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.


Suffering is Suffering

Suffering is suffering, regardless of the cause. That said, the differences in intent and tactics between Hamas and Israel in Gaza cannot be equated morally as has been suggested by many news outlets including, at the least, NBC and CNN (I have not made a study of them all).

Rabbi Eric Yoffie’s most recent blog, which I recommend, explains why (Time Magazine, July 14 – Bizarre Criticism of Israel: “Disproportionate” Casualtieshttp://ericyoffie.com/).

The following article is also a must-read as it is a reminder of the toll of war on the innocent, if we needed reminding after a decade of war after 9/11 in the US, and then in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, the Congo, and God knows where else.

Report From Gaza: When My Son Screams – We don’t even seem to have a right to exist or defend ourselves. That right, according to the United States, belongs to Israel alone. By Mohammed Omer – July 15, 2014 – http://www.thenation.com/article/180656/report-gaza-when-my-son-screams#

Martin Indyk on Failed Peace Negotiations, Egyptian Cease-Fire Agreement, & J Street’s Statement on Current Crisis

Two days after Martin Indyk resigned as the Obama Administration’s chief negotiator in the American Israeli-Palestinian peace effort, and one day after 16 year-old Palestinian Mohammed Abu Kder was found murdered in a Jerusalem forest, Ambassador Martin Indyk spoke with the Atlantic Magazine’s Jeffrey Goldberg at the Aspen Ideas Festival – http://www.aspenideas.org/session/conversation-us-special-envoy-israeli%E2%80%93palestinian-negotiations-0

The Indyk conversation was reported widely after it took place, but listening to Ambassador Indyk reveals far more about the internal dynamics between the American, Israeli and Palestinian leaders than any third-person account, and so it is worth our listening to the hour-long conversation in its entirety.

Jeffrey Goldberg was an able, direct and aggressive questioner. The following were among the issues that Ambassador Indyk addressed:

• Why the Kerry Initiative really broke down
• What were Kerry’s broader foreign policy priorities
• What were the foundational demands of both Israel and the Palestinians
• How the relationship between Bibi and Abu Mazen undermined the talks
• What the PA and Israeli security forces cooperation suggests
• What Bibi’s statement means for peace when he said that Israel will not give up control of territory west of the Jordan River for 30 to 40 years
• What Abu Mazen really believes about Israel’s right to exist, non-violence, refugees, Jerusalem, a demilitarized West Bank, and an end-of-conflict agreement
• How the education of Palestinian children to hate Jews and Israelis is a problem, but not an insurmountable one
• What we might expect of the Palestinians’ attitude towards Israel when the occupation ends
• What the young generation of Palestinians really wants
• Why ideological settlements are a serious obstacle in negotiations
• Whether these negotiations were the last chance for peace

On the Egyptian Cease-Fire Proposal and J Street’s Statement on the Current Crisis

Following the Egyptian cease-fire proposal, accepted by the Israeli Cabinet, the United States and the Palestinian Authority, and rejected by Hamas, Isaac Herzog, the head of Israel’s Labor Party and leader of the opposition in Parliament, said:

“If the cease-fire doesn’t lead to forward movement in the peace process it is useless.”

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum said:

“This initiative means kneeling and submissiveness and so we completely refuse it and to us, it’s not worth the ink used in writing it.”

American Jewish Organizations and J Street

Given the black and white reaction of many American Jewish organizations to the current Israeli-Hamas crisis (i.e. ‘you are either with us or against us’), J Street issued a statement condemning unconditionally Hamas’ terrorism and targeting of Israeli civilian population centers adding a series of “ands” in order to reflect a more nuanced and complete response to this crisis and the events leading up to it.

Note: I serve as a national co-chair of the J Street Rabbinic Cabinet representing 800 rabbis and cantors from across the American Jewish religious streams. I was consulted on the statement before it was released, and I supported it without hesitation.

J Street Statement on the Current Crisis

Israeli War Ethics and Two Recommended Articles

No other army in the world takes as many precautions before striking a target as does the Israeli Defense Forces. The IDF telephones the target, drops leaflets in the immediate vicinity of the target, or drops a non-destructive charge on a targeted building sixty seconds before actually destroying it all in order to give the occupants time to escape.

A friend who was a former IDF commander said to me before Shabbat this week, “Who else tells the target before the fact that it will be a target for destruction?” He said this with pride, and I concur with the sentiment.

Of course, Israel gets little credit for this because innocent people in Gaza are indeed getting killed and injured, though at a far lower rate relative to the number of targeted Hamas strikes than one would expect, precisely because of the precautions.

