The fearful asymmetry of Israeli restraint

Should Israel abandon its people they way Hamas does?

My daughter, who is 9 years old, with all the innocence that only a child can have, asked me a few days ago why Israel was created in this part of the world.

I thought of an old story about the angels complaining to G-d. G-d was giving away land to the different nations of the world, and the angels focused on Israel. “It’s not fair!” they told the King of the Universe, “why should the Jewish people get to have such a beautiful land?” “Don’t worry,” said G-d. “Wait until you see the neighbors I give them…!”.

However, nothing in the Middle East is as simple and structured as in this story. We know that the land of Israel has much more history than just simply geography.

My daughter’s innocence is no more than the expression of her fears. I grew up listening to my Bubbe Rebeca, may her memory be for a blessing, talk about her childhood during the First World War in Europe. I heard her talking about her fears, about the cold and the hunger. “I was a little bit older than what you are now,” she told me when I was 9 years old.

Today my daughter is the same age as I was when I heard my grandmother’s stories. And despite the fact that the differences between that European conflict and this one in the Middle East are huge, to a child’s soul, the nightmares are the same. The fear of dying transcends time and age. Today, the cold my grandmother talked about, transforms into sirens; her hunger is transformed into missiles. But the fear is the same.

The world asks Israel to be prudent. The world asks Israel to give Abu Mazen a chance and to strengthen the Palestinian Authority. In short, the world asks Israel to suffer in silence. To finish Hamas without shooting any bullets. To take action with solely a defensive tactic so that the conflict could be perfectly symmetrical.

And logically, as has happened in the past, Israeli reaction is not proportional. The Jewish State, one more time, is taking action in an asymmetric way.

For Israel’s response to have been perfectly symmetrical, thousands of rockets should have fallen on Gaza. For Israel’s response to have been perfectly symmetrical, nobody in Gaza should have felt safe, even at the  hospital. Israel knows that there – in the basements of the Shifa Hospital in Gaza – the heads of Hamas are hiding. Because they know that Israel, which always fights an “uneven” fight, would never fire at a hospital. Meanwhile, Hamas missiles keep landing a few yards away from the Ashkelon’s maternity ward.

Certainly the fight is very uneven.

To make it more symmetrical, Israel should abandon its people… the same way Hamas does.

Why should Israel sound the sirens before a missile strike to warn their own people? Israelis should be able to feel the rockets coming on their own!

Why should we build shelters in houses and by the streets? We should make them hide like rats in the sewers!

Why develop a complex system like the “Iron dome?” Make them catch the missiles with their bare hands!

The world should be more careful when they demand a “proportional” answer to the Hamas attacks.

Every country, through its foreign politics and their security forces, aspires to defend its own national interests. However, in Israel’s case, this premise is not only theoretical. The main national interest of Israelis that their own people should be able to sleep at night without fear of being perforated by a rainfall of Qassam rockets.

The battle in Israel is within its own borders. They don’t push a button in Tel Aviv and wait for a far-away explosion in some mountain in Afghanistan. The detonations are heard from our windows, a few yards away from our heads.

The Torah tells us that when we left Egypt, the people of Israel marched through the desert guided by a Pillar of Clouds. However, it was not only one cloud; the people of Israel marched through the desert accompanied by an “army” of clouds that surrounded them by each side.

According to the Talmud, these clouds had a dissuasive effect. But when Aaron died, the clouds left and Israel was left exposed to the enemy’s attack, as we see when we read the events through the book of Bamidbar (Numbers 20:29). “And the whole community saw that Aaron died,” and following that (Numbers 21:1) : “the Cananite ….who dwelt in the Negev ….engaged Israel in battle.”

It’s not a coincidence that Israel called this war “Pillar of Cloud”.

If the Arab League existed in biblical times they would have brought the case to the Security Council at the UN and would seat G-d in the prosecutor bench in the the International Court of Justice at The Hague.

Who had the idea of promoting such an uneven fight?

About the Author
Rabbi Gustavo Surazski is the Rabbi at Kehillat Netzach Israel, the Masorti (Conservative) congregation in Ashkelon.