-Bardin) in Simi Valley, California, where he had come to spend a month with us 70+ young people from all over the country and world. He spoke to us and with us, lecturing about American Jewish life and religion, God, Israel, Zionism, Soviet Jewry, and social justice.

Those were the heady euphoric years after Israel’s lightning victory in the 1967 Six-Days War, yet Leibel (an early scholar of the Israeli enterprise at Brandeis University) understood intuitively that the great victory of three years earlier on the battlefield that resulted in the reunification of Jerusalem and the acquisition of the West Bank, Golan Heights, and Sinai desert, did not address the deeper far more complex moral challenges that confronted the state of Israel and the Jewish people.

He emphasized that there were at least four significant challenges confronting Israel and world Jewry at that time; (1) the 1967 war would not be the last war Israel would be forced to fight; (2) Israel’s Jewish culture, moral and democratic character would be defined in part by how it settled the Arab-Israeli conflict, how it conducted itself as an occupier of more than a two and a half million hostile Palestinian Arabs then living in the West Bank and Gaza, and whether it treated Israeli-Palestinian citizens of the state as equal citizens with Israeli Jews; (3) what would be the fate of the three million Soviet Jews then trapped behind the iron curtain, and (4) looking us in the eye, what we young American and Canadian Jews (and a couple of Israelis), then in our late teens and early twenties, would become as American Jewish leaders.

For some reason, Leibel singled me out all those years ago (he was only 36 at the time), gently but assuredly, and privately challenged me to become engaged seriously with the American Jewish community as a Zionist and a leader. In that way, Leibl became one of my earliest Zionist mentors.

I read nearly everything he would subsequently write, and so often over the decades he focused my thinking and redirected how I considered the great issues facing America and the Jewish people. He never lost his intellectual, moral and compassionate verve. As this last column (link below) that Leibel wrote for The Forward so eloquently and movingly expresses, with its introductory note by the Forward’s editors, what made Leibel Fein’s thought so deeply Jewish was that the prophetic tradition was always his proof text and he led as much from the heart as from the mind.

As Leibel battled his own demons over the years, suffered the tragic loss of his daughter, and finally illness that seemed to plague him for far too long, he never lost what made him that unique and compelling thought leader.

I will miss him, though we only saw each other at J Street conferences in recent years, but he is embedded in my heart as he is in the hearts of so many of us.

Zichrono livracha. May his memory abide as a blessing.


What it Means to Be the Seed of Abraham

In last week’s and this week’s Torah readings the Israelites are told what they are to do when they enter the land promised to Abraham; namely, to dislodge every people and nation living there, to defeat and destroy them, to grant them no terms, give them no quarter, and feel no pity – to obliterate their sacred places, to consign their idols to fire, and wipe them out utterly and completely.

As Ekev begins this week we read of the blessings that will come from these multiple acts of violence against the indigenous and idolatrous peoples that the Israelites encountered.

Thankfully, this excessive militancy is balanced by the attribute of compassion elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible and throughout rabbinic tradition. Our sages teach, in fact, that if there is too much harsh judgment and too little compassion the world will be destroyed, just as too much empathy and too few just standards will sink the world into chaos. A proper balance between din and rachamim is therefore essential to the survival and well-being of the community itself.

The Sefer Hachinukh says that “kindness and mercy are among the most worthy qualities in the world…[and if someone would…] teach himself to be cruel he would attest about himself that he is not a Jew, for we are rachmanim b’nai rachmanim – compassionate children of compassionate parents.” (Mishpatim 42, based on the Bavli, Kiddushin 4a)

The Zohar emphasizes this virtue when it says that Jacob became Yisrael after his struggle at the river Jabbok only in order to attach himself to the quality of compassion. (1:174a) The Talmud is categorical – “One who shows no compassion, it is known that he is not of the seed of Abraham.” (Bavli, Beitzah 32b)

In a recent essay, Rabbi David Seidenberg wrote:

“Hamas members, being Muslim, are also of the seed of Abraham. That Hamas has been hiding rockets in schools, daring Israel to fire on places that should be safe. That Hamas used concrete to build miles of tunnels and no public bomb shelters. And that Hamas’ lack of compassion, to their own people and to Israeli civilians, shows that they are neither true Muslims, nor of the spiritual seed of Abraham.”

