Reflections on the War in Gaza


A Gaza family stands in wreckage.

Images like this have sometimes made the author think, "You are complicit in the death of the innocent!

“You are complicit in the death of the innocent!”
The images call out to me in a personal way. The image of a young dead child being carried by a man near destroyed buildings. Demonstrators in Spain hold up the palms of their hands that they painted red. The images are directed against the silent – against me – screaming that “the blood of innocent is on your hands!”
But, but, but… I can neither dismiss nor accept, with confidence or certainty, the arguments and justifications of Israel’s killing or fighting and the way it is done. A little voice in my head is asking whether these justifications are in fact valid… In fact when I think of most of my Jewish friends or the people I see at shul, I would be reluctant to voice my deep reservations about the justifications. On the other hand, I feel guilty even repeating them privately to myself. It feels like an act of treachery against my Arab friends. “You are defending the indefensible,” one of them said to me some years ago when I publicly repeated some of those arguments at a session with university students.
I am hurting. I feel depressed and heavy. I feel tired and unmotivated.
Accusation. Justification. Refutation. Accusation. Justification. Refutation. Counter-argument. An exhausting dance inside my head.

The Reality in Gaza and Israel

This is bigger than me of course. The question arises in my mind: “You are hurting?!” How dare I be so self-centered. One thousand eight hundred fifty-four lives violently, intentionally cut short! Millions of lives threatened repeatedly. How many more Palestinians or Jews must die as a result of action or inaction?! Right now, many thousands of mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, and sisters are grieving over the loss of a life precious to them. Dead. Never to be hugged. Never to have a conversation with again. Never to enjoy a meal with, celebrate milestones together, or have mutual support in times of trouble.

The Dead I Will Never Know

One of the victims who will not be forgotten was the Israeli teen Naftali Frenkel, one of “our boys” whose heart-rending funeral I ‘attended’ online. His mother told of how he will never sing again at their Shabbat table. He will long be remembered, as will the other two students killed with him. So it should be. Another death that will be remembered is that of Mohammed Abu Khdeir. The names of the other 1,850 plus dead are not widely known. I cannot forget them because I did not know them in the first place. They are mourned by their families – no less dead than Naftali or Mohammed.

Politically “Alive” While Dead

Perhaps the hundreds of people who died without media coverage are more dead than the four “star victims.” Naftali’s dear soul is alive in the hearts of my son’s school whose students are dedicating their performance of mitzvot to him and his two friends. His soul also has the debatable merit of the reported support expressed by 95 percent of Israelis for the current military activity. Mohammed is unable to rest in peace. His death will continue to be exploited to show how superior “we” are to “them.” “Look at us, Public Opinion, we are so good.” We are overflowing with moral outrage about Mohammed. We are good people. It appears that we only condone killing if it is done by men in uniform.

Where To From Here?

I don’t know. Michael Lerner is mourning the loss of compassionate Judaism amid the idol worship of military power. I am afraid for the future of interfaith connections. Can Jews, Muslims, and Christians still come together on common ground? I am afraid about my own self-worth and wellbeing. I choose compassion for self and others. My grappling and pain continue. I pray that my public silence is justified. I pray that the underlying problems at the heart of this Palestinian-Israeli relationship are addressed and for an arrangement, even if imperfect, that maximizes justice, dignity, and peace.
Rabbi Shmuel Chesed is a pseudonym for an ordained Orthodox rabbi functioning within a Jewish community that would pay too high a price were his real name to be published.

3 thoughts on “Reflections on the War in Gaza

  1. The pain felt by a Rabbi afraid to speak out due to fear of reprisal by the majority against him. But what if he is in the majority? How many share his moral dilemma? Perhaps if everyone mustered the courage to speak out, we could find that the majority of people favor justice after all.

  2. That’s an interesting thought, Greg. The potential for that reminds me of an unrelated but similar concept many years back during an election campaign in the UK. In an election broadcast on behalf of the Liberal Democrat party, John Cleese (of Monty Python fame) referred to research that suggested that something like 55% of voters would vote Liberal Democrat if they thought they could win. With faux confusion he drew attention to the absurdity of people not therefore following their convictions. Eg, if they all voted that way then the party would win. They have never won (though did manage to get into power as part of a coalition with tne Conservatives who did not get overall control of the Parliament.
    So perhaps therein lies the Rabbi’s dilemma. If everyone else would be prepared to speak publicly….so would he. Perhaps he and the others just need to get on with it!

  3. There are two sides to this human dilemma ; the first one, its great that our Rabbi is questioning himself and his own loyalty ,sense of justice, his compassion, and his level of reasoning to what is clearly an inhumane situation and criminal condition imposed on some people by other people( forget for a minute that they are Palestinians and Israelis) that is good, that is human. The second part, that he is debating and questioning his loyality to his Jewishness , is kind of disturbing as it seems ,he wanted it to take presedent to his humanity. I have observed this kind of behavior among many Jewish people. They seem to put their Jewishness above their humanity and sense of fairness and justice, specially when it comes to the question of Israel and the Palestinians. Am I the only one who sees a problem with this kind of attitude ? If we all think of ourselves as humans first, then most of those created labels ( christian, Jewish, Muslim,black and white and all others)which separate us from one another and creates divisions , discrimination , persecution and hate, will be much less if not disappear all together. I am not against any ones believing in his or her religion, but its hard when one puts it as his deciding factor, not his capability to judge on humanitarian bases, ethics and morals, if what is done in front of us is wrong or right, no matter which group we belong to, we should be able to distinguish between rights and wrongs. The other way around would clearly be called racism and discrimination , and the Jewish people should stick to their claim that they suffere enough from it, instead of practicing it and support Israel while it does. The final and saddest part here, which is the most important indication that there is something terribly wrong in the support of Israel by the American Jewish community, and that is the fear of the members of the community to be known to others if they feel what is being done by Israel and Jews is wrong and they wish to speak out ! What does that say about their morals and the silence they choose to keep? That is such a SHAME ! Thank you for those who chose to celebrate their humanity above their Jewishness !

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