Thursday, June 17, 2010

Letter to the Editor

I wrote a letter to the editor of the Times Herald Record to respond to one by Jim Bridges. As it was too long I sent a a shorter version as well. Unfortunately, it was edited down to the extent that it did not convey what I hoped to say. Here's the original letter.

The events last week off the coast of Gaza have stirred up great passions. Jim Bridges wrote to the Editor to express some of his anguish concluding that he can no longer support Israel. Jim is a friend and colleague but the Bible tells us we are to correct a friend, lest he err (Lev. 19:17) so I must gently offer some corrections. Most of what Jim wrote is simply inaccurate but for the sake of brevity let me address some of his statements and perhaps explain why he and all of us must continue to support Israel.

To begin, Jim states that Israel “is a democracy, but for only some of its citizens.” That is simply an outrageous lie. Israel is a democracy for all of its citizens. One could simply ask the democratically elected Arab members of Israel’s parliament.

He states that the accounts of the passengers do not match that of the Israel Defense Forces. That is certainly true. Israel has released video of the soldiers identifying live fire aimed at them. The flotilla passengers deny that. While the mantra of the flotilla was peaceful resistance, numbers of Arab and Muslim leaders around the world have praised the dead as martyrs and have expressed joy at the outcome of the events at sea. is a good translation service to find these things. There are now reports that some 50 of the members of the Mavi Marmara were trained in violent resistance. If the majority of the passengers were intent on peaceful protest, those 50 clearly were not. The whole world has seen video of their preparations and the brutal beating of the soldiers as they boarded.

Jim suggests that the Israeli “government rejects any criticism over what has transpired” and that there is “no inward looking.” Alas, there is no truth there. The news media is in an uproar, the populace is screaming back and forth over the wisdom or foolishness of the operation and immediately following the events, the Prime Minister’s office in Israel issued a statement on the “regrettable incident.”

The lives of the average Palestinian is difficult at best. The Gazans live under tough conditions. That is a reality that is surely unacceptable. Alongside that suffering in Gaza is Hamas, a political leadership dedicated through word and deed to assure the destruction of the State of Israel. Hamas has smuggled in weapons to Gaza and has fired over 8000 rockets and mortars on Israeli civilians. The fact that the naval blockade causes suffering is a terrible consequence of having to prevent the very clear and present danger to Israel that exists every day. In a place filled with complexity, here is one simple question. If someone was trying to kill you, what would do to stop it? If you were the Prime Minister of Israel and had rockets falling on your people, what would you do?

Jim bemoans that he cannot support Israel. But who will he support? Terrorists? Hamas? Iran who is actively backing Hamas and who hopes to create a de facto Iranian port on the Mediterranean? I hope and pray that Israel finds new ways in preventing weapons smuggling that avert the possibility of violence and that those who seek to alleviate the plight of the Palestinians will, having nothing to hide, work hand in hand with Israel to ensure supplies are inspected properly and shipped quickly to the people who need it.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A prayer for complicated times.

Eloheinu shbashamiyim, Our God in heaven. How’s the view? Do you see us all here down on the planet in all our complexity?

Do you see journalists, speakers, pundits, bloggers, writers, columnists, experts, senior correspondents, talking heads? Do you see them all the time? Bless them with integrity to live up to the highest levels of ethics of their trade and common decency. Help them write their narratives that include understanding of more than who did what. Bless them with the strength to say what is accurate even when it is not what they wish they could say.

Do you see Moslems around the world screaming? Do you see Moslem and Arab leaders praising death, glorifying martyrs, giving jihad just one definition, that to kill the Jews, to destroy Israel? Do you see any other leaders, leaders who have no hate for the Jews, who see a vision of peace with Israel? Any other Islamic scholars who can find a path to peace? They are out there, I know. May you bless those Muslim and Arab leaders with the strength to stand up and defy the strident. May you bless the faithful of Islam who see peace as more important than victory, who see peace AS victory, with all the blessings you can find so that Jew and Muslim can solve this long lasting problem.

Do you see non-Jews and non-Muslims around the world, men and women of good hearts and noble motives? Do you see these people who wish to bring justice to everyone everywhere? Bless them for their good intentions and bless them with discernment; the discernment to understand that justice for all is easy to speak and complicated to achieve. Bless them with discernment to remember, security is for all, too. Bless them with discernment to embrace complication and reject the simplicity of heroes and villains and nothing more. Bless them with discernment to find fault wherever it is.

Do you see Jews who need blessings of strength, the strength to stand tall for our people, the strength to understand the difference between pride and jingoism and the wisdom to embrace one and reject the other? Do you see Jews who fear to embrace pride in our people as they believe that might be akin to racism? Send them, Adonai, strength to understand that love of the people of Israel is good and love of all of God’s Creation is good and one does not exclude the other.

Do you see Jews, solid supporters of Israel who in their love for our people listen not, care not for the opinions of others for the approaches of others? Do you see Jews who refuse to acknowledge the needs of the other? Bless them with compassion for all. Bless them with an understanding that Torah is uninterested in gloating, that we remember our time in suffering, so much of our time in suffering and we do not wish to bring that upon others.

Do you see Israelis who huddle from very real attacks? Send them strength to endure and the strength to stay far from hate though they are the most entitled. And do you see us here, horrified at the events of last week and horrified at the level of hate and antipathy that reigns down upon Israel, upon Jews, upon us? Do you see uneducated, simplified hate spoken by our neighbors, our friends, even our own family members at time? Send us the strength to endure as well, and patience to explain, again, how things are not as simple as others wish to make them.

Do you see the bigots of all stripes? I don’t know what you can bless them with but Lord, help them.

Do you see us down here God from your perch in heaven? Do you see us frustrated, angry, outraged and sad? Do you see us wanting everyone to be happy but frightened that it may only be one or the other? Bless us God with something good. And bless us soon.