This is a challenging time for the State of Israel and for Klal Yisrael, and we are all feeling it. “As one person with one heart,” we share in the grief of the bereaved, in the pain of the wounded, and in the traumatic upheaval experienced by the millions of our brothers and sisters, adults and children, who have spent the past ten days dashing to bomb shelters.
We face a vicious and cynical enemy who seeks to destroy and to demoralize our people. They attack innocents and sow terror while hiding behind their own innocent children and families whom they readily place in harm’s way. Their utter disregard for life begins at home and extends to Jewish Israelis and to Jews everywhere.
During the past days we have seen that attitude spread, as pro-Palestinian demonstrators have brought their disregard for life and their delight in lawless intimidation to the streets and synagogues of Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Montreal, and more. Hate crimes against Jews may be protected by the law but they are essentially championed by the squads and woke mobs who lecture us on battlefield ethics, the cynical victimizers who claim victimization.
The State of Israel has a God-given and internationally recognized right to exist and to defend its citizens effectively against those who actively seek to deny them that right. No army can match the efforts the Israeli Defense Force has made to strike its enemies surgically to avoid tragic civilian casualties. We are not ashamed of the Israeli army’s actions; we admire them.
The Mishna records the pep talk that was given to the Jewish soldiers by their spiritual leader as they headed out to war. He reminded them that this was not a family feud where the other side would be compassionate to them, dressing and feeding the vanquished. Rather they were going to war against their enemies who would show them no compassion.
Even then, it appears that the Jewish soldiers had a hard time treating their enemies as enemies. They recoiled from fighting the good fight and needed to be encouraged to do the job that was necessary to eliminate the looming threat. And they could only do this with the understanding that the cause they were pursuing was just and that it mandated their decisive actions on the battlefield.
The Orthodox Jewish community is feeling the painful uncertainty of this moment. As visibly and identifiably engaged Jews, it is we who are so frequently the targets of the flourishing hatred that is poisoning our society. And as passionate supporters of the life-giving miracle of the reborn Jewish state, we find ourselves bewildered and deeply disappointed by those in the international community and in our own Congress who would tie its hands from engaging in its self-defense.
Instead of being paralyzed by that bewilderment and disappointment, we must take steps to resolve it. We must express ourselves to our elected leaders, urging them to stand strong in support of Israel and to act to protect our Jewish community. And we must speak to ourselves as well, reminding ourselves of our mission in these trying times.
We will continue to believe in the cause, in the fulfilled hope of millennia that the reborn State of Israel represents. We will continue to stand proud as its soldiers uphold the highest ethics even as they fight to defend the safety of its citizens, and as they firmly repudiate – without need for the lecturing and oversight of others – any deviation from these high standards of battlefield ethics. And we will continue
to be confident that the leadership of our beloved United States from the administration and from both its major parties will stand strong and firm in partnership with the State of Israel, the beacon of freedom and justice in the Middle East, and that they will work to ensure that our Jewish community lives in safety and security within this country.
Reach out to your representatives. Take time at your family table to study and be strengthened by that age-old pep talk cited in the first Mishna of Sotah, Chapter 8. And pray alone and as a community for the peace of our people: “For the rod of wickedness shall never come to rest upon the lot of the righteous, as the righteous will not raise their hands in violence.” (Psalm 125)