The news that overwhelms us in the media about the terrorist attacks in Israel saddens me in a myriad of ways. It is hard to withhold my tears over the dead in Jerusalem, and like my fellow Jews across the world, I mourn for the victims of the latest attacks across the whole country.
Less than a year ago I lived in Israel for a while, and walked through the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem daily. I felt safe, and had the feeling that we finally could see a glimpse of a new era for Israel – a place where Jews can live in safety, secure with their neighbours of all creeds. And now? Once again, our friends in Israel are filled with fear when they go out in public. Once again, words have become deadly weapons, as those around us use them to call for violence. Holy sites, places that should actually be filled with peace and security, have become places of grief and terror.
This summer’s sounds are filled with sirens that tell of a war in Gaza and the last few weeks resonate with screams of violence, fear and terror across Israel. This summer also tells the story of a rise in Anti-semitism across the world, and the attacks on human civilisation driven by fundamentalist Islamic terror organisations. All of these have created a sense of helplessness in me. Like so many others, I am searching for the right answers.
I am not uncritical about the political situation in our Jewish State of Israel, and I believe that changes in Israel are necessary – but I do not agree with any idea that puts the very existence of Israel in question. I think it is wrong to turn away from Israel and/or to stand unilaterally on the side of the Palestinians. There is no doubt that I see the innocent Palestinian victims as well. I grieve with them. I grieve about every innocent life that was taken in consequence of the conflict, but I think it is wrong to weigh our victims against their victims. As we can learn from the Talmud (bMeggilah 10b), God mourns every death, so too should we. To stand with Israel doesn’t mean that we do not see the pain of the other.
In an article for the South African Jewish Report, my colleague, Rabbi Margolis, wrote:
“Let us stop chasing our tails in the dark, let us for a change think (progressively) let us look (and indeed turn our attention) toward the light – let us reach out and switch it on. They ask me where I stand on BDS, I answer simply – I STAND FOR SIT. (Support, Investment and Trade).”
I agree with her. We need to offer a different way out of the spiral of violence – a more positive way that will empower those who share our values. As a result, I have been supporting our Progressive Jewish Movement in Israel, the IMPJ, in their work to create a more pluralistic Jewish society in Israel, creating awareness that there is more than one way to be Jewish.
I believe in the jurisdiction of the State of Israel, and, therefore, support every effort of our movement’s legal arm, IRAC, to challenge injustice within the Israeli society, based on our shared progressive Jewish values. And I support Keren b’Kavod – the Dignity Fund, organised by IRAC – to respond to poverty in Israel, bringing comfort to those who need our help, irrespectively of their background.
As Rabbi Margolis said, we need to introduce light into a time that seems to be overwhelmingly dark. Everyone who is adding a little flame in support of a ‘light’ for Israel, and who is not turning away, is nourishing the hope for a brighter future, a time of security for all the inhabitants of Israel and its neighbours.
I urge every one of you not to lose hope. The Jewish response to darkness was always one of hope. Along with our friends in Israel, let us not stop in our endeavours and continue to pray for peace in the land of Israel. Work and support efforts towards ensuring true co-existence for all Israelis.
May the memory of those killed be a blessing, and stand together as we wish those injured in these heinous attacks a speedy and full recovery.
Rabbi Adrian M Schell