We Jews, of course, have our own hard-hearted fanatics who care little about others and certainly little about the innocent Palestinians who have been caught tragically in the cross-fire and suffered.

Three weeks ago, Rabbi Dov Lior, a leading West Bank rabbi in the settlement of Kiryat Arba who had written a book justifying the killing of non-Jews, issued a religious ruling saying that Jewish law permits the destruction of Gaza to keep southern Israel safe, and that the army may “take crushing deterring steps to exterminate the enemy.” (Jewish Telegraphic Agency – July 24, 2014).

This Jewish version of a fatwa is shocking in and of itself, and when he added the word “exterminate,” given our own Jewish experience in the Holocaust, it is doubly disturbing and reprehensible.

In response, Meretz party leader Zahava Gal-On asked Israel’s Attorney General to launch an investigation against Lior for incitement.

Another hareidi rabbi, Yisroel Yitzchok Kalmanovitz, of the fanatical Lithuanian Jerusalemite sect, turned his hard-heartedness not on Hamas fighters, as one might expect, but on non-religious Israeli soldiers saying that it is better for them to die in Gaza as “martyrs” than it is for them to lie and continue to sin.

At the same time, I was relieved to see many hareidi Jews prayed for the welfare of all our soldiers in this war.

For us, the question must always be – ‘how does the tension between judgment and compassion play out in our hearts, in our relationships with those near and dear to us, with friends, co-workers and colleagues, with our community, with the stranger, and even with our legitimate enemies?’

The famous midrash from the Passover Seder is a reminder of what tradition requires of us – to mourn even when our enemies perish, and to open the heart to all human suffering whether it be in southern Israel, Gaza, the West Bank, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, the Congo, Sudan, or on the streets of Hollywood.

The way we answer that question and the way we open our hearts to others will determine not just the nature of our Jewishness but of our humanity.

Shabbat shalom!

Three Questions for PM Netanyahu – Naomi Chazan

I have been waiting for an articulate, strong, compassionate, and wise voice coming out of Israel that asks all the right questions about Israel’s future in the wake of this ceasefire – and this is that voice.

Naomi Chazan’s open letter in The Times of Israel to Prime Minister Netanyahu and his government is a must-read not only for the Prime Minister, but all of Israel and the American Jewish community. http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/three-questions-for-the-prime-minister/

Naomi Chazan is a long-time beloved and respected Israeli leader and peace activist. She headed the Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University where she earned her doctorate, is a former member of the Knesset on the Meretz list and served as Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, among many other important posts. Most recently she served as the president of the New Israel Fund.

When Naomi speaks I always listen because she is as clear thinking, wise and visionary as there is in Israel and the Jewish world. I told her once that I wished that she would be Prime Minister of Israel. She laughed and said that she had tried but failed.

Now that the ceasefire seems to be holding, Israel has an opportunity to strive to assure security in a demilitarized Gaza and move forward negotiations for a two-state solution in alliance with other Middle Eastern nations.

Naomi’s questions to PM Netanyahu are the right questions, and as the days and weeks pass, they will likely be asked by more and more Israelis.

I look forward to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s responses, if he offers them.

Rebooting after a Ceasefire

Though there is not yet a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas (at the time of this posting Israel has accepted a ceasefire to begin at midnight tonight, but Hamas has not affirmed it), conversation is beginning about this war’s causes and roots, about the nature of Hamas and its conflict with Israel, about what the Palestinian Authority’s role in Gaza ought to be going forward, and what possibilities remain for moderation, co-existence and peace.

