Yoav Ende
Head of the Hannaton Educational Center
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An unfair attack on Rabbi Angela Buchdahl

We can't tolerate murderous terrorists or ignore our people's pain, but we can keep our hearts open to the suffering of others
Rabbi Angela Buchdahl speaks during a Hanukkah reception with US President Joe Biden in the East Room of the White House in Washington, December 11, 2023. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/ Pool via AP)
Rabbi Angela Buchdahl speaks during a Hanukkah reception with US President Joe Biden in the East Room of the White House in Washington, December 11, 2023. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/ Pool via AP)

I was disheartened to read the article in The Times of Israel where critics attacked Rabbi Angela Buchdahl’s talk at the WZO Jewish Peoplehood conference, and labeled her a traitor, no less. Interestingly, I was on the same panel and heard things differently, not the quoted words but the intention and context from which Rabbi Buchdahl spoke. Having no personal acquaintance with Rabbi Buchdahl, and despite residing in Israel rather than the US, I think that Rabbi Buchdahl has been treated unfairly and I say that as one who is intimately connected to the ongoing situation here on a day-to-day basis and as one whose students, as well as my own son, have been fighting in Gaza these last few months.

Before addressing the substance of her remarks, I must ask, have we not learned from past experiences? Are we so quick to turn a person who loves Israel into a traitor? Are we asking for ostracism or extremism? Such actions would not only weaken us but also lack ethical integrity. We can think differently, but let’s not forget that if we disagree, and I don’t believe we’ve reached that point yet, it should be a disagreement for the sake of heaven, a constructive disagreement aimed at fostering understanding rather than a divisive dispute that undermines us.

The images from Gaza are undeniably challenging to view. The reality is indeed harsh.

As citizens living in Israel, we struggle to grasp the extent of the devastation in Gaza and the daily images of war from there. Although we are still focused on our own pain of October 7th, we can still acknowledge the wider dimensions of suffering without diminishing our own. Keeping our hearts open to the suffering of our fellow citizens does not demand closing our hearts to the suffering of others.

Our leadership in Israel is perhaps the furthest thing from consensus within Israel, and it is worth discussing that as well. The prime minister who leads the government lacks majority support from the country, with many viewing him as incapable of effectively leading the country in the future.

Speaking about the images in Gaza and against the political leadership in Israel does not automatically make one a “hater of Israel.” We must remember what is similar. Unfortunately, the world has already forgotten that we have 134 captives in Gaza! Hamas refuses to release them and refuses to surrender. They could end it all in one day, but choose not to do it, so what choice do we have but to do everything to rescue them and end this terrible war?

We face challenges right now, but we must also take responsibility for “the day after.” In order to have a chance for a more peaceful future in the long term, it must be made clear to all of our neighbors that we cannot tolerate a murderous Islam that is bent on our destruction to take up residence again along our border. We are no longer prepared to accept that situation. Not if we have any hope for a peaceful co-existence.

This does not imply that there are no innocent civilians in Gaza or that the reality isn’t challenging. Moral considerations should undoubtedly be integrated into our approach to this conflict. They factor into our considerations and fighting — more significantly than people realize. Furthermore, it does not suggest that we shouldn’t raise disagreements and questions. On the contrary, they are essential for constructive dialogue and understanding.

We must recognize that it will not be easy, and I understand that abroad, in certain circles, the challenges may be more pronounced. They are exposed to different images, surrounded by individuals ranging from staunch supporters to severe critics, while we, in Israel, don’t directly experience this reality.

We are at the forefront here, you are at the forefront there, and we need to know that although there may be differences of opinion, both within Israel and beyond, we’re united in the belief that our captives must return home, and Hamas must no longer pose a threat from Gaza. We cannot afford to rest or ignore the situation until it explodes in our faces once again. In the meantime, there are numerous avenues for action, and raising questions is an acceptable one.

We have just celebrated Purim, but it’s not easy to celebrate Purim under these circumstances. Purim demands us to break barriers between a man and his friend, a man and the poor, and between a man and himself. Let us not build barriers between us but make sure to take them down.

About the Author
A Masorti rabbi, Rabbi Yoav Ende is the Executive Director of the Hannaton Educational Center, located on Kibbutz Hannaton in the Lower Galilee.
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