As an American Jew and a supporter of Israel, I take very seriously my obligation to tell Israel’s story as she faces off with Hamas again in the Gaza Strip. While I sympathize with the Palestinians who want and deserve a piece of land to call their own, upon which they can live in peace, I believe that any objective observer should be able to see that Israel is justified in her actions.
So, I see it as my sacred duty to make sure that Jews and non-Jews understand how Israelis and Palestinians have come to this juncture, to see that Israel is not some colonial power with a distant, peaceful homeland to which its citizens can retreat and to have a sense of how complicated this conflict really is.
Perhaps, I am naïve, but I truly believe that the more people learn about Israel then the more they will come to realize that Israel has been backed into a corner with few good options for dealing with her neighbors. This is one of the reasons that I am co-leading an interfaith trip to Israel next year with my good friend and colleague Rev. Robert Morris of Calvary Church here in Summit. When people walk the land and learn the history, it’s hard to argue that Jews don’t belong there.
All that being said, the current conflict is painful. It is difficult to watch Israelis fleeing to bomb shelters and hoping that the Iron Dome will continue to intercept rockets. It is no less difficult watching the destruction of Palestinian homes and lives. No matter how necessary and justified a war may be, it leaves behind scars, rubble and impurity.
In this week’s Torah portion, the Israelites completed a sanctioned war against the Midianites. Afterwards, Moshe said to those who had fought in the battle: “You shall then stay outside the camp seven days; every one among you or among your captives who has slain a person or touched a corpse shall cleanse himself on the third and seventh days. You shall also cleanse every cloth, every article of skin, everything made of goats’ hair, and every object of wood (Numbers 31:19-20).”
The Israeli military is sadly doing what must be done. The effects of this conflict will last a long time. Hopefully, when the rockets and bombs stop, there will come a day when the two sides will exchange words instead of weapons. They will speak to one another and not past one another. Today, however, that time seems very far off.
So, we who love Israel must continue telling her story in the hopes that other will come to understand why Israel must do the things she does.