This conflict is complex and long-standing, but there is no confusion in Israel about Hamas’ anti-Semitic and fundamentalist rejection of the Jewish state, nor about Hamas’ extremist ideology and intent to kill Jews, to place Palestinian civilians in harm’s way and then to use their deaths and injuries as fodder in its media war against Israel.

What is ultimately at stake for Israel and the Palestinians is which side will succeed in shaping the agenda between them. Will Israel and those Palestinians with an interest in co-existence and moderation be successful in empowering more moderate forces in the region to support an agreement on a two-state solution, or will Hamas’ fundamentalist and violent extremism dominate and thereby assure continuing war, death and suffering on both sides?

Hamas’ identity and goals are straightforward and simple; to shift the Palestinians away from secular moderation to fundamentalist ideological extremism. The Israeli government came to the conclusion that the destruction of Hamas is only possible (and not necessarily assured) if Israel were to reoccupy Gaza and be willing to sacrifice a thousand or more Israeli soldiers and even greater numbers of Palestinian civilians. The Israeli cabinet voted unanimously not to do so and to withdraw its ground troops from Gaza before the last ceasefire.

The other alternative is to encourage moderate political forces within Israel and the Palestinian community to set the agenda that will lead to a negotiated two-state settlement.

Avner Inbar of Molad, a Jerusalem progressive think tank, explains in the article below how Israel played the war according to the interests of Hamas and not according to the interests of Arab moderates. He discusses why he believes that Prime Minister Netanyahu took the actions he did following the kidnapping of the three Israeli teens, why he misled their families and the Israeli public about when he and the Israeli government knew they had been murdered and the actual identity of their murderers, and how the conflict escalated when it might not have had to have happened in the first place.

Israel and moderate Palestinians need to reboot after a ceasefire is attained, and get back to the negotiating table with the support of the United States, the Arab League and the Quartet.

I have included below not only Inbar’s article from The Nation but a piece written by former US Ambassador to Egypt and Israel, Daniel Kurtzer, from The Washington Post.

“How Israel’s Shriveling Peace Camp Failed the Public – We must overcome our chronic failure to offer a clear and unified narrative on Israel’s strategic crisis.” By Avner Inbar, Nation Magazine, August 7, 2014

“Peace in the Mideast will come only with international help” – by Daniel Kurtzer, The Washington Post, August 8, 2014

Why I Don’t Want to Die

My ailing mother and I had a conversation yesterday that broke through the fog of her dementia enough for her to express her greatest fear as she confronts the end of her life.

My mother is 97 and suffers from serious macular degeneration, deafness and dementia. She still knows my brother and me, though at times I have to persuade her that I am, indeed, her son. She is mostly able to communicate what she feels and thinks, though her vocabulary has become more and more limited and her confusion has increased. She has little short-term or long-term memory left.

When I arrived at her assisted living home yesterday, the aids told me that she had had a very bad morning, had broken a piece of equipment and wanted no one to touch her. They had medicated her to calm her. She sat alone appearing still agitated.

She can’t do much of anything by herself anymore. She needs assistance getting out of bed, using the bathroom, getting dressed, and moving anywhere. For the first 95 years of her life she had been independent and self-sufficient, so her frustration at her incapacities is now severe.

For some time now she has told me that she wants to die, that since all her brothers and sisters are dead, and most of her friends, this is no way to live.

Seeing me yesterday after several bad hours changed her mood. I let her vent and kept touching her and asking her direct questions – “Are you in pain?” “Does anything hurt?” “Do you need to use the bathroom?” “Do you know who I am?” “Do you need anything from me?”

Then she said, despite her past readiness for death, “I don’t want to die!”

“Really, Mom? That’s a change,” I said. “Why do you not want to die now?”

“I don’t want to leave you and everyone,” she answered.