Here is but one example of how IDF soldiers backed away from destroying a legitimate Hamas target when they determined that children were present – the video is from The Times of Israelhttp://www.timesofisrael.com/idf-footage-reveals-efforts-to-spare-civilians-in-gaza/?utm_source=The+Times+of+Israel+Daily+Edition&utm_campaign=237a28bbfd-2014_07_12&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_adb46cec92-237a28bbfd-54740573

However you spin it, war is hell. It needs to be repeated, nevertheless, that Israel and Hamas treat the killing of the other very differently. As revealed by the recording of the cell phone call made by one of the Israeli teens just before he was murdered several weeks ago after he whispered, “Chatfu oti – They kidnapped me”(per JJ Goldberg’s piece below), the Hamas killers celebrated with Arabic singing.

The late Yitzhak Rabin once said, “We do not celebrate the death of our enemies,” a sentiment reflected in the midrash in which God rebuked the angels who sang praises as the Egyptians were drowning, “You shall not celebrate while my creatures perish!”

Much is being written about this conflict between Israel and Hamas. However, I recommend two very different but important articles that appeared this week:

A Damaging Distance For Israelis and Palestinians, Separation Is Dehumanizing
By ETHAN BRONNER – JULY 11, 2014 – New York Times

Ethan Bronner of the NY Times reflects on the increasing polarization between Israelis and Palestinians since the Oslo period. He says that the separation fence built by Israel as a successful security measure to prevent suicide bombers from coming into Israeli cities and murdering Israelis, has also effectively divorced the two peoples who no longer have any human points of contact and no basis on which to build empathic relationships with one another.

How Politics and Lies Triggered an Unintended War in Gaza –
Kidnap, Crackdown, Mutual Missteps and a Hail of Rockets

By J.J. Goldberg – Jewish Daily Forward
Published July 10, 2014, issue of July 18, 2014.

J.J. Goldberg reveals that Israeli authorities knew almost immediately after the kidnapping of the three Israeli teens that they had been murdered, but chose to keep this revelation quiet in order to justify cleaning out Hamas cells in the West Bank. That military action, he says, provoked Hamas bombing and rocket fire from Gaza into Israel after a nearly 2-year effective cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. Goldberg also states that the kidnap-murder of the three Israeli teens was not ordered by Hamas officials either in Lebanon or Gaza, and was carried out by a Hebron terrorist cell. The kidnap-murderers were recorded from one of the teen’s phone calls indicating “I’ve been kidnapped” immediately shooting the teens followed by singing in celebration. Neither Israel nor Hamas intended for the current war to result from either the kidnapping/murders or the Israeli sweep of Hamas throughout the West Bank. That being said, war always brings unintended consequences, and we are all witness to that now.

Speak Tenderly to Jerusalem

I have written four separate divrei Torah this week because events in the Middle East have shifted so quickly that the theme of one drash was eclipsed almost as soon I had concluded writing it.

The first was about Pinchas, based on this week’s Parashah. Pinchas was a righteous zealot who accused, judged, condemned, and executed with one thrust of his sword an Israelite man and Midianite woman locked in amorous embrace in the camp.

The second d’var Torah focused on our people’s sympathy and love for the mourning families of the three Israeli teens murdered by Hamas terrorists a few weeks ago.

The third dvar Torah was a reflection on Israel’s sins in the wake of the vicious murder of a Palestinian Arab boy by Jewish terrorists. Despite the hate that motivated this crime, hate that went unchecked in large segments of Israeli society for many years, I intended to shine a light on the extraordinary compassion and decency of Rachel Fraenkl, the mother of Naftaly, one of the Israeli murdered teens, who offered heartfelt words of condolence to the family of 16-year-old murdered Palestinian Muhammed Abu Khdeir, saying:

Even in the abyss of mourning for Gilad, Eyal and Naftali, it is difficult for me to describe how distressed we are by the outrage committed in Jerusalem – the shedding of innocent blood in defiance of all morality, of the Torah, of the foundation of the lives of our boys and of all of us in this country.

And the fourth sermon was about my own dread and fear concerning what was to come next in light of the deteriorating relationship between Israel and the Palestinians following the collapse of the Kerry peace initiative and the murders of the four Jewish and Palestinian teens.

Then, Hamas began firing rockets and missiles from Gaza against the Israeli civilian populations in S’derot, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Tel Aviv, Haifa, and for the first time, Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Netanyahu did what he had to do. He ordered up 40,000 reserves and began pummeling Hamas missile launch sites and military targets in Gaza with remarkable accuracy, thus successfully destroying hundreds of them with, to date remarkably few civilian causalities.

