Note from Israel: A Rabbi Reflects on a Difficult Week
It has been a difficult time in Israel. I have been here in Eretz Yisrael for more than a week now, arriving just before they found the bodies of Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali. I was with several colleagues when the news of the discovery of their bodies came over the news, and it was a palpable moment that took our breath away.
Israel went into mourning. Jews from the right or left cried with their families. I was surprised how few cars were out in the streets. I was glued to watching the funeral and crying, too - and then, in the midst of mourning, a young Arab teen was burned alive. Retribution by a gang of Jewish thugs, it was cold-blooded murder.
A country and a Jewish people that prides itself on the value “choose life” has within it such depravity; it shocks the nation. The burnt body of Mohammed Abu Khadeir gave Israel another blow and made many realize that the rhetoric they have espoused has consequences. Words matter and the words of revenge, the cycle of violence represented by this, has given Israel pause. This was a reason for more tears for Mohammed, his family, and for my Israel, who is so conflicted and so battered from every side - even as the Army went door to door on the West Bank searching for the two murderers of Eyal, Naftali, and Gilad.
But these deeply saddening events have taken place against a background of a barrage of rocket and missile fire from Hamas. Since the agreement of Fatah and Hamas to create their “unity” government, the rockets have fallen through the south with increasing volume. And then yesterday, as Israel called up reservists and gathered at the border of Gaza the rockets reigned down on an ever increasing circle of Israel: Sderot, Beersheva, Ashkelon, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Last night, it took me a minute. I heard the sirens, but it didn’t compute. The TV was on. I was watching it and hearing it as if numb and realized this wasn’t just far away but overhead. Hurriedly, I found the safety of the shelter with others in the hotel where I'm staying. Shaken and realizing that Israel has entered a new and frightening phase, it was a night of little sleep. All of Israel is vulnerable to the missiles.
Even though I have had many tears this week, I am strengthened in my commitment to Israel by being here - by sharing in the Israel experience, not just in times of quiet and celebration, but in these extraordinarily difficult times.
May Israel be kept in our prayers, for peace outside and within.