With the details of the just-announced 9 PM ceasefire (2 PM in Stamford) still sketchy, is there good news to be gained in this huge mess? The news of today's bus bombing in Tel Aviv only complicates an already complicated situation. But you knew you could come to me for a smidgen of optimism, didn't you! So let's run down some of the potential good news:
- The new role of Egypt and Turkey as Hamas' prime sponsors might seem like a huge strategic loss, but it offers opportunities to the West that did not exist when Hamas was primarily in the Syrian orbit. There is leverage over Egypt (American $$) and Turkey (a NATO member), as well as enemies that these nations share with Israel (Iran and Syria).
- As helpless as Israelis have felt in the face of constant rocket fire, remember how much worse things were before there was an Iron Dome knocking down 90% of its targets.
- And when the dust settles, assuming all hell doesn't break loose, The P.A. on the West Bank, which has notably not been a major contributor to anti Israel incitement, might be more willing to negotiate with Israel on more generous terms in order to offset some of the political gains Hamas has made (It remains to be seen, though, whether West Bank elements played a role in today's Tel Aviv bus bombing). Israel may find it more advantageous to sit down as well, in order to counter the threats of its more radical neighbors. No better way to isolate Hamas than to prop up its rival and offer a chance to achieve political gains through peaceful negotiation.
- Ultimately, a nuclear Iran is still the main threat facing Israel and her Sunni neighbors. When Israel refrained from attacking Iraq during the first Gulf War it earned significant brownie points from the West, and that was at a time when the US government and public were not nearly so sympathetic. Those points are being earned now as well, and they will be redeemed in the very near future, when the moment of truth arrives regarding Iran.
- I must say, I also see a big difference in how the media is covering this conflict, as compared to prior ones. Sure, there are still moral equivalences being drawn between Hamas's and Israeli actions. But Israel's message is getting through to a far greater extent. (And I ASSUME you've subscribed to http://www.idfblog.com/ and are getting their excellent and timely videos on YouTube. If not, shame on you!) We are on the social media front lines, and Israel is now getting its message out much more efficiently. Through us, Israel is winning the social media war!
- And BTW, we should feel the pain of Gazan civilian victims - and feel good that there aren't many more, thanks to Israel's incredible restraint. And while we mourn deeply the Israeli casualties, think about it: When Saddam Hussein shot 39 Scuds at Israeli population centers in 1991, we thought it was a miracle that only 1 person died (it was even seen as evidence by Habad that the messianic era was at hand). So now we've had nearly 1400 missiles fired at Israel just in the past week with less than half a dozen deaths. Every life is of infinite value, but think of what would have happened had Iron Dome not been deployed near Tel Aviv just an hour before it needed to be used. If 1991's statistics merited messianic expectations, the performance of Iron Dome has been downright miraculous.
Israel is close to being missile proof. It has significantly degraded the leadership and infrastructure of Hamas and other radical groups in Gaza. It has done so without losing the moral high ground in the eyes of much of the world. It has set itself up in a position of strength with West Bank Palestinian leadership. And it is in a much better position with regard to world pressure on Iran.
So now, doesn't that make you feel better?
OK, so maybe the picture is not that wonderful. But there is one other bit of good news. American Jews have stopped sniping at one another about Israel (with some sad exceptions, likethis shanda perpetrated by the Atlanta Jewish community, per Danny Gordis). When it comes to Americans of all political persuasions, there is now no daylight between America and Israel, and between American Jew and American Jew.
This could all be moot if something dramatic happens before this email's electrons have dried.
Which is why my best advice to you is to keep yourself updated. Know that I am constantly sharing important articles on my Facebook page and on Twitter (follow me at @joshuahct). I'll send occasional email updates to the congregation as need arises. You can also read the movingwar diary of Masorti Rabbi Mauricio Balter, who serves a Masorti congregation in Be'er Sheva. I quoted from his first entry at services last Friday, where he agonized over whether to run for a shelter or assist two elderly congregants stranded in the middle of a street when the alarm sounded. Also see TBE's Jan Gaines' "Dispatches from Netanya."
Meanwhile, the UJF has put together a concise page of suggestions as to how each of us can help, including donation addresses and a list of sites where you can get accurate information:
Meanwhile, for your Thanksgiving reading, see recent Bar/Bat Mitzvah commentaries by TBE B'nai Mitzvah Evan Kaplan, Olivia Wise, Melanie Roloff and Steven Yudell.
And, direct from the Shabbat-O-Gram archives:
If you are in town, join us for minyan on Thursday and Friday mornings at 9 AM (we've had difficulty lately and really could use your help!). This Friday night, bring your out-of-town guests to our service, with special guest harpist (and TBE member) Lisa Tannebaum. And join Cantor Mordecai on Shabbat morning at 9 for an hour-long discussion of the portion of the week, followed by services in the chapel at 10, featuring the naming of Ainsley Pankowski. Then, later in the day, we'll celebrate at Mincha Havdalah services as Rebecca Gatz becomes Bat Mitzvah. Mazal tov to all!
A blessed Thanksgiving and Shabbat Shalom!
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