Israelis are sleeping terrified in shelters just as the bombs falling in Gaza are terrifying the Palestinians living there.

What sermon should I offer today? I am admittedly heart-sick and frightened, enraged and and confused about what to think and what to say.

A friend offered me a way forward. He said, imagine that you have a beloved brother who for the past forty-seven years has been an alcoholic. He’s done some good things, but mostly he’s been self-destructive. His health is bad. You tell him to get sober, but he’s in denial and says he has a right to do with his life whatever he wants.

His life was noble and virtuous in his youth, and his family was proud of him. But now, his addiction has drained his resources and he has been forced to borrow heavily from everyone in the family to support his habit. They love him because he’s family, but so many are furious at him, and he’s lost friends, and his neighbors don’t trust him at all.

One night he’s driving home after drinking heavily and blacks out at the wheel. He runs head-on into a family van and hurts everyone, himself most of all.

You rush to the hospital and see that he is fighting for his life.

What do you do?

Do you support him and say nothing about the cause of it all, his 47-year addiction? Or do you criticize him, walk away and turn your back in disgust?

That is essentially the situation of the Jewish people today. Our brother Israel is fighting for its life, and despite the 47-year occupation of another people, when Israel is under attack, we Jews support her because she is our family and Israel is our national home.

The Biblical prophet had two primary functions when speaking on behalf of God to the people; to preach the moral truth, especially when they had committed sins of injustice, hard-heartedness, and corruption, or to offer comfort in times of suffering and distress.

Now is not the time to rebuke. Now is the time to offer our love and support.

Nachamu nachamu ami yomer Eloheichem,
Dabru al lev Yerushalayim –

“Comfort, oh comfort My People, Says your God -
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem…” (Isaiah 40:1-2)

We stand in solidarity with the people and state of Israel as it endures missile attacks by Hamas, and we pray for strength, courage and safety for the Israel Defense Forces as it responds to Hamas’ escalation of hostilities against our people.

We pray for the safety of all our Israeli brothers and sisters and for all innocent Palestinians living in this wretched theater of violence.

And we pray the Psalmist’s prayer:

“Shaalu shalom Yerushalayim – Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” (Psalm 122:6)

“Bulldoze the Jewish Terrorists’ Homes” – Haaretz

I agree wholeheartedly with Rabbi Danny Landes. I sent this to several Israeli friends for their opinion and all of them, each a significant figure in Israel’s Progressive Reform movement, in the Israeli military command structure and at the top level of Keren Kayemet L’Yisrael (JNF), confided to me that they agree as well with Rabbi Landes’ views below published in Haaretz (July 4).

Right-wing Jewish extremists, called “Jewish Price Gang”, have become terrorists and may represent the greatest threat to the state of Israel, even more so than Palestinian terrorists. They began with spraying “Price Tag” graffiti on Arab homes, Jewish human rights organizations and Israeli Christian churches to intimidate, and they have now kidnapped a 16 year-old innocent Palestinian Arab boy, Muhammed Abu Khdeir, from outside his family home and taken him to a Jerusalem forest where they set him on fire to burn alive until dead.

These Jewish terrorists must be punished in the same way that Palestinian terrorists are punished with arrest, imprisonment for life and the bulldozing of their family homes. Rabbi Gordis justifies this not only on the basis of simple justice and fairness, but on Jewish principles. His Haaretz piece is printed here in full. http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.603044

Bulldoze the Jewish Terrorists’ Homes
The tragedy of the innocent boys murdered by terrorists will haunt us for a long time, but it will not destroy us. Jewish revenge killings will.

By Rabbi Daniel Landes | Jul. 4, 2014

There is only one sane and truly halakhic way to tackle our current situation: Take the well-known members of the Orthodox Price Tag gang and lock ‘em up, for a long time and in an inaccessible prison. Don’t let them go home for chagim and deny them visitors. Do the best to break and separate them. Freeze monies that go to their families. And when and if we have proven guilty perpetrators, bulldoze their parents’ homes. The last will stop them.

Am I overreaching? Might not Mohammed Abu Khdeir, the Arab teen murdered and his body desecrated, have been the victim of a different Jewish group or of some criminal group, perhaps Arab? Maybe, although I doubt it. [Note: This was written before the arrest of the alleged Jewish perpetrators of this crime] But what is not doubtful is that the PTG – the Price Tag Gang – is headed in the direction of creating real havoc with us and with our Arab citizens and with neighboring populations. Since the PTG could care less about Western values, let us refer them to Jewish Law and values and utilize some rules from that body of wisdom.