I knew that was true, but I had the sense she was really saying something else, something deeper, trying to tell of a fear about dying that she had not expressed to me before.

I asked on a hunch; “Mom – are you afraid that I will forget you?”

She looked at me (I always sit very close to her with about a foot between my face and hers so she can see and hear me), and then with a clarity she had not had since I had arrived – “Yes!”

I took the opportunity to tell her a fundamental truth about my life, despite her having been a very difficult personality for both my brother and me throughout our lives, the following:

“Mom, let me tell you something. Even now, where ever I go, you are with me, in my heart. After you die and are gone, you will still be here with me in my heart. You have taught me so much about loyalty to family and generosity to everyone, about love and kindness, about giving back to others and trying to make a difference in the world, about making a contribution. That is what you have always tried to do and I believe you did it all really well. Just as Daddy has been with me every day since he died [56 years ago], as I know he has been with you and has been with Michael [my brother], you will be with me always too. Don’t worry about that. I cannot nor do I wish to ever forget you. I love you and am grateful that you are and have been my mother!”

She smiled at me for the first time that day – “I love you so much, John.”

I stayed a while longer. She was convinced that she was holding something in her gnarled hands and she wanted to put it onto a tray sitting on her dresser. I assisted her for a while and then just took her hands in mine and rubbed them and asked her to flex her fingers for exercise. The “sandy” sensation that she had tried to release went away.

It was lunch time, and I left her with her aids. As I walked to my car I was reminded of the concluding verse of one of my favorite e e cummings poems:

…here is the deepest secret nobody knows
here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life
which grows higher than soul can hope or mind can hide
and this is the wonder that keeps the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

Negotiating with the “Devil” – 4 Book Recommendations

I recommend four books that are helpful in probing, analyzing and addressing the stresses and tensions that develop in all kinds of relationships, within marriages and families, between siblings and friends, in the work place and community, between ethnic, racial, and religious groups, amongst nations and peoples, and in relationship to terrorist organizations.

At a time when crises increasingly define what transpires between nations, when polarization escalates in American partisan politics, when many media sources report biased and non fact-based reports in the service of partisan agendas, when so many interpersonal relationships remain dysfunctional and destructive, we individuals and our society need thoughtful guidance about how to effectively restore sanity, stability and integrity to our relationships and effectively reduce stress, tension, harm, and suffering to all concerned.

Difficult Conversations – How to Discuss What Matters Most, by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton and Sheila Heen, Penguin, 2010 – A NY Times business bestseller that reflects fifteen years of research. The authors offer a step-by-step approach to reduce stress when tough conversations are inevitable, and to reach successfully new understanding and compromise in all kinds of relationships. This is a practical guide that analyzes the impact of what happens when conflict occurs and how to move through it productively and in one piece.

The Righteous Mind – Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, by Jonathan Haidt, Vintage, 2012 – A superb work that analyzes the moral presumptions (based on people’s genetic and psychological makeup, religious, national and cultural backgrounds) upon which we respond to events and form our relationships. The author explores how and why we do not understand others, judge and demonize them. Dr. Haidt is a Professor of Ethical Leadership at NYU’s Stern School of Business and earned his doctorate in social psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. He employs the metaphor of a rider (representing reason and logic) and an elephant (representing intuition and non-rational responses) and why the choice of the elephant is almost always determinative while the rider acts as a kind of adviser and “press agent” for the elephant and rationalizes whatever the elephant chooses to do. Haidt is persuasive in showing that in order to understand who we and others really are (friends and foes), we need to be able recognize what the elephant intuitively wants and how the rider rationalizes the elephant’s choices.

