Thoughts From Off the Pulpit

As I wrote previously on this blog, I began my vacation two weeks ago. My first day out of the office was the day on which we received the tragic, horrible news of the death of the three kidnapped Israeli teenagers. Since that day, we have heard the unspeakably terrible news of the killing of a Palestinian teenager for which Israelis have been accused. Then, the rocket fire increased against Israel and Israel began its bombing of Gaza. So much has happened in the past two weeks and I have tried to keep up on this blog with thoughts about the situation as I try to have some time away from the pulpit.

So what more is there to say that hasn’t been said already? It seems that there is little new to say but I feel an obligation to write something.

I believe without question that Israel has the right and the obligation to defend itself against these horrendous rocket attacks which means not only utilizing the Iron Dome Missile Defense but also to do what could be done to stop the rockets from flying in the first place. That means legitimately trying to wipe out Hamas’ capacity to fire these rockets. I would hope that Israel would do this with as little harm to civilians as possible but I also recognize that many in Gaza, at least according to the reports that we are hearing, are choosing to stay rather than to leave in response to Israel’s warnings. This places Israel in a terribly difficult position but as I have written previously, I hope that Israel will do all that it can to minimize civilian deaths and to seek every opportunity to reach a cease fire which both sides would honor. The scenes out of Gaza are horrible and we should grieve for the children and innocent people on both sides who are scarred by this terrible situation.

Yes, without question, Israel needs to defend itself but as I wrote on my Facebook page last week: …we must never take for granted or merely accept the necessity of bloodshed, especially of innocent children and we must never fall victim to the celebration of military might. May Israel find the proper course as it fulfills its responsibility to protect its people from harm and continue to seek every opportunity possible for an end to this madness.

But, in addition to saying this, I believe that we must look at the bigger picture. I am not trying to justify the actions of Hamas, God forbid, but Israel needs to ask itself how the settlement policies, the oppression that the occupation brings and policies concerning the blockade of Gaza are among the factors that exacerbate the conflict. Obviously, this is not the moment to move forward with discussions of the two state solution but when this operation in Gaza is over and some calm is reached, the ball will be back in Israel’s court to look at its policies towards the Palestinians and ask itself how the status quo can be changed. Again, let me be clear, I say this not to justify at all the attacks coming from Gaza and those rocket attacks need to be taken into account at every moment when evaluating Israel’s actions. But, it is certainly right from an ethical standpoint and wise from a pragmatic standpoint as well for Israel to look at its own policies and do what it can to restore calm in the region and trust in the eyes of the world.

In the meantime, even if I am not “on the pulpit” at this critical moment in time, I pray for all of my brothers and sisters in Israel, for those who defend her and for those innocent people on both sides who are caught in the crossfire or who are bearing the brunt of this terribly violent time. May peace and calm come soon to all.

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