I share with you a message I sent out to my congregation about what is going on in Israel. Feel free to use or adapt it if you wish.
At a time such as this, when rockets are falling on Israel, our congregants are interested in what is happening, and are trying to follow the developments. However, the sources of information that provide news may not be the most helpful. By way of example, when I was watching the CBS morning news the other day the tragic and inexcusable incident of the Israeli Arab being beaten by Israeli Jews was shown as was an image of Arab shops in Bat Yam that were burned out. But context was missing as there was no mention of the across the board rejection and condemnation of such acts by Israeli leaders, nor was the violence perpetrated against Jews in the mixed cities mentioned at all. The burning of three synagogues in Lod was euphemistically referred to by saying –“…and houses of worship have been burned.”
So what are we to do?
It is my belief, and the belief of the Zionist Rabbinic Coalition that it is our obligation as rabbis to help our members understand the complexities of the situation, especially since the media so often presents a superficial perspective. Furthermore, this is a time for us to convey that we are Am Echad, that we are one people, and that we stand together with our brothers and sisters in Israel in a time of trouble. Having spoken with a number of Israelis in recent days, the sustenance they need and deserve from a sense of solidarity and support from Jews outside of Israel is immeasurable. A family comes together and supports each other during a time of crisis. Conversely, questioning their actions and not being supportive while they are taking the brunt of rocket blasts and running into shelters has, as you can imagine, is disappointing.
After sending the message below, I received many notes thanking me for helping provide resources which will provide clarity and appreciating the lack of ambiguity in taking a stand with Israel.
Let us pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
Shabbat Shalom and Hag Sameach.
As members of the Jewish community, we are all surely deeply concerned by the rockets launched indiscriminately by the anti-Semitic militant terrorist entity Hamas and which are reaching all parts of Israel. Hamas’ actions, encouraged and funded by Iran, are consistent with its charter which calls for the destruction of the State of Israel and the killing of Jews.
This is a time when the people of Israel need to know they are not alone, but that they have our full unequivocal support and solidarity.
The current crisis has its origins in the internal struggle among various factions for Palestinian leadership, especially against the backdrop of their recently cancelled elections. The battle cry which has been used to incite and inflame Arabs over the past 100 years, since the riots in Hebron in 1921 resulting in the expulsion of the Jewish population is that Israel (or the Jews) are going to destroy the Al Akqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Inaccurate charges are picked up by those who we hope would know better, such as members of Congress, who accuse Israel of, in the words of Rashida Tlaib, “stealing Palestinian homes and burning their lands.”
What do you need to know?
Do not be deceived by simplistic language or terms such as “disproportionate response”. As Michael Oren mentioned in his interview with me, it is disproportionate because Israel chooses to invest in Iron Dome and measures to save lives of its citizens while Hamas chooses to invest in tunnels and weapons, leaving their people exposed. And as has been well-documented, they also place their operations centers and house missiles in populated areas, such as schools, where the terrorists take refuge, often cruelly hiding behind children, for they know that Israel takes actions to limit harming of innocents and non-combatants.
So what can we do at a time such as this?
Be informed so you can counter the misinformation and know how to listen to the news reports critically. To that end, I strongly suggest you follow (and support) CAMERA, The Committee for Accuracy in MidEast Reporting in America, as they publish regular well-documented corrections of incorrect or biased reporting. (Go to www.camera.org)
To get a fuller picture of what is happening, from reporters much more objective and aware of nuances not understood by reporters for the NYTimes, WPost, CNN or other mainstream media, I suggest reading www.TimesofIsrael.com and www.JPost.com. For a good overview of what is going on, check out www.dailyalert.org, which has a precis of a number of articles which you can click on and read the full article. You will find outstanding explanations in www.jns.org, especially the articles by Jonathan Tobin.
I also recommend you check out publications from the American Jewish Committee, www.ajc.org, especially this brief “Four Myths About the Violence in Jerusalem.” https://www.ajc.org/news/4-myths-and-facts-about-the-violence-in-jerusalem
What can you do?
Show your solidarity with Israel by speaking out. Let public officials know that you support Israel’s actions defending itself. Aipac, the pro-Israel lobby that really is pro-Israel has a helpful, easy to use means of communicating to your representatives: https://p2a.co/u9jbbtK.
Here is the interview I conducted yesterday with Israel’s former ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren. www.zionistrabbis.org/oren/
Because there is so much misreporting about supposed Israeli expelling of Palestinians to allegedly seize their land, I am including an article which provides important background information about the area known as Sheikh Jarrah: https://jinsa.org/the-truth-about-the-sheikh-jarrah-eviction/
Finally, feel free to join us for services in the upcoming days as we pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Sign up and join us tomorrow night and Saturday when we will hold in- person services, and on Sunday night, when we celebrate the third of the three major festivals, Shavuot, from 7 – 10 pm with our sister congregation, Har Shalom. We will hold a service of healing and the clergy of both synagogues will teach. Please join us by signing up on our website – www.bnaitzedek.org
Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt