I have been thinking, reflecting, thinking, reflecting for almost 2 weeks now. I have wanted so badly to speak about how amazing the TKE Israel 2014 trip was (and believe me, it WAS!), and yet, it is hard to speak about our trip when my emotions are running wild. While I think today of the great independence we celebrate in the United States, I also think of those in Israel and around the world who live their lives in fear. Every day is an adventure and not always with the greatest of outcomes.
On Tuesday evening, July 1, Temple Kol Emeth hosted a memorial service for the 3 Israeli teens - Gil-Ad Shaer, Eyal Yifrah, and Naftali Fraenkel - who were kidnapped and brutally murdered. It was a very touching service and the words of the Israeli Deputy Consul General, Ron Brummer, touched my heart and the hearts of everyone in attendance. He spoke of Israel's need to defend her citizens while at the same time wishing for peace for everyone living in the Middle East. When Rabbi Lebow spoke, I felt chills as he stated over and over again that revenge was not the answer. The truth is that as Jews (anywhere in the world) we hold ourselves to a higher standard.
It is true that the world holds Israel to a higher standard (especially the United Nations). I do not want to argue that point. What I do want to say is that not that we should hold ourselves to a higher standard; we do. It is as simple as that. The government of Israel does not act quickly. They act with the intention of achieving peace - not just for Israelis, but for Palestinians, Syrians, etc. Some may disagree and they have the right. But, the numbers do not lie. Israel is the ONLY country in that region (and maybe in the world) that goes out of her way to look out for the innocent civilians. Do not believe the very tainted "journalism" you see in the world. Often times the pictures are doctored and the stories are very one sided.
Look - I get it. People disagree, people argue. I am sure many will disagree and argue with some of the valid points in this blog. However, let me make one thing clear. If you want to have a real discussion - one that is guided in reality and acceptance for both sides of the argument - then, please, let's have that discussion. If someone chooses to just argue for the sake of arguing or for any other reason, what's the point? As a rabbi, I want everyone to live as if they love their neighbors. Unfortunately, though, sometimes it gets harder and harder to believe this reality will ever exist. And, by the way, I am not just speaking of the three Israeli teens that were killed. I do not support (nor will I ever) the killing of innocent Palestinians either. I would love it if our brothers and sisters (from both sides of the lines) could live in peace. I am afraid, though, that the current situation dictates that reality as never happening.
When my congregation and I were in Israel, we were inspired by so much beauty and so many wonderful things. From the B'nai Mitzvah ceremony on Massada to the magic of Kabbalah in Tzfat, so many amazing opportunities to celebrate being Jewish were to be had. And, we did...we ate our way through Israel and took so many pictures! Our trip also opened our eyes to the magnificence of Israel - so much technology and so many discoveries. In a little over 60 years, Israelis have turned a barren desert (and swamp land) into an amazing center of technology, life and wonderment. Yes, Israel has its own problems...but what nation doesn't?
My only hope for the Middle East can be summed up in a short prayer I have written in honor of the many Israelis and Palestinians that have lost their lives:
Almighty God, pay attention to your children of Abraham.
Do not lose sight of the wonder of their children;
The beautiful faces of all of the little ones;
The sounds, the smells and the beauty - it's there.
Almighty God, peace is a possibility, right?
We strive for this and yet we seem to be stuck at square one;
Maybe it is time to send a helping hand as in days of old;
The desire, the want, the need - it's there.
Almighty God, I do love my brother, does he love me?
Only you know the answer - please, tell me...
From Eilat to Qiryat Shemona, from Tel Aviv to the Jordan River;
From Sea to River; from Mt. Hermon to the Red Sea - the love is there.
Almighty God, we need your help and attention.
We seek peace, we really do - but we need your help;
As humans, we make mistake after mistake - we are trying to learn;
Jews, Muslims, Christians, Israelis, Palestinians alike - we need you.
Rabbi Erin Boxt