Gaza, Again…

My family and I returned late last night from a week in Israel, visiting with my daughter, who’s on the NATIV gap year program, and my mother and sister and her family, all of whom live in Rechovot. The hostilities in Gaza began over Shabbat, when we were blissfully not tuned in to the radio and television, although the constant drone of warplanes overhead from a nearby air force base might have been a clue…

Other than an enhanced security presence on the streets of downtown Jerusalem and an occasional roadblock on the highways, it was hard to tell that there’s a war going on. The streets of Jerusalem were crowded, the restaurants full, and no one was exhibiting even the slightest of reluctance to be in those places that historically have been dangerous in difficult times. By and large, the central and northern parts of the country are quiet, except within a 40 kilometer range from Gaza, within potential missile range. That arc grew during the time we were there, inching ever close to Rechovot. As of today, there are regular air raid sirens in Yavneh and Gedera… very, very close.

There are certainly editorials in Israel- particularly in the left-leaning daily Ha’aretz- that question the wisdom of what Israel is doing, and no one that I spoke to- well, hardly anyone- displayed a cavalier attitude towards the tragic loss of life involved in the action. But at the same time, the overwhelming sentiment that I heard was “it’s about time.” Even those who question the wisdom and tactics of what Israel is doing recognize the provocation that led to it. Hamas brought this on itself and on Gaza’s citizens, willfully and purposefully.

To me, this is as clear as can be, as it should be to any right-thinking person (and I don’t mean right in a political sense). Really… as has been said many times, what country would tolerate a terrorist organization committed to its destruction firing missiles aimed at its civilian centers without retaliating? And when “proportional retaliation”- whatever that means- fails to stop the missiles, what country wouldn’t do what it had to do to protect its citizens?

And yet, and yet… to watch some of the major news outlets like CNN, as we did in our hotel room, you would think that what Israel was doing was completely without context, and just another example of the heartless and militaristic Israelis raining unprovoked death and destruction on the peace-loving Palestinians of Gaza. I can’t even imagine what it must feel like for a citizen of Israel living in Sderot to watch that coverage, and feel completely invisible. It turned my stomach.

I opened my e-mail this morning to find a message from my sister with an attached photograph of an Arab demonstrator at an angry anti-Israel rally somewhere in the West- it looked like New York, or Chicago- holding a placard that declared “Death to the Juice.” I might laugh, if it weren’t for the sentiment, which I’m sure is real, and not directed at lemonade. The western world will never love Israel unless it plays the good Christian and turns the other cheek- a role the Christian world rarely if ever plays.

If countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia really wanted there to be a cease-fire, I think there would be a cease-fire by now; they would have forced it on Israel, via the United States. But interestingly, it was France that tried to broker the cease-fire. I have to believe that there are a whole lot of Gulf states that wouldn’t mind seeing Israel finish off Hamas, whose members, even in a really bad neighborhood, are genuinely hateful and violent.

I, personally, don’t care about how the other Arab states feel about Hamas. I care about Israel. And as far as I’m concerned, I support Israel, and that’s all I care about.

About the Author
Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik is the Rabbi Emeritus of the Forest Hills Jewish Center in Queens.