by Rabbi Israel Zoberman
I have just returned from an extraordinary experience last month in Israel, the land I first came to in 1949 at the tender age of three and a half, already a refugee, from post-World War II Europe.
Yet nothing could have prepared me for the surrealistic reality of approaching rockets and wailing sirens, a frightful scenario that Israeli citizens of all ages in its south have had to contend with for 14 long years, with only 15 seconds to find protective shelter. I will long remember being awakened by the sirens’ piercing sounds of war alert at 3:15 am in Haifa, Israel’s northern city, far away from Gaza or as proven rather close, and moving quickly with my mom, a 92-year-old remarkably resilient Polish Holocaust survivor, to the best possible room in her apartment to await whatever might happen with our hearts pounding. Luckily, the rocket was intercepted by an Iron Dome installation that the United States has gratefully financed.
No nation would have done less than Israel to fulfill a basic mandate of protecting one’s population and all nations would have done more early on. Restrained by its legacy of Jewish and humanitarian values, ever conscious of the double standard applied to its conduct, Israel has exercised an admirable measure of caution to save lives even from the midst of a firing hostile territory controlled by Hamas, a recognized terrorist organization whose covenant unabashedly calls for Israel’s destruction and criminally has used children, women and men as human shields. Hamas shot 3,500 rockets and also mortars from schools, hospitals, mosques, homes and U.N. facilities with the clear goal of indiscriminately killing and maiming Israelis.
When Hamas and the host of other Arab terrorist organizations will care more for their children than the death of its “enemy’s” children, there will emerge new hope for the long-awaiting to be transformed Middle East. When Israel’s insistence on the sacredness of human life—all human life, will become the inheritance of the entire troubled region, replacing pagan human sacrifice, will the yearning of modern Israel and its biblical prophets for that essential though elusive Shalom, Salaam, Peace, reemerge as a potent force for the sake of all.
How could Hamas, tragically and ironically elected into power by Gaza’s misguided and long-suffering people, following Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from Gaza at an enormous cost, squander its donated material resources away from the declared purpose of creating a supportive and necessary infrastructure toward establishing a terrorizing war machine with attack tunnels reaching into Israel with a goal of surprising Israel someday with mortal death blows? We are duty-bound to remember that Iran supplied Hamas with the smuggled weaponry and that Hamas is but Iran’s proxy, alerted by Iran’s stubborn search for a nuclear capability that will make all the difference. Sadly, Qatar is not an innocent by-stander, offering Hamas vast financial support.
I was deeply touched by Israel’s courageous people coming together in a heart-warming display of national unity in face of a mighty and unique challenge, while maintaining its enviable democratic impulse of cherished freedom to express a variety of views that could not take place in Gaza. Israel is weeping for its heroic defenders as well as the innocent victims on the other side held hostage by an ideology alien to what we in the West will never willingly give up.
Make no mistake. Israel represents the American democratic heritage with common purpose and interest, in a part of the world disdaining it and in which Radical Islam increasingly makes disastrous inroads as the shameful slaughter in Syria and Iraq continues while self-righteous and callous Europe with its growing anti-Semitism fueled by Islamist forces looks aside, expecting the Israelis to be like past Jews who could not defend themselves and paying such a high price for it. Let all Americans say with one voice for the sake of all that is sacred and sane in a triumphant message that dare not be misunderstood, “Never Again!”
—Rabbi Israel Zoberman is the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Chaverim.