Steven Windmueller
Where Jews and Judaism Meet the Political Road!

In this Moment: Israel at War

It is exactly fifty years ago to the day that Israel experienced its worst surprise military attack. It was Yom Kippur 1973. Now, on Shabbat as we conclude Sukkot and observe Simchat Torah, Israel is once again under attack.  A military assault this time from Gaza would upend a peaceful Israel morning.

No doubt, Hamas whose charter and mandate is committed to the liquidation of the Jewish State saw an opportunity to inflict pain and terror on Israelis. Its Iranian handlers applauding and celebrating this unprovoked action.

What are the immediate implications here!

Israel critics will place blame on the Jewish State for its failure to secure a two-state solution and a resolution to the “Palestinian” problem. Its enemies will justify such actions by Hamas, while condemning Israel for its military intervention.

Israel’s allies will rally, at least in the near term, to its defense, seeing this as an act of aggression and terror.

What should not be lost on us is that this assault on Israelis took place, yet again on a Jewish holiday, one that in fact celebrates the idea of residing and eating in the Sukkah, a fragile and open space, providing less protection. In this symbolic state of fragility, our enemies attempted to take advantage of our vulnerability.

We are likewise reminded that this is a time in the Jewish calendar, where one welcomes visitors. According to tradition, each night a different guest enters the sukkah! Only on this occasion, Israelis would tragically encounter not those who would bring joy and peace but violence and terror.

The citizens of Israel, as they have in the past, will rally in support of the IDF and the necessary efforts to remove terrorists from Israeli territory and silence the rockets being launched from Gaza. They will come together as well to mourn their losses and pray for the well-being of those wounded and captured.

However, in the days and weeks to follow, Israelis will be introduce many questions, as they express their anger and frustration at the failure of Israeli intelligence services to detect the planning of this military operation.

Here in the Diaspora, the friends of Israel, Jews and others, will once again rally their support and extend their prayers for Israel’s well-being, even as days ago rabbis were preaching their High Holy Day sermons critical of the Netanyahu Government for its judicial legislative agenda to undo the power and role of the Supreme Court.  The streets, whether in Tel Av or New York, provided the other framework for carrying out these contemporary battles over Knesset actions and this government’s intentions, as literally thousands came weekly to express their political voice.

Now, living with this existential reality, Israelis and Jews worldwide are now joined in a common bond in defense of the Jewish State.

These events remind us that Diaspora-Homeland connections represent a complicated and complex set of relationships, reflective of a sibling rivalry, as the interplay between the two parties reflects the tensions and disagreements associated with any set of partners.

In this moment, we are reminded of the Talmudic notion that “all Israel is responsible one for other.”  We find ourselves returning to the core principles of this partnership.

  • Security and safety are the first elements in such a relationship.
  • History continues to represent a powerful and ever-present force in shaping Jewish destiny as we are never totally removed from the sacred idea that we are one people, sharing one destiny.
  • Our enemies seem to always find ways, sadly destructive and at times disarming, to remind the Jewish people of our unique fate and common destiny.
  • Even in those moments where there are efforts to up-end the idea and belief in Jewish peoplehood, we seem to stumble back into being a community of destiny.

Sadly, we have experienced these tragic and painful moments before in our historic journey, we are called again to sound the shofar, garnering our strength and rededicating our purpose as we come together for the welfare of our people.

About the Author
Steven Windmueller, Ph.D. is an Emeritus Professor of Jewish Communal Service at the Jack H. Skirball Campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles. Prior to coming to HUC, Dr.Windmueller served for ten years as the JCRC Director of the LA Jewish Federation. Between 1973-1985, he was the director of the Greater Albany Jewish Federation (now the Federation of Northeastern New York). He began his career on the staff of the American Jewish Committtee. The author of four books and numerous articles, Steven Windmueller focuses his research and writings on Jewish political behavior, communal trends, and contemporary anti-Semitism.
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