From Enemy to Friend – Jewish Wisdom and the Pursuit of Peace, by Rabbi Amy Eilberg, Orbis, 2014 – Rabbi Eilberg is the first woman ordained as a Conservative rabbi by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. She spent many years working in pastoral care, hospice and spiritual direction, and is a seasoned peace activist. (A personal note – Amy is a friend and a significant voice in the J Street Rabbinic Cabinet that I co-chair nationally. I would recommend highly this book even if I did not know her personally). Amy brings to her work high emotional intelligence and psychological sophistication. She non self righteously advocates for kindness, compassion, generosity, curiosity, and the softening and opening of the heart in all tough and contentious interactions with individuals and groups even as she advocates for courage, clarity, determination, and boldness in speaking and acting upon one’s own truth. Amy’s voice is deeply Jewish, and she utilizes a wide array of classic Jewish texts with sensitivity and skill as she lays out the necessary ground-work of peace-making, to which she has devoted her life. Taken together, these four books represent a mini-course on conflict resolution.This work ought to be translated into both Hebrew and Arabic so that it can be available for Israelis and Palestinians seeking ways to make peace with each other with mutual respect and a spirit of necessary compromise.

Bargaining with the Devil – When to Negotiate, When to Fight, by Robert Mnookin, Simon and Schuster, 2010 – Dr. Mnookin is chair of the program on negotiation at the Harvard Law School and has practiced and analyzed the art and science of negotiation in a wide variety of settings. He considers in depth seven polarized situations and the choices that were made. The seven include the Hungarian Jew Rudolf Kasztner’s choice to bargain for Jewish lives with the high Nazi official Adolph Eichmann, Winston Churchill’s decision not to negotiate with Adolph Hitler and instead to go to war, Nelson Mandela’s negotiations from prison with the Apartheid regime, a 1980s software war that challenged the budding industry’s understanding of intellectual property rights as it played out between an American and Japanese firm, contract negotiations between the San Francisco Symphony’s management and the musician’s union, a contentious divorce proceeding, and a sibling struggle over a father’s estate. Dr. Mnookin takes us through all the ethical, moral and practical choices involved in each case including the interpersonal dynamics involved and a cost-benefit analysis, and he explains how each incident resolved.

None of these four works argues that every hostile, tense and polarized conflict is able to be resolved in compromise. Yet, there are times when even bargaining with the “devil” (as Robert Mnookin described Rudolf Kasztner’s choice) is better than not doing so. Mnookin also demonstrates why refusing to bargain with the devil, as Winston Churchill did relative to Hitler, was the right choice.

Taken together, these four books represent a mini-course on conflict resolution.

Shimon Peres’ Visit to Injured Israeli Soldiers

I was deeply moved by the 91 year-old former Israeli President Shimon Peres’ reflections, the first he made publicly after ending his term as president, as reported in YNET (July 30, 2014) after he visited wounded soldiers in the Soroka Medical Center in Be’er Sheva:

“This is one of the most emotional visits I’ve ever had. I think this is a true story of bravery. This was the war of an army against terrorists, but also a war of each soldier against men who have no respect for human lives, who are willing to murder. A war of brave men against men with no restraints, bastard men.

You did a job no army has done before,” Peres told one of the wounded soldiers. “You were operating in an area where every step could’ve landed on a landmine, and every building could’ve been booby-trapped. Normally, we’d read about people like you only in legends, in which people go in and out of hell. The difference between legend and reality is huge, and you are the reality that created a legend. You fought greatly; I don’t think there were ever troops who faced such a test. There are no winners in this war, only rescuers and you saved the country.”

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, for the safety of our people, for the well-being, courage and resilience of Israel’s soldiers and leaders.

May Lt. Hadar Goldin be returned to his family in life and peace.

Shabbat shalom!

Kol Hakavod to Rabbi Menachem Creditor – “I’m Done Apologizing for Israel”

This is a piece from The Huffington Post (link below) I wish I had written myself, for it articulates almost everything I have been feeling this week, except one thing – but that one thing does not take away from Rabbi Creditor’s larger message, though that one thing is huge in my mind and I know must be so in his mind as well and in the minds of Israelis and Jews everywhere.

