Ben-Tzion Spitz
Former Chief Rabbi of Uruguay

Multitasking during War

Given my position, my long-time residence in Israel and having children in Israel and one recently enlisted in the army, I have been asked by congregants my position on the current “operation.” What attitude should we take? What can we do? How do we understand and interpret these events? Is it safe to visit Israel?

As Israelis like to say, “we’ve seen this movie before.” Israel has been the ongoing target of terror attacks for decades. When the country’s tolerance level is superseded it mobilizes its forces in a temporary attempt to quell the attacks to a suffer-able level. The Israeli attack pushes the Arabs to empty their arsenal against us. Arab civilians in Gaza will die. World media will accuse Israel at a higher pitch than usual. Israeli residents, this time in a larger radius, including Tel-Aviv and its environs, find themselves in the firing range and having to decide how seriously to take the frightening air raid sirens warning of a missile headed in their direction. Do they take cover in the few seconds they have before impact, pray fervently the missile doesn’t have their name on it and/or try to ignore the piercing unnatural noises and try to go on with whatever activity they were in the middle of?

In the next stage (if it actually gets that far) there will be a ground invasion. How far we go, how much damage to the terrorists we do and how many of our soldiers die will be a function in part of the backbone and determination of our political leaders and the ever present concern as to world opinion.

In between the air sirens, following news as to where missiles landed, worrying obsessively about our brothers, sisters, fathers, sons, daughters, cousins, neighbors, students and friends in the army and in the target zones, we have a life to live. Businesses and organizations to run. Families to feed.

A friend on Facebook noted that today the Tel-Aviv Stock Exchange had positive gains on good volume. For those under the more frequent barrage of missiles, it is very difficult to function. But for the rest of the country, life goes on. For the soldiers and reservists on duty, now is a moment of truth. But for the millions of other Israelis, it’s another day on the job.

For those that are far, it can often seem confusing. Have the Tel-Aviv stock brokers no soul? How can they trade in the middle of a war, you might say. Is the car salesman, and for that matter the buyer, so heartless as to buy a new car while our brothers are risking their lives? Is the falafel vendor in Afula so insensitive as to peddle his food with a smile as children in Sderot cower at any loud noise?

The truth is that Israel has been at war with its neighbors since its very inception and our enemies have never stopped. We have tried very hard to live “normal” lives knowing very well that we are surrounded and have in our midst enemies whose only desire is to destroy us. There have merely been lulls in their efforts. That is all. Escalation should neither be a cause of panic or surprise.

I worry for every single resident of Israel. But then again, I’ve always worried. I read the reports with anguish and anxiety, but I continue with my day and the things I need to do. I pray fervently for divine protection and salvation, and think of ways to strengthen and support the country and those working towards its defense.

Years ago, during one of the many escalations in our ongoing war, a figure who I admired advised me to stay in Israel, against my parents wishes. He said that even during war, Israel is the safest place for a Jew. I still believe that today.

I pray that God will continue to protect us, that our forces will cause long-term, if not permanent damage to those that wish to kill us, and that the day will come soon where we no longer need to send our loved ones to battle.

About the Author
Ben-Tzion Spitz is the former Chief Rabbi of Uruguay. He is the author of six books of Biblical Fiction and hundreds of articles and stories dealing with biblical themes. He is the publisher of Torah.Works, a website dedicated to the exploration of classic Jewish texts, as well as TweetYomi, which publishes daily Torah tweets on Parsha, Mishna, Daf, Rambam, Halacha, Tanya and Emuna. Ben-Tzion is a graduate of Yeshiva University and received his Master’s in Mechanical Engineering from Columbia University.
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