Remarks for the Israel Solidarity Rally
July 14, 2014 Temple Emanuel
Rabbi Joseph R. BlackWhy are we here today? Do we really care about a conflict in a land so far away –that does not impact us directly, that is being played out on our television screens, social media, and in the press?
Aren’t there times when we get tired of all of the negativity that is directed at the State of Israel – and, by proxy, at the Jewish people? Wouldn’t it be easier if we just didn’t care?
Wouldn’t it be easier if we just gave in and gave up? We could walk away from our commitment to Israel and go about our safe and comfortable lives here in the Diaspora. It would be so nice….
Of course – that is not who we are and that is not why we are here this evening.
There has always been an unbroken link between those members of the Jewish people who live in the Land of Israel, and those who live outside the land.
The Torah teaches us that this link was established from the very beginning of our history – in the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness in preparation for the conquest of Canaan.
In this week’s Torah portion – Mattot, we read about the following:
· The Israelites are preparing to enter into the land of Canaan.
· The Reubenites and Gaddites tell Moses that they want to settle outside of the land of Israel. They see the lush grass and grazing for their Cattle and they tell Moses that they will not enter into the land with the rest of the Israelites
· Moses is not pleased: He says to them:
וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה לִבְנֵי־גָד וְלִבְנֵי רְאוּבֵן הַאַחֵיכֶם יָבֹאוּ לַמִּלְחָמָה וְאַתֶּם תֵּשְׁבוּ פֹה:And Moses said to the sons of Gad and to the sons of Reuben, Shall your brothers go to war, and shall you sit here?
In response, the Ruebenites and Gaddites tell Moses – that, even though they will not dwell in the land, they will support the troops. In fact, they will lead the battle. They will go in first – to support their brothers and sisters who labor for the land.
Today – we find ourselves in a similar situation. No – we are not being asked to physically take part in battle, but, like the Children of Reuben and Gad – we need to continually affirm our connection to our brothers and sisters who are in the line of fire – those soldiers called up for battle, and the civilians who are living their daily lives – trying to find a degree of normalcy – all the while listening for the dreaded sirens that tell them to run to the nearest shelter before the rockets either land or are intercepted by the Iron Dome system.No – we are not in the line of fire – but, make no mistake about it, we too are at war. Our voices are crucial. Our presence is indispensable. We support Israel here today – through our efforts to combat the lies and propaganda that are daily portrayed in the media, online and in the streets..
We support Israel through our lobbying elected officials and through our financial contributions.
And we support Israel through our presence – by visiting, studying, exploring and falling in love with the Jewish state.
Just yesterday – our IST students returned from an experience in Israel that they will never forget. They explored the land. They met Israelis. They learned about their history and their role in building and supporting Israel – and they experienced the precariousness of daily living in Israel when rockets were fired above them by Hamas terrorists.
A few days before our ISTers returned, Sue and I and a group of 47 members of our community also returned from a trip that, while not as intense or long as IST, also was life-changing. We saw Israel in all of her beauty. We also were there during tense times – when the bodies of of Eyal, Gilad and Naftali were discovered. We watched the anguish of an entire nation as three precious souls were laid to rest. We learned of the horrific lynching of Mohamed Abu Khdeir and were devastated to learn that he died at the hands of Jewish extremists.
Before travelling to Israel, I said the following to the members of our group – and I know that anyone who has travelled to Israel will resonate with my words.
“We are not travelling to Israel as tourists or as explorers – we are pilgrims. Ours is a sacred journey. Once you experience the reality of Israel – the beauty, the spirituality, the history – and even the tension that is a part of daily life – as a Jew = as a Zionist – you are changed forever.”
When Israel grieves – we grieve.
When Israel celebrates – we celebrate
And when Israel’s enemies rise up against her – they rise up against all of us – and we have no choice but to do everything in our power to support her.
And so, we come here today – from all different corners of our Jewish community – to show our support, our love and our determination. Od Lo Avda Tikvateynu We have ever given up our hope. Hatikvah Bat Shnot Alpayim – the hope of 2,000 years. Lihyot Am Chofshi b’artzeynu – beretz Tzion V’yirushalyim – to a be free people in our own land – the land of Zion in Jerusalem.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. AMEN