As Reform Jews, we stand strongly together with our brothers and sisters in Israel. Over the past 48 hours, Hamas has launched a massive barrage of rocket fire on southern and central Israel. At last report, six Israeli civilians have been killed and hundreds of thousands more - from Tel Aviv to Beersheba –are confined to bomb shelters. Innocent civilians in Gaza have fallen victim to this latest round of violence as well. Furthermore, the rapid escalation of violence within Israel's own borders between Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel is a new, and deeply troubling, development. We pray that calm will be restored soon.
The situation is rife with complexity and nuance. It is laden with multiple layers of history, generations of grieving mothers and fathers, of children who grew up only knowing conflict and war. The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, sharing the wisdom of Hebrew University philosopher Moshe Halbertal, helps us understand how we got to this tragic moment: "The tinder was a collision of 'sacred times' and 'sacred territories.'"
Linking this latest conflagration to Ramadan, the Muslim observance of Laylat al-Qadr,, or the protests over evictions of Palestinian residents of Sheikh Jarrah is insufficient. Whatever the confluence of events to be the casus belli, let me simplify the issue at hand:
Israel deserves to live as a free nation in its own land. That right is being threatened now by terrorists who are instilling terror in Jews and Palestinians alike. Israel does not want to enter Gaza, nor does it want to punish innocent Palestinians. It does, however, have an obligation to protect its citizens and must eradicate the source of rocket fire from deep within the most densely populated area in the world.
The ongoing incitement by both Palestinian and Israeli extremists is pushing the prospect of a two-state solution further and further out of reach. Nevertheless, we must remain committed to the goal of the Palestinian people living with dignity and peace in their own state.
At this moment, those of us who live in the West and whose hearts are in the East mourn the loss of life, feel the pain of all who are cowering in fear, and send our prayers and wishes for an end to the violence and for quiet to be restored.
As Rabbi Nico Sokolovsky wrote:
"We pray for the wounded,
We pray for the mourners,
We pray for our security forces,
We pray for the restoration of normality.
U’fros aleinu sukkat shlomecha, cover us with the shelter of Your peace, may we have the courage to denounce violence and destructiveness, and may we become partners in building that shelter of peace.”
As we pray for peace, we offer these words to be read in your congregations and gatherings today and on this Shabbat:
Excerpted from “Prayer for the Peace of the State of Israel”
by Rabbi Ofer Sabath Beit-Halachmi
(English Translation with Rabbi Rachel Sabath Beit-Halachmi, Ph.D.)
אֲנָא, בְּכֹחַ גְדוּלַת יְמִינֶךָ,
פְּרֹוס עַל מְגִינֵּי אַ רְצֵנּו אֶת סוּכַּת שְׁלֹומֶךָ
שַׂא כַּפְךָ עֲלֵיהֶם וְהַצִּילֵם, מִכֹּל צַר וְאֹורֵב
ומִכֹּל קָלִיעַ מְבַקֵּשׁ נַפְשָׁם.
תֵּן בָּהֶם עֹז וָלֵב, לְהַבְחִין בֵּין אוֹיֵב וְאוֹהֵב
בֵּין בְּנֵי בְּלִיָּיעָל לְּבֵין בְּנֵי אַבְרָהָם.
אֲנָא, בְּכֹחַ גְדוּלַת יְמִינֶךָ,
שְׁמוֹר עַל מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, בֵּית חַיֵּינוּ מִקֶּדֶם,
לְמַעַן נַגְדִיל שִמְךָ בֵּין כֹּל בָּאֵי עוֹלָם,
אֲנָא בְּכֹחַ ,
אֲנָא, בְּלִי כֹחַ,
Ana, b’cho-ach g’dulat y’minecha,
P’ros al m’ginei artzeinu et sukkat sh’lomecha,
Sa kaf’cha aleihem v’hatzileim, mikol tzar v’oreiv
Umikol kalia m’vakeish nafsham.
Tein bahem oz v’leiv, l’havchin bein oyeiv v’oheiv
Bein B’nei B’liyaal l’vein B’nei Avraham.
Ana, b’choach g’dulat y’minecha,
Sh’mor al M’dinat Yisrael, beit chayeinu mikedem,
L’maan nagdil Shimcha bein kol ba-ei olam,
Ana bli cho-ach,
"…Please, with the great force of Your right hand,
Spread over the protectors of our land the canopy of Your peace, Lift Your hand over them, save them from all enemy and ambush, from all bullets that threaten their souls.
Given them strength and heart, to distinguish between enemy and lover between the people of wickedness and the people of Abraham.
Please, with the great force of Your right hand,
Guard the state of Israel, our eternal homeland.
For the sake of exalting Your name among all the inhabitants of the world,
Please with force,
without use of force."
For more, please see a video message from Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism.