The Situation in Israel - What's Our Role?

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The situation in Eretz Yisrael over the past several weeks has become nothing short of intolerable. Anyone up-to-date on the news, and certainly those with friends and loved ones in Israel, understands how serious things are. The dilemma of what we, as Jews living in the Diaspora can and should do, seems to resurface on a yearly basis.

A friend of mine emailed me a couple of days ago with a very out-of-the box plan of action. In the course of a few exchanges, I hope I made it clear to him that, though his heart is in the right place, his ideas were unwise at best and counterproductive, even damaging, at worst.

Back in 2005, hundreds of individuals situated themselves at major intersections throughout Israel, handing out orange wrist bands. Why? An effort to prevent the disengagement from Gush Katif. Now, I too, was of the opinion that the expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif would lead to Gaza becoming an even more entrenched terror base, but I did not hand out wrist bands in support of the Jewish Gaza residents.

Unable to articulate why I did not demonstrate, I sought the counsel of a good friend of mine. He made the following observation: The Knesset had already much earlier decided to dismantle the Jewish communities; it was a done deal - and all the demonstrators were doing was participating in something that made them feel significant. In fact, he maintained, such demonstrations actually served the interests of the Sharon government at the time, helping distract citizens from potentially meaningful responses to the disengagement, once it happened: planning for the lack of housing for the displaced people, setting up the psychological and social service framework that the residents would have to draw on after the trauma of losing their homes and communities....

I am concerned that with the recent vicious, murderous stabbing war launched by the Palestinians over the past two weeks, we Diaspora Jews are, so to speak, putting ourselves at the proverbial intersections, handing out orange wrist bands.

What do I mean?

I have overheard many a conversation of "armchair' security experts who believe that they know how, once and for all, to solve Israel's security woes. If only Netanyahu would give each of us a seat on his security cabinet.....(!)

Friends, none of us have any real sense of the intricacy and scope of the security issues Israel faces! As in matters of medicine, Halacha mandates us to defer to the experts in the area, and to their evaluation of appropriate strategies given their indepth knowledge of both their professions and the context within which they find themselves.

If we take a "know-it-all" approach, we also risk mimicking (with the best interests of Israel in mind!) the strategy of groups like J-Street and the New Israel Fund, which work tirelessly - from the Diaspora - alongside radical left wing U.S. power brokers to force Israel's hand to make wildly irresponsible concessions in a region gone mad.

So it cuts both ways: Let's let Prime Minister Netanyahu and his team handle the security of the country that they lead!

Instead, let us focus on unequivocal support of Israel in the local and national media. Let us invest our efforts in garnering the unconditional support of Israel by our American political leaders, be they Democrat or Repubican. This part of the war against terrorism and hatred IS our responsibility! One example of a worthwhile cause is to call out the New York Times on its insidious piece this past week questioning the historicity of the two Batei Mikdash (Temples) on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The article was clearly timed to support the falsehoods uttered by the Palestinian establishment; these falsehoods in turn provide the moral basis for stabbing 70 year-old Jewish women at Jerusalem's Central Bus Station! As a result of the pressure by historians and readers throughout the Jewish world, the Times was forced to amend its article so that it could somewhat resemble an objective piece of journalism.

Secondly, as I suggested in a sermon two weeks ago, the way to combat Midat Hadin/strict judgment on a spiritual level - is to increase the presence of Hesed - kindness - in our personal lives. As Jews, we firmly believe that "Hashem Tzilcha Al Yad Yeminecha" - "Hashem is your shadow at your right hand." God relates to us as we relate to others. Since all Jews' fate is intertwined from a spiritual and historical perspective, when Jews in Seattle increase their level and intensity of Gemilut Hasadim, God responds by relating to us in a more compassionate way. This is the secret of stirring up the thirteen attributes of Mercy that are repeated over and over again during the High Holidays: Our sages tell us that God enwrapped Himself like a Shaliach Tzibbur - like a Hazzan - and demonstrated to Moshe Rabeinu how to recite these thirteen attributes of Mercy. Rabbi Nebenzhal explains that it is not the mere recital of these attributes, but the incorporation of them into our daily lives, that ultimately matters.

May the coming days, weeks and months see the eradication of evil, and may we merit to play even a small role in the transformation of our broken world.

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Guest Tuesday, 20 February 2018