Condolences to Facts on Israel

When will it end? Horrifying accounts on the front pages of credible news sources tell the real story of terrorist attacks aimed at Jews in Israel. At the gates to the Old City and on the sidewalks along the Mediterranean in Tel Aviv, innocent lives are taken by knife-wielding maniacs. Taylor Force, the latest victim, a West Point graduate and one of America’s finest, according to his friend and “Times of Israel” blogger, David Simpkins, didn’t deserve to die “in a war that he didn’t know he was in the middle of.”

Simpkins wrote, “Taylor is not dead because of Israel. It’s not Israel’s fault for occupying the land. It’s not Israel’s fault for making the Palestinians do this. There are over 60 territorial disputes worldwide, and most lead to absolutely no bloodshed whatsoever. It’s the Palestinians (sic) fault for murdering Taylor.”

Simpkins wrote facts about the atrocities committed by Palestinian terrorists, sometimes women and children, against Israeli and American Jews. And, then he used those facts to point out the non-sequitur he observes in the illogical outcome that should have led to tolerance at best and indifference at worst. But, indiscriminate acts of war against innocent passersby on a sunny day along the sidewalk in Jaffa (Yaffo) cannot make any sense to any normal, reasonable person. Like many of us, Simpkins grasps at facts that ultimately provide no support, logic, or solution.

Two weeks ago, we walked where Taylor Force walked. Many of us have done so. To one side is the bustling city of Jaffa (Yaffo), gentrified in some places and thriving with restaurants and shops. To the other side is the Mediterranean Sea, glistening with color and beauty. We had lunch near the docks. We ate up Mediterranean food and listened to many languages spoken around us. It’s not a place where we expect the wars of the Middle East to be fought. It’s a place where we expect to breathe the sea air and gaze on the beauty of Tel Aviv. But, when we walked north again along the sea to Tel Aviv, we watched the people around us. This time we didn’t watch in interest; rather, we watched with concern. Were the women dressed in burkas sitting on the hill near the sidewalk simply enjoying the day like us? Were the people passing to our right and left on their way somewhere like we were? We took nothing for granted. We balanced the joy we felt in the sunshine and cool sea breezes against the concern we raised about everyone and everything around us.

We sympathize deeply with Simpkins as he grieves his friend’s death and his hope. What’s left to say, if not about the tragedy unfolding in the Middle East, then to David Simpkins?

Let’s not say, “I’m sorry.” Under the circumstances, it’s trivial and makes no difference. I recommend that we say to David that his friend, Taylor, didn’t die in vain. His life was not for naught. The lessons he learned at West Point and the way he lived his life brought honor to him and to those who knew him. Sadly, facts won’t change anything; at least not for those who are bent on terrorism. So, let’s promise David that we’ll aim to advocate for a Land of Israel that is open to new paths to peace, not defined by terrorists, but outlined by values worthy of the memory of his friend, Taylor, and worthy of the land and people of America and Israel. And, David, remember that Judaism teaches us, “A jewel that is lost remains a jewel forever — but they who lost it, well may they mourn.” Zichrono livracha, may the memory of your beloved friend be for a blessing.

About the Author
Rabbi Lyon is Senior Rabbi of Congregation Beth Israel, Houston, Texas. Lyon can be heard on iHeartRadio's Podcast "Heart to Heart w/Rabbi David Lyon" on He is the author of the book "God of Me: Imagining God Throughout Your Lifetime" (Jewish Lights 2011), available at He is a V.P. of the CCAR (Central Conference of America Rabbis) Board of Trustees. In Houston, Lyon serves as Board member of the United Way of Greater Houston; Advisory Board member of Holocaust Museum Houston; and Board Member of Interfaith Ministries of Greater Houston.
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