At times of crisis, Jews come together and find common cause. It is part of our necessary tribal instinct, and we are like every other people and nation in the world in our concern for our own people first and foremost.

The Pesach seder reminds us every year that the evil child is the one that separates him/herself from the community and does not see his/her destiny as part of the destiny of the Jewish people. Tradition reminds us – “Al tifros min ha-tzibur – You shall not separate yourself from your community,” especially during times of crisis such as these.

The one thing I would have added to Rabbi Creditor’s superbly written, true, honest, candid, justifiably enraged and passionate defense of the Jewish state and the Jewish people is this – mistakes have been made by the IDF. The bombing of those four Palestinian children on the beach had to have been a terrible and tragic mistake. I do not know what those firing the missiles thought they saw. I refuse to believe they realized those four children were kids. They had to have seen something else, and perhaps there was something else there – but it escapes me what it possibly could have been.

I give every benefit of the doubt to our Israeli soldiers who are risking their lives in defense of the Jewish people and state and whose bravery and sacrifice should inspire the gratitude of Jews everywhere. I am not criticizing them. I am saying only that in war, mistakes are always made. That fact is yet another tragedy of war. That mistakes will be made is never a reason not to go to war when your people are being bombed indiscriminately. It is just a tragedy pure and simple, and we Jews must always acknowledge it out loud and publicly not only for the sake of truth, but for our own sake as moral human beings.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has said as much, and for that I am grateful to him – that far too many innocent people are getting killed and injured. Rabbi Creditor says he is finished apologizing. In the larger sense I agree with him, and though I do not know him personally, I believe he must be as tortured by the loss of innocent life as I am, as Israelis are, as Jews are everywhere.

So first, I thank Rabbi Creditor for speaking so eloquently from the heart reflecting what is in the hearts of so many of us.

Hamas must be defeated and de-fanged. It is an evil lot that cares not a whit for what its says it cares about, the lives of Palestinians.

I want to make one political comment for the sake of a future settlement of this crisis in an eventual two-states for two peoples agreement. I hope and pray that President Machmud Abbas gets the credit for arranging a ceasefire so as to further delegitimize Hamas amongst Palestinians as a whole.

Hamas had a mere 10-15 percent approval rating in Gaza and the West Bank before this crisis began. How they could have any approval now, except for their die-hard fanatic and inhumane terrorist fighters, is beyond me. They must be silenced, and savvy politics requires that the ceasefire that will come be worked out by the Palestinian Authority, supported by the Arab League, the US, Quartet, Israel, and everyone else with Abu Mazen being regarded as the one who cares most about his own people, and not Hamas.

If there is any good that will come from this horrible war, then it must be that Israel and the PA return to negotiations, that the US present its position on a reasonable settlement, and that both sides compromise. Peace will require p’sharah (compromise). Those who want all of their truth respected will just get more war. It is clear to me that the Palestinian people want peace most of all in a state of their own just as do a majority of Israelis. The time to make peace is when the fighting ends, hopefully very soon.


A Prayer for the State of Israel, Her People and Soldiers, and for the Innocent Among the Palestinian People

Eternal God, receive our prayers for the peace and security of the State of Israel and its people.

Spread blessing upon the Land and upon all who labor in its interest.

Protect Israeli soldiers as they defend our people against missiles and hate.

Protect the innocent among the Palestinian people, that they may be safe and free from death and injury.

Inspire Israel’s leaders to both defend our people and follow the ways of righteousness and compassion.

Remove from the hearts of our people fear, hatred, malice, strife, and vengeance.

May the Jewish people scattered throughout the earth stand strong in solidarity with the state of Israel in times of war and peace, and may they be infused with the ancient hope of Zion.

May our people be encouraged by the symbol of Jerusalem as the eternal city of peace.

May the State of Israel be a blessing to all its inhabitants and to the Jewish people everywhere,

May she be a light to the nations of the world.



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