Aharon Ariel Lavi
Rabbi, Economist and Community Builder

Compassion out of the the box – Response to David Seidenberg’s “Immunity and Impunity: Fear and Loathing in Gaza”

Dear David

Thank you for your article, and interest in what’s going on in Israel.

As someone who lives approximately 5 km from the fence with Gaza, please allow me to share some thoughts in response to your article.

First, I think presenting Rachamim (compassion) as opposed to Din (judgment) is not accurate, according to Kabblah on which you rely yourself. Din is the opposite of Hesed (kindness), while Rachamim is the middle-point between them. In the Sefirot, Hesed is to the right, Gevurah (Din) is to the left and Tiferet (Rachamim) is in the middle. This has several implications regarding your analysis, but I won’t be able to go into all of them right now.

As for compassion per se, you bring some insightful phrases from the Talmud but ignore two other very important ones. Let’s start with: “It is forbidden to show compassion to he who has no Da’at (knowledge)” (Sanhedrin 92a). This does not imply that stupid people are not worthy of mercy, but rather that if the person/group at hand does not recognize what you see as compassion as such, that’s not the right way to go. In our case, Hammas does not interpret humanitarian aid offered by Israel, or its extraordinary efforts to avoid damage to civilians, as praiseworthy compassion but rather as weakness, which only urges it to more violence.

The other one is: “he who shows mercy to cruel people will eventually bring cruelty upon merciful ones” (Tanchuma – Metzora). When you suggest we show even more mercy towards Hammas, which it in any case sees as weakness and does not appreciate it, you’re actually saying we should give them a better chance at hitting innocent Israeli civilians, and I don’t see why should we – or any reasonable nation in the same situation – allow this as long as we have the strength to prevent it?

This does not imply that we should be cruel to Arab civilians, and maybe we should try and think about it out of the box, and define Hammas as a mutual problem for both Arabs and Jews. That’s what makes me wonder why you think the alternative to the terror tunnels should have been bomb shelters for the residents of Gaza? Let me remind you that the choice if there will be more violence or not lies entirely at the hands of Hammas, and there would have been no need for neither tunnels or bomb shelters without Hammas. Israel withdrew from Gaza completely almost a decade ago, while still supplying water and electricity for the region. If the Arabs there would have chosen to embark on a path of economic development, and invest the billions of dollars they get as donations in building schools, businesses, universities and cultural institutions they – and we – could have flourished together in the North-western Negev. Instead, Hammas took over and invested almost all of its people’s resources in weapons, tunnels and military training. Now the IDF is crashing what Hammas has been building for ten years, and Hammas cries. Does it make sense? Should we show any mercy towards such an organization?

This is also related to the so-called “blockade”. If the Gaza strip was not being run by a terrorist organization there would have been no need to supervise what’s going in. As you probably know, there really is no blockade and even during the war tons upon tons of supplies, drugs and food flow into Gaza. The only restriction is that every truck has to be inspected to make sure it carries no weapons or explosives. I don’t know who are those “some” that you refer to in the article, who “say” that the “blockade” is a “punishment” for electing Hammas. You can’t expect your readers to relate to such a quote, that has no name or face behind it, seriously or as a reliable source. The fact Hammas is a terrorist organization, and that there is hard evidence it’s been using even neutral materials such as iron and cement brought into Gaza for terrorist purposes, justifies in and of itself the inspection Israel imposes, for saving lives of women and children whom Hammas tries to kill all the time. The fact it fails 95% of the time does not make any difference.

In the bottom line, if you think there is a better way to handle the situation you are more than welcome to join us here and share the burden of sustaining a tiny democratic Jewish state struggling against waves of lunatic and coward Jihadists, who hide behind women and children just because they know we are compassionate. Just because they know that in many cases Israeli pilots abort an attack, and tank commanders cancel a shot, because civilians are present in the arena. Does it provide 100% success? No, and if you would participate in a military operation you would understand why, or might even be able to come up with better solutions than the IDF’s for protecting the other side’s civilians, while Hammas is doing its best to sacrifice them.


Anyway, even if eventually we discover that the 16 casualties at UNRWA’s schools were caused because of the IDF, it will be considered in Israel a terrible mistake, lessons will be learned and people will be removed from office. If Hammas will ever succeed in slaying 15 innocent Israeli civilians with a rocket, god forbid, you’ll see them dancing in the streets. That’s the difference in a nutshell, and that is because we are the student of Avraham, Isaac and Jacob.

About the Author
Lavi is a serial social entrepreneur, a professional community organizer and a thinker who believes Judaism can inspire and inform all walks of life. Lavi is co-founder of MAKOM: the Israeli umbrella organization of intentional communities; and of the Hakhel: the first global incubator for Jewish Intentional Communities which was awarded the Jerusalem Unity Prize in 2020. He is trained as an economist and historian of ideas, and writes his dissertation on migration of ideas between US Jewry and the Israeli society. He lives with his wife and their five children in Garin Shuva next to the Gaza border and on his free time he is a professional mountain biking guide, racer and trail builder. In 2009 he published his first book on Jewish economic thought. His recent book, Seven, presents Shmita inspired economic, social and environmental ideas.
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