What follows is my sermon on the recent war in Israel and Gaza, delivered on Friday, November 16.
Like so many I am still reeling from Hurricane Sandy. I still find it hard to believe that living in such an affluent society and the center of the universe (
we could be without power for so long.
How can so many New Yorkers continue to be without, and not just without
power but unable to even return to their homes?
I thought it was only in New York, New York Louisiana and Mississippi that we saw
such things. We have learned: it not
just the fury of nature, but also the folly of human beings that leads us to
this end. It is not just elsewhere but
here In New York too there is ample evidence of our folly. “Let us rebuild!” is all we seem to be able
to proclaim. “Get rid of LIPA!” we
add. “We were in the dark for far too
Contrast this with events in
Israel. As all are aware, Israel
is again facing relentless rocket attacks from Gaza. Despite
Israel’s recent withdrawal from
Palestinian leadership and Hamas in particular seek to destroy rather than
build. Yet many of the lights remain on
in Gaza. Why? Because
Israel provides much of the
electrical power to Gaza. Now that is amazing. Or perhaps foolish, some
might say. But I find it extraordinary. Where there is a will, anything is possible. We can protect ourselves and continue to live
according to our moral code. Despite Hamas’
stated intention, namely the destruction of Israel, the Jewish state refuses to
let go of its values. Its struggle is
not with the citizens of the Palestinian territories but with its leaders who,
time and again, choose violence and hate over peace and reconciliation.
550 rockets have been fired on
Israel. Kippat Barzel (Iron Dome) has intercepted
nearly 200. Fortunately only 25 fell on
populated areas. Israel has
assassinated key leaders and targeted over 600 weapon sites, all while
desperately trying to avoid hitting civilians.
When will this cease? Why can’t Israel be
allowed to live in peace?
It begins in the Torah. It starts with the very first brothers, Cain and Abel, when Cain killed Abel. It continues through this week’s Jacob and Esau. Who started the fighting between the brothers? Was it Jacob who stole the birthright and took advantage of Esau’s hunger? (What a heel!) “I will only give you food if you first give me what is rightfully yours.” Who is to blame? Was it Esau who was so hungry that he spurned his heritage? He had such disregard for his family that he could only see the lentil stew. Was it their parents? Isaac favored Esau; he liked the meat Esau hunted. Rebekah favored Jacob. Who is to blame? Was it God? Blasphemy, you might say. We read: “But the children struggled in her womb…And Rebekah went to inquire of the Lord and the Lord answered: ‘Two nations are in your womb, two separate peoples shall issue from your body…’”
Who is to blame? Is it LIPA or nature’s fury? Sure it was a super storm. Was it, as I believe, caused by climate change or just a once in a hundred year storm? Can we assign blame? There is indeed plenty of human folly to go around. It pains me that our infrastructure is so vulnerable, that our power lines are but mere extension cords strung from one pole to another. Can we fault others? Should we instead fault ourselves?
Who is to blame? Is it
or the Palestinians? My sympathies are
of course with Israel
and its citizens. I stand with Jacob,
who will soon become Israel. I believe that the Palestinian and Arab
leadership are largely to blame for the lack of peace and the failure to
establish a . Now, no less, precious resources are being
directed to exhume Arafat’s body in order to determine if he was poisoned. Really!?
The cynic in me thinks, here is but one more example of resources being
diverted so that the Jewish state can be blamed for all of the Palestinians’
troubles. We might soon hear, “The Jews killed Arafat.” Palestinian
No sooner had Mahmoud Abbas said that he would like to visit the city of his birth, Safed, that he had to retract the statement because of riots. To go there would have been to acknowledge
Israel’s sovereignty. Imagine what might have occurred were he a
courageous leader. He could say, “It is
good to return to this city, to the place of my birth. It pains me that it has taken so many years. Here Jew and Palestinian lived side by side. But those years are no more.” He actually said that the Palestinians make
no claim on pre-1967 Israel. In other words he claims only the West Bank
(and parts of Jerusalem) and Gaza
for a . And those words led to the controversy which
he later retracted. Palestinian
Imagine how different it could be if he went there, to Safed. Imagine if we cast aside blame and stopped arguing over birthrights and instead shared a pot of stew. I know; call me naive, call me a dreamer. But hoping and dreaming is what makes you a rabbi. Actually those are the key ingredients of being a Jew.
Imagine how different it would be if Netanyahu said likewise. He could say, “We have no territorial claims on the
West Bank. True it is where our faith was born. It is where our ancestors are buried. But we will give it all up so that we can
have peace and share this land. You can
live there, in my people’s birthplace, and I will continue to live here in
yours.” And he should go on to say, “If
need be, we will rip out the anti-democratic forces from within our midst so
that we can make peace.”
Imagine! Is it possible to cast aside history and pain for the sake of peace? Yitzhak Rabin (z”l) said, “There has been too much blood.” And this has become our only truth. There is quiet for a few months and sometimes years. And then there is blood.
Just imagine if the values that somehow called
Israel to keep the lights on in Gaza called its
leadership, amidst all the rockets and the necessary defensive measures of the
IDF, to stand up and say, “I am still ready to make peace. Come to Jerusalem. Come even to Safed. We will never give up on peace!” And imagine if the Palestinians, and their
leadership, tossed their home made rockets into the sea, rather than vowing to
push the Jews there, and answered the call of peace, and went to Safed and Jerusalem.
Imagine what we could accomplish, if we cast blame aside!