Editor’s Note: Divrei Shalom is the place for Temple Shalom community members to share their perspectives and ideas. We invite all community members to write for us.
By Mary Jane Suzman
I am deeply troubled by the tenor of the CJP call to attend the rally for Israel, and even more by the letter from Barry Shrage linked to it. They emphasize only the suffering of Israel – our wounded soldiers, our widows and orphans, our traumatized children. This suffering is real, but it is not the only suffering: there is a humanitarian disaster of immense proportions amongst the Palestinians of Gaza. As a Jew and a human being, I do not believe that support for Israel requires blindness to the suffering of the Palestinians. Such blindness is in fact destructive of the long-term welfare of Israel and the long-term prospects for peace.
In a particularly misleading statement, Shrage quotes Jonathan Sacks in stating that “Israel has had to endure an ‘assault of a kind no country in the world has had to face: worse than the Blitz in World War II. At the height of the Blitz, on average 100 missiles were launched against Britain every day. On average during the present conflict Hamas has been firing 130 missiles a day against Israel’.”
A little research reveals that during the Blitz in 1940-41, German bombing killed more than 40,000 people and damaged or destroyed over 1 million buildings. Later, in 1944, the V1 and V2 missile attacks began. A total of about 10,000 missiles were fired into Britain, killing a further 9,000 people. In comparison, the Hamas missiles fired on Israel have killed 3. What Sacks and Shrage also failed to note in making their comparison is that each German missile contained a hundred times more explosives than an average Hamas missile.
We have powerful visions in our Jewish texts that can provide better guidance: all people are made in the image of God; all people share in the divine breath that was blown into Adam at creation; love the stranger as thyself; love peace and pursue peace. There are also lessons on how to handle the deeply held conflicting truths of different people – we are instructed to make ourselves a “heart of many rooms,” and house them there together.
We need to hold these texts close, even in a time of crisis and conflict – perhaps especially in times of crisis and conflict. We need to constantly remind ourselves that the 1,800 Palestinians who have died were each and every one made in the image of God. We need to break down the simplistic duality of Us against Them, Good against Evil, Victim and Aggressor, and allow questions: have Israel and we American Jews done everything possible over the years to pursue peace? Have we treated the Palestinians with the dignity and equality due them as human beings? Are we partially responsible for the current hatred and divisiveness? Are we partially responsible for the escalation that led to the current war?
In response to the CJP’s “urgent call to stand up for Israel” I would ask: Can we not hold two realities in our hearts at once? Our love and support for our people and the state of Israel, but also the suffering and cries of the Palestinians in Gaza? Our narrative of deep connection to the land, but also theirs? Trying to do this leads to a very pained and crying heart. But perhaps it is that pain that can energize us to radically intensify our efforts to lay the foundations that can eventually lead to the end of conflict. Perhaps that pain can help us turn the creative energy, skills, passion and love that originally built the state of Israel toward the determined, multi-faceted, deep pursuit of peace. That is the endeavor I could whole-heartedly support.