January 9, 2009
Friends. We gather here today as a united community, proclaiming once again to Chicago, to our brothers and sisters in Israel and to the world that we stand with Israel, now and forever!
Unlike our festive Israel@60 gatherings, this is a time of solidarity, not celebration. Whenever precious human lives are lost—whoever they are and wherever they live—Jews do not celebrate. And that is the difference between us and the enemy Israel faces today.
Israel acts in self defense, seeking to hit terrorist targets, and is heartsick if civilians are inadvertently killed. Hamas fires rockets randomly, seeking to hit civilian targets and celebrates when women and children die.
Israel puts its own soldiers at risk to preserve civilian lives, while Hamas uses its own people as human shields.
Three years ago Israel unilaterally left Gaza, providing the Palestinians the opportunity to build, flourish and grow. Instead, Hamas took over and pursued destruction and death, turning Gaza into a 24/7 missile launching pad against Israeli civilians.
For eight long years the people of Sderot have lived under siege, and now civilians in Ashdod, Ashkelon, Beersheva and Kiryat Gat also are forced to live in 15-second increments. 15 seconds is all you, your child and your grandmother have to race to a bomb shelter when the “red alert” alarm signals incoming rockets. These alarms go off day and night, sometimes several times an hour, making normal life impossible.
I have had a small taste of that terror myself. I was visiting a primary school in Sderot when the screaming alarm went off. Two teachers quickly ushered the children into a secure classroom. The little ones were sobbing. It broke my heart when I realized that these boys and girls had to do this every day, sometimes every hour.
It is incomprehensible that this passes for “normal” for Sderot’s children.
It is incomprehensible that the U.N. condemns Israel for self-defense while it seats China on its Human Rights Council, elects Libya to its Security Council and turns a blind eye to genocide in Sudan!
It is incomprehensible that—60 years after the birth of the modern State of Israel—we are still defending Israel’s right to exist in the court of world opinion and on the streets of Chicago!
Let’s say it plainly. This is not about a two-state solution—it’s about an attempt to destroy the State of Israel.
And make no mistake about this: these Iranian-backed terrorists don’t just hate Israel: they hate democracy, America and Western values. This is a war that affects us all. And that’s why this is a war that must be won.
To those who call for “proportionality and balance” in Israel’s response to these eight years of terror: here is a reality check: How do you measure proportionality or find balance when Hamas seeks Israel’s total destruction? There is a vast difference between the arsonists who sets a fire and the fireman who risks his life to put that fire out! And that is the difference between the terrorists who purposefully fire missiles at Israeli civilians and the Israelis now fighting to defend their families!
Those who don’t get that don’t want to.
Here’s another reality check: this is 2009, not 1939! We now , thank God, have a Jewish State that will not passively submit to its own destruction! Israel is doing what any responsible government has the right to do, has the duty to do: defend its people.
As we come together today, we know that it is important that our Israeli brothers and sisters know that they are not alone—that our community and freedom-loving people of all faiths stand with them. We welcome our many Christian friends who are here today.
We especially want the people of Israel to know that the worldwide Jewish community loves them, stands in solidarity with them and will speak out for them.
We will speak out for the Israeli children who have never known life without daily rocket attacks.
We will speak out for their parents, who for eight long years have not been able take a shower, read a book, drive to work or go to sleep without being interrupted by the reality or the fear of rocket fire.
We will speak out for the Israelis who have survived rocket attacks, persevered and rebuilt their lives.
We will speak out for the young Israeli men and women who put their lives on the line to defend the Jewish State.
We will speak out for our brothers and sisters throughout Israel who want nothing more than to live a normal life of security and peace.
From this rally we will return to our homes to bring in Shabbat Shalom, the peace of the Sabbath. In so doing, we will be giving expression to our most precious beliefs about the sanctity of human life and about our people’s desire to live in peace. When we bless our children tonight at our Shabbos table, we will all have in mind that son of all the Jewish people, Gilad Shalit, who still languishes as a Hamas hostage.
Let Gilad go home to his family and to his Shabbat table. That is what we say to the world. Let all of our children go home to their families’ tables, and let us all live in peace.
Oseh shalom bimromav, who ya’aseh shalom, aleynu v’al kol Yisrael, v’imru a-men.
God bless Israel!
God bless America!
Am Yisroel Chai!