The news from Israel has been so disheartening over the past few weeks. This would be the perfect time to come together on Shabbat to join in song and celebrate the mere fact of being alive and being together. Beth Styles and I will be leading just such an experience on Friday night - a Kabbalat Shabbat Jam! See the flyer below, come with or without your instruments, but definitely come with your voices. Meanwhile, on Shabbat morning I'll be devoting time, to discussing the legacy of Rabbi Zalman Schachter Shalomi, the founder of modern Jewish renewal, who died last week. We'll be continuing to look closely, as we did last Shabbat, at one of his most recent books, Davening: A Guide to Meaningful Jewish Prayer.
The situation in Israel defies any attempt at a quick summary. The agony has only increased as each day has passed, what with the murders of the Israeli teens followed by the revenge killing by a Jew of an Arab teenager, and now, Hamas's barrage of missiles which led to Israel's response, Operation Protective Edge. The situation is fluid, so rather than my summarizing all that has transpired, I recommend that you follow closely, well-informed news sources from Israel, including i24 news, Times of Israel and now, the Red Alert app, which gives you real time alerts every time a terrorist fires rockets, mortars or missiles into the State of Israel. AIPAC has also put together a policy memo that has been sent to members of Congress. This fact sheet helps clarify some of the issues involved in the current confrontation. Between those news sources and watching live Israeli TV coverage on Cablevision channel 1118 (The Israeli Network), it almost feels like we are going through the experience with the people of Israel.
"Almost" is the operative term, though. Some of our TBE family ARE actually going through this right now, including Melissa Miles, one of our college students. I've been in touch with Melissa this week, and she gave me permission to share with you something she wrote:
Last night at dinner we were instructed on exactly what to do in case of the missile sirens going off at the kibbutz but they assured us we were in a safe place and there was exactly 0% chance this would happen, but they just had to prepare us as a precaution. As Avremi explained what to do everyone was making jokes about who would do what in this event - hunger games style. We joked my animal-loving friend Alyssa would hold the door open to let in all the stray cats before ducking for cover. We listened to what they said and carried on with our night of fun, feeling safe and secure.
This morning I jumped out of bed to blaring missile sirens. It's not the alarm clock noise I'm used to, but good thing because I usually sleep through those anyway. I had no contacts in and I'm as blind as a bat so I couldn't see where I was going but just followed my roommate and ran as fast as one possibly could blind, barefoot, and awake for only 3 seconds. We banged on the door to the bomb shelter but the girls inside could not get the door to unlock. We got there in the allotted 30 seconds but standing just a few steps outside the bomb shelter would do us no good. All of sudden and this sudden seemed like it took forever we all rushed in. All around me there was frightful screaming, some hysterical cries and even a disheveled rabbi unsure of what to say (probably the first and only time ever). We felt the ground shake a little and the fridge I was ducked next to rattled (I guess my instincts to get on the ground next to a large heavy object that could fall was probably not so spot on). The 90 seconds wait after the alarm had stopped passed in complete silence.
Later we learned the missiles hit in Beer Sheva just a few miles from us. I'm not usually a frightful person and I don't get irrationally excited very easily, but I could not stop every nerve, muscle, and bone in my body from shaking for a few minutes. This sense of security we were promised was shattered and I know I'm not alone when I say I felt completely vulnerable. The day carried on with some people reacting with uncomfortable humor, others constantly looking up to make sure the sky wasn't falling and most others like me, completely unsure of what to feel. It's strange, feeling your life in constant danger. Fortunately, not a feeling many of us are familiar with in the US. But as the day carried on things became normal again, slowly but surely. Of course the actual military situation did not change, if anything it probably intensified. But somehow by all of us bonding together we weren't alone and it wasn't so scary. Funny how missiles falling from the sky can bring people so close to one another. No wonder all Israelis love each other.
I'm going to be here for another month and I'll spend the majority of it volunteering on an army base. I made this commitment prior to knowing Israel could be going into war, so I was debating even canceling and coming home. But if I live every day I spend in our beautiful homeland with fear, they win. Worrying won't do anyone any good so all we can do is continue on and know that boys and girls, not any older than I am, are fighting and risking their lives at every moment so we can continue to enjoy living freely in this beautiful country.
I told Melissa that we are all thinking of her and we are making plans to get together when (God willing) our group goes to Israel later this month. I love her line, "No wonder all Israelis love each other." I suppose missiles can help forge deep bonds, and this is a country that has known its share of missiles.
While I was writing that sentence, my iPhone signaled me that rockets were attacking Ashkelon and Sdot Negev.
But in the midst of these attacks, while those bonds are being forged, we can't allow our baser instincts to take over. That's what led to the horrible revenge killing last week and could easily lead to a degrading of our moral integrity as Jews.
It is for that reason, and with profound regret, that I recommend that you read two other articles. First, Jeffrey Goldberg's piece from the Atlantic and second, JJ Goldberg's searing indictment in the Forward. With lives hanging in the balance and soldiers in the field, this is not the time for dwelling on these matters, but neither can we ignore them. Two top journalists (both of whom have spoken here) have asked the tough questions that many have been asking, and thus far, the answers are not pretty. But for now, 440 rockets have fallen on Israel in a radius covering nearly the entire country and there is no question but that that must be stopped.
We will see where all this leads. We will see where the missiles and rockets lead. We'll be thankful for the miracle that is called Iron Dome. And we'll continue to pray.
Rabbi Joshua Hammerman
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