I have been coming to Israel since 1973 when
I made my first trip with my family. I have never heard, in person, the
terrible, jarring sound of an air-raid siren before. That changed last night.
I was walking back to my apartment after a presentation
at the Hartman Institute that included a keynote address by the new president
of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Aaron Panken, with four
friends when the sirens rang out indicating that rockets had been fired at
Jerusalem. We were not close to bomb shelter. We ran to the nearest apartment,
banged on the door and were welcomed in by the homeowners. We must have been quite a sight for this
young Israeli couple who were non-plussed by the scream of the warning siren.
They were calmly watching a music program. They offered us something to drink.
This is Israel. We asked them to turn on the
news and watched the reports of what we were experiencing. As we listened we heard the explosions as
Iron Dome missiles intercepted and exploded the incoming rockets. Ten minutes
later, the time after which it is safe to exit the shelter, we were out on the
streets. Life was normal. People were back on the street checking in and
resuming conversations at the outdoor cafes. I returned to my apartment, called
my wife to let her know I was ok and tried to get some sleep half expecting to
hear another siren. Thankfully, the rest of the night in Jerusalem was quiet.
I now have a better frame of reference with
which I can think about the people of Sderot, Ashdod and Ashkelon. The rockets
have been raining upon them almost non-stop. They only have 15 seconds between
the sound of the siren and the landing of the rocket. The level of stress is
unbearable and intolerable. While life returned to normal quite quickly for us
in Jerusalem, the new normal in the south is something different entirely.
All of this comes just days after the burials
of Gil-Ad Shaer, Naftali Fraenkel, and Eyal Yifrah, and Mohammed Abu
Khdeir. As many here have pointed out,
in Israel we do not have any time to emotionally process one trauma before the
next one hits. Each trauma is interrupted by the next. I feel that I will still
be processing all of this for weeks to come.
In this week's parasha we read about the
aftermath of Pinchas' act of zealotry in the killing of Zimri, an Israelite
prince and Cozbi, a Midianite woman. Pinchas saves the children of Israel from
God's wrath. For this act, God rewards Pinchas with a Covenant of Shalom. But,
there is the anomaly of how the Hebrew word, Shalom, appears in the Torah
scroll. The letter "vav" is broken in the middle. Our sages of
blessed memory look at this as a cautionary sign. Yes, sometimes violence is
necessary in order to save life. Yet, Shalom, achieved in violence is incomplete.
We must never forget that we cannot achieve a peace that is true, lasting or
whole through violence.
As I write this Hamas continues to rain
terror with more and more rocket fire. The IDF continues to attack Hamas
positions, disrupt Hamas infrastructure and intercept Hamas fighters trying to
infiltrate the country.
Tonight, I pray for the safety of all. I pray
that of Israel's soldiers returns in peace to their families. I pray that the
rockets will stop and the people of Gaza will look to new leadership. I pray
for the broken "vav" to be made whole through our actions. I pray for