The PTG is an imminent sakanat nefashot, a danger to life. They are a fire burning on the Sabbath that will destroy not only property, but the lives of soldiers, police and civilians. Indeed, the PTG seemingly wants to cause tension and havoc, leading possibly to war. In their apocalyptic vision, they are confident that Israel will finally “do what it has always needed to do” and act with outstanding force to destroy not only Hamas but the PA and probably all other Muslims.

This is a fiery threat that needs a cold water cannon to extinguish it. When we don’t counter the PTG we destroy a fundamental principle of Torah equality – “One Torah and one Justice should be for you and for the stranger that resides in your midst,” (Numbers 15:16.)

We incarcerate suspected Hamas members and we deal harshly with their infrastructure, because they are a danger to us. The PTG are an equal danger. If you don’t think so ask the twenty soldiers and police outside my house guarding our Abu Tor neighborhood, who have spent the day dodging ricks delivered by slingshot and worrying about worse, courtesy of our cowardly ‘boys’.

There is a great danger that copycat revenge activities, including murder, can spew forth from such an event. The Halakhic principle to be invoked is lifnei evar lo teetain michshol, “before the blind do not put a stumbling block,” (Leviticus 19:14.) Rabbinically, the verse is interpreted to refer to someone who is blind to the consequences of his or her act – a perfect definition of the members of the PTG. Harsh prison time, punishment to parents who have not exerted responsibility in reigning in their children and isolation from their peers should convince Jewish terrorists and wannabes from their disastrous road.

Finally, rabbis who have been inculcating and preaching the virus of racist revenge need to spend their Daf Yomi [daily Talmud study] time in jail. Ah, but do we not actually owe them our cherished respect? My teacher, the great moral leader Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, often quoted the Talmudic phrase, bimkom hillul HaShem ein mechalkin kavod lerav, “in the place of profanation of God’s name, we do not give honor to a Rav.”

There is no greater Hillul HaShem [desecration of God’s Name] than a charred corpse of an innocent, murdered by Torah inspiration. The tragedy of the innocent boys murdered by terrorists will haunt us for a long time. But it will not destroy us. Jewish revenge killings will.

Rabbi Landes is Director of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, where he teaches the Senior Kollel Talmud class and Theology. The views expressed here are his own.

Response to a Reform Rabbi Charging that I am “Valiantly Politically Correct”

After posting my last blog “Enough of blood and tears. Enough!” in which I cited the two stories about Moses hitting the rock and the differences between them, applying this to Israel’s situation and citing Yitzhak Rabin’s speech on the White House lawn in 1993, a Reform Rabbi wrote to me saying, in part, the following:

“How do we deal with a group like the one we confront? Reason has not worked for over 60 years. Limited responses have not worked for over 60 years. Attacks continue, our population is terrorized, and our children are at risk. It is easy to blame our own when they express their frustration, but it is pointless. They did not do the kidnappings and, did not fire the missiles. Whether any one of “our” group is responsible for the killing Mohammed Abu Khdeir is still under investigation, and I believe in the Israeli system of Justice.

If they don’t solve this crime, let us remember that it took weeks to find the bodies, and the Arabs still claim Hamas was uninvolved in spite of being on tape. The Israelis deserve the benefit of the doubt as well.

So [you are] being valiantly politically correct, and I agree logically with most of [your] conclusions, but it is not Jewish and human decency that are on trial, it is Arab barbarism and my feelings are more attuned to the protestors than to you.”

In response I wrote:

Let me be clear. I am not a pacifist. I never have been. Though the idea as suggested by the difference between the two incidents in which Moses hit the rock is that there is a better way to resolve conflict than violence, violent self-defense against the rodef [“the pursuer”] who strives to kill you is morally justified. I accept this, know it to be true and fully understand those who are so worn-thin by the rejectionists and terrorists on the Palestinian side that they have concluded that the only rational response is the use of force.

All that being said, what distinguishes Judaism is that tradition demands of us to strive higher for our own sake, for the sake of our moral character and the health of our souls.

Elie Wiesel once wrote that when any human being kills for whatever reason, he/she is simply a killer. A killer cannot escape him/herself after the fact.

I have never killed personally. And I pray that I never will be in a position where I have to kill. Israelis are placed in that horrible situation constantly, and those who do it for the most part do it only because they find themselves with no alternative. I understand it. I empathize with why they feel forced to do it, and I defend them for doing it. But it is they who must live with themselves for having done so.

