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Reflections on Israel

From Rabbi Stein:

Reflections on Israel

May 14, 2021

Last Shabbat, we shared a special exchange with our partner congregation in Jerusalem, Mevakshei Derech. In my remarks, I offered thoughts on why I am a proud Zionist and what it means to be living in America and still be connected to life in Israel. I declared: even while we live in Rochester, we are together with you. When there is pain in the land, we feel it. And when there is joy, we are dancing with you. We support and celebrate your work in creating inclusive and innovative Jewish life.

You can see my full remarks by clicking here and the sermon offered by Rabbi Haim Shalom by clicking here.

In this long and tragic week since that service, there has been tremendous pain in Israel. The violence has caused death, injury, and terror. And I know that many of us are scared and hurting.

While there is no single definitive analysis of what has happened, I want to offer a few thoughts as we prepare for Shabbat.

First, as I wrote elsewhere, we must keep our focus on the human impact…the terrible injury to body and soul that has been suffered by those living in Israel and in Gaza by and those living here whose loved ones are living there. The indiscriminate assault of rockets that end up in city centers must come to an end. Israel has a right to defend itself, and to take action that ensures that families do not have to spend nights sleeping in bomb shelters.

This is not to say that Israel is blameless. Love for Israel does not mean turning a blind eye or refusing to admit when there are failures. In this latest chapter, as in many previous moments in Israel’s history, there have been moments where the dignity of the Palestinian people has not been respected.

I believe that this tragic moment has been driven by extremists on both sides. Especially in this year, when Jerusalem Reunification Day coincided with the culminating days of Ramadan, there were inexcusable provocations on the Temple Mount and in other places in East Jerusalem. There have been tragic failures of moral leadership by political figures on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides, as leaders face the end of long terms in power. 

I believe that the path to peace will ultimately be created when there is the ability for two people to live side by side in independence, dignity, opportunity, and respect. We will not see an end to the cycle of violence until there are leaders who embrace the prospect of two peoples living in two states, allowing everyone to enjoy security and self-determination.

I don’t claim to have all the answers, and certainly don’t think I can offer a prescription. I write, first and foremost, as a Jew who is a passionate Zionist. I want my Israeli friends, colleagues, and teachers to see an end to the terror that has flared up in such a disruptive way. 

I write also as a Jew who believes that the core teachings of Torah focus on the essential dignity and equality of all human beings. We are all, every one of us, created in the divine image. I want the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan to be a place where Israelis and Palestinians live in peace. I am not threatened by anyone other than extremists. I believe that the overwhelming majority of both populations want the same things: to raise their children with quality education and health care and opportunities to grow and achieve their potential.

In the midst of this violent moment, I mourn for the loss of life and the pervasive fear that is causing suffering. Especially at this moment, I renew my hope that it is possible to put an end to war and to create peace. As we say in the prayer we recite each week, “O Heavenly One, shield the land and all who live there beneath the wings of Your love. Spread over it the canopy of your peace.”

Shalom, Salaam, Peace.

Fri, October 22 2021 16 Cheshvan 5782