March 20, 2012 - Kibbutz Tzubah - Near Ein Kerem, Jerusalem.
I write this post from Israel. I arrived last night - joining Sue at Kibbutz Tzubah - where she has been staying for the past week. As many of you know, our son, Ethan is participating in the Eisendrath International Exchange - a semester-long High School in Israel program sponsored by the Reform Movement. This past week has been "parents week." While I was not able to participate the entire week, Sue came to Israel ahead of me and I arrived for the last two days in order that we might see Ethan together.
On Thursday afternoon, our group of 45 Temple members will meet in Israel and we will begin our 10 day journey. I will try to post a few blog posts during the course of our trip for those who are interested in following our adventure.
I'm sure that by now you have heard about the tragedy that occurred in Toulouse, France. It appears that a racist gunman - as yet - unidentified - has murdered four Jews in cold blood at a religious school: 3 children and 1 adult. It also seems likely that the same gunman (or weapon) was used in the slaying of three "ethnic looking" French soldiers earlier this month.
Reaction here in Israel to this tragedy has been very public and very powerful. Two of the slain - children - have Israeli citizenship. But even if this were not the case, the cold blooded murder of innocent souls - merely because they were Jewish - would still be a cause of mourning and outrage. We have been there before.
Yesterday, Prime Minster Netanyahu blasted the United Nations because at the very moment that the world was digesting the horrible details of this tragedy, a representative of Hamas was addressing the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.
Speaking of the Hamas representative, Netanyahu said: “He represents an organization that indiscriminately targets children and grown-ups, and women and men. Innocents are their special favorite target....”
Israel is a very politically divided nation. It is rare that everyone here is in agreement about any issue - except this: Those who legitimize terror in any form are deceiving themselves. The only difference between that gunman in Toulouse and the agents of Hamas who fire rockets into Southern Israel is the fact that, in Israel, it is difficult, if not impossible to find easy targets due to the security measures that she has been forced to employ to keep her citizens safe.
Too many people around the world refuse to acknowledge this truth. Adding insult to the Hamas speech at the UN was the fact that the European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton appears to have compared the actions of this murderous racist in France to Israel's defensive operations in Gaza. At a conference Monday in Brussels on Palestinian refugees, Ashton reportedly said, "When we remember young people who have been killed in all sorts of terrible circumstances -- the Belgian children having lost their lives in a terrible tragedy,and when we think about what happened today in Toulouse, we remember what happened in Norway last year, we know what is happening in Syria, and we see what is happening in Gaza and other places -- we remember young people and children who lose their lives."
This kind of obscene comparison cannot and will not be tolerated. The Israeli army is one of the most moral defense forces in the world. The fact that Israel is forced to defend herself against armed aggressors who will stop at nothing to kill her citizens means that occasionally unintended casualties occur during the course of operations. Hamas and it's compatriots deliberately place women and children in harms way in order to maximize the potential for innocent life to be lost. Time after time, when such casualties do occur, the IDF takes pains to investigate whether proper procedures were followed. If they were not, then those soldiers responsible are punished. What other Middle East nation takes such pains to ensure that justice is served? What other country is so concerned with due process? Israel is the ONLY stable, democratic state in this region. To compare the State of Israel to those who kill because of their hatred for Jews and Zionism is an obscenity.
It is for this, and so many other reasons, that we, as American Jews - as lovers of Democracy - must stand firm and show our support for the State of Israel. While I do not always agree with the policies of every Israeli government, I respect and defend the rights of Israel to live as a free, Democratic and Jewish state. Those members of our congregation who will soon be joining me and Sue will have a wonderful, life-changing experience. But we will also be showing our support and solidarity by our presence. I look forward to sharing our experiences with you - on this page and when we return.
Shalom M'Yisrael - Shalom from Israel.
Rabbi Joseph R. Black