After posting this last blog another colleague sent me a video clip of a brutal execution by Syrian Muslims of Syrian Christians in the middle of a Syrian town to emphasize the difference between them and us. The clip lasted about 40 seconds, and the hate, cruelty and complete lack of respect for the sacred quality of human life spilled out through hundreds of automatic rounds that poured into the bodies of those forced to their knees.

Of course, I agree. We Jews are not like them. We have to protect ourselves from them. Israel has no choice except to fight fire with fire if there is no alternative, and then Israel will have to arm itself always in such a way as to maintain military and strategic superiority as both a deterrent in peace and a necessity in war.

I cited Yitzhak Rabin’s speech on the White House lawn because he himself understood all this, and he knew there was no future for the state of Israel as a Jewish homeland and a democratic state if the killing did not stop. That does not suggest “valiant political correctness” as you have charged. It is rather a valiant defense of the Jewish heart, mind, soul, and body.

“Enough of blood and tears. Enough!”

The murders of three Israeli teens, Eyal Yifrach, Gil’ad Sha’ar and Naftali Fraenkel have plunged the Jewish world into despair, sadness and mourning. It is as if for Jews these boys were members of our extended family and we are diminished by their deaths.

Remarkably, the family of Naftali Fraenkl said after the death of their son and in response to the murder of a 16 year-old Palestinian teen, Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir:

“There is no difference between blood and blood. Murder is murder, whatever the nationality and age. There is no justification, no forgiveness and no atonement for any kind of murder.”

Their response, tragically, is not shared universally by Jews.

Yesterday morning the body of Muhammad was found in a Jerusalem forest, and police have now arrested six Jewish extremists who have conducted a revenge-killing.

Hundreds of Jewish rioters also took to the streets of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat screaming “revenge” and “death to Arabs.”

Israel, of course, must seek justice for all these four murders, but for Israel indiscriminately to punish the Palestinians as a people, as some right-wing Knesset members and settlers are calling upon Israel to do, is not only contrary to Jewish values and morally wrong, but beneath the dignity of the Jewish people.

Prime Minister Rabin had it right in 1993 on the White House lawn, and I believe that this is a critical time to recall his words. He said:

“Let me say to you, the Palestinians: We are destined to live together, on the same soil in the same land. We, the soldiers who have returned from battle stained with blood, we who have seen our relatives and friends killed before our eyes, we who have attended their funerals and cannot look into the eyes of their parents, we who have come from a land where parents bury their children, we who have fought against you, the Palestinians – we say to you today in a loud and clear voice: Enough of blood and tears. Enough!

We have no desire for revenge. We harbor no hatred towards you. We, like you, are people who want to build a home, to plant a tree, to love, live side by side with you – in dignity, in empathy, as human beings, as free men. We are today giving peace a chance and again saying to you: Let us pray that a day will come when we will say, enough, farewell to arms.”

The only way Israelis and Palestinians will successfully transform their shared history of blood and tears is to recognize the humanity of and the pain of the “other,” to condemn together the killing of innocents regardless of circumstances, as both PM Netanyahu and President Abbas did this week, to resist escalating this conflict, and to return to negotiations where they strive heroically and boldly as statesmen do to make painful compromises, and settle this conflict once and for all in a two states for two peoples agreement.

As they do so, they ought to deliberately and categorically isolate those who resist a peaceful negotiated solution and say to them as one voice that it is they, those who deny the inherent rights of the other, who are the real enemies of peace and the real enemies of the nation-state of the Jewish people and the nation-state of the Palestinian people.

In last week’s Torah portion, Chukat, God commanded Moses to speak to a rock when the Israelites complained of thirst, and God promised that water would pour forth and sate them. Moses, was weary, frustrated, angry, and worn-thin by years of their bickering. Instead of speaking to the rock, he struck it with his stick, and though water came forth, God punished him by refusing him entry into the Land of Promise. (Numbers 20:8-13)

The story reminds us of another very similar tale in the book of Exodus when Moses appealed to God for the first time when the people were thirsty. God told Moses to hit the rock with his stick. He did and water came forth and sated the people. (Exodus 17:2-6)

The difference in the two similar narratives is that one occurred before Mt. Sinai and the other after Sinai, as if to teach that God intended human history to change as a result of the covenant God forged with the people of Israel, that we would henceforth sanctify words and not weapons of violence, convert our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks, and to cease making war. Compassion and reason would replace hatred and force. Enlightened words would resolve conflict, and we would live then side by side in peace, justice and security.

Rabin’s call is still the call of the moment – “Enough of blood and tears. Enough!”


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