Protective Edge is the name of Israel’s newest attempt to limit the effect of militant Islamic terrorism on her citizens. It begs the question, why are we so intent on taking the defensive? Why are we hesitant to be the aggressor, when clearly we have the military strength to end the conflict?
Torah does give us many examples of standing against our enemies and defending ourselves.
Judges 7:9 “That same night the Lord said to him, “Arise, go down against the camp, for I have given it into your hand.”
Psalm 110:1 A Psalm of David. The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’ The Lord sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies!
Nehemiah 4:14 “And I looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, ‘Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.’”
We don’t hesitate because we’re weak, or naive. It’s not because we’re afraid of what the world might say. The world, at large, doesn’t think highly of us no matter what choice we make. So we must make our choices based on our culture and who we are.
Who then are we? We are the ONLY Jewish state in the world. We must act in accordance with the tenants of our culture, and yes of our faith. G-d called us and we answered. He gave us a choice and we accepted and pledged ourselves, in all our future generations, to adhere to His laws. I use the present tense “we” to describe that incident at HarSinai because I do truly believe that somehow all of us were present in some manner to either accede or decline that invitation. (Granted there are many Jews who don’t agree with me, perhaps think I am deluded or my views archaic. Still, I’m entitled to my views.) When we accepted those laws we took upon ourselves a burden to act appropriately before G-d. It really doesn’t matter then, in the long run, what the rest of the world thinks.
A clear tenant we take from our culture is that life is sacred. All life is sacred. It is a gift from G-d to all His creation. So when we are faced with this dreadful circumstance of living in a neighborhood where everyone else believes our life is forfeit simply because we are Jews, well in the way of Tevye the dairyman, ‘tis a troublement.
The Torah tells us not to rejoice in our enemy’s downfall. Why is that?! How can that even be reasonable when that enemy wants to take our very lives?! Ah, it is because life is a GIFT, not an entitlement. We must all stand humbly before the Creator and remember, whether our neighbors believe it or not, that G-d gave them the same gift of life that He gave us. We must stop and consider carefully our actions in light of this understanding.
Leviticus 19:2 “Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the Lord your G-d am holy.”
Our burden, as Jews, is to act appropriately before the world so that they might see G-d’s holiness. It’s true that most of the world has a hard time recognizing G-d’s holiness. Whether they recognize it has no bearing on our obligation. Our people have survived for thousands of years, against all odds, in defiance of all logic, because G-d set us apart. Isaiah 42:6 “I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and have taken hold of thy hand, and kept thee, and set thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the nations.” This is our purpose and why our nation has survived. Who or what would we be if we abandoned this task?
So, the sad news I must share with you, my fellow Jews; my fellow Israelis, is that we must struggle every day. When we face our enemies we must be filled with sorrow for their choices. When we defend ourselves we must be cautious to avoid taking more lives than necessary to defend our own. We must do everything in our power to protect the life of that 6 year old Arab boy sitting in his living room above the cache of weapons his father has stored in the basement. We must be strong of heart, and fierce in our determination to do the most right thing, in the most right way; before G-d, that we can.
It will not make sense to the world. Our Arab neighbors will wrongly interpret this as weakness. But we know that it takes more strength and courage to make these choices. We know that this path is much harder than bombing Gaza into dust. We know that at the end of the day we can not only look at ourselves in the mirror, we can stand before G-d.
May we not give G-d any reason not to stand with us.