Dennis C. Sasso

For the sake of my loved ones and friends


So much has been said and written about the brutal Hamas attack on Israel.  We write these notes not as a geo-political commentary, but from the depths of human anguish. We think of loved ones and friends in the State of Israel who have suffered pain and losses. We bemoan the Hamas intentional assault on the possibilities for peace in the region that this vicious incident will bring in its toll.

We scroll through our Facebook pages filled with photos of innocent children, teenagers, the elderly who have been murdered or taken hostage.  Post after post, bears witness to indiscriminate terrorism.

Our entire family travelled to Israel this past June.  It was a transformative experience for the grandchildren who had not yet been there, and for those of us who have lived or visited there in the past.  From Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, from the luscious Galilee to the barren Negev, from the Mediterranean coast to the Judean desert, we experienced a vibrant, diverse population of Jewish and Arab Israelis, of many shades and creeds.  Israel is a complex society with various and often competing histories and narratives.  We remember these images from the places we visited that are now under attack.

The cruelty of the Hamas terrorist attack is heightened by the fact that it took place on the Sabbath and the holy day of Sh’mini Atzeret-Simhat Torah, the completion of the cycle of celebration that began with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, three weeks before.  The barbaric onslaught was aimed to coincide also with the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War (1973), an earlier desecration of a most holy day.

Israel, a self-critical democracy, will certainly be conducting internal investigations concerning failed intelligence and missed opportunities. On the other hand, we are already seeing, and will continue to witness among the perennial deniers of Israel’s right to exist, efforts to portray Hamas as having the moral high ground and Israel’s very existence as justification for the terror committed against it.

As of this writing, the death toll of the surprise attack is close to 700 dead and 2200 wounded.  Many are calling this event Israel’s 9/11, but with greater numbers proportionally.  We do not yet know the fullness of the havoc and the pain that await Israel and the region in the aftermath of Hamas’s cold-blooded day of infamy. Peace prospects will be derailed, hope confounded, grief and mourning compounded.

A personal note: Last night, we officiated at a wedding ceremony for a beloved young couple with whose families have a long personal and congregational history. A wedding is a time of supreme joy, yet also a time when we remember the past.  The ceremony ends with the shattering of a glass, reminiscent of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Babylonians (6th C. BCE) and the Romans (1st C. CE). The broken glass is a reminder to the couple that they are to make of their home a sanctuary built from the fragments of past memory and their love of one another.

A series of seven blessings links the wedding celebration to the creation of humanity and to the promise of future redemption and peace: “May there soon be heard in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem the voices of joy and gladness, the sounds of bride and groom, the jubilation of those joined in love… of young people feasting and singing.”  How ironic that we chanted these words in the shadow of the tragic news of the day, when the sounds in the cities and streets of Israel were the cries of young and old people being viciously killed or dragged into captivity.

As we ended the wedding ceremony, the words of Psalm 122 filled our hearts: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; may they prosper who love you. Let there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.  For the sake of my loved ones and  friends, I pray for your safety and peace.”

This article is co-authored by
Dennis C. Sasso and Sandy Eisenberg Sasso

About the Author
Dennis Sasso is Senior Rabbi Emeritus at Congregation Beth-El Zedeck, Indianapolis, Indiana. He is Affiliate Professor of Jewish Studies at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, Indiana.
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