The medieval poet Yehudah HaLevi writes: “L’bi b’mizrach v’anochi b’sof maarav—my heart is in the East and I am in the depths of the West.” His words were an expression of the unending Jewish attachment to Jerusalem and the land of Israel.
His poem captures my sentiments at this very moment. He speaks to my heart’s travails. My attachment is to the State of Israel. My worries are tied to my brothers and sisters in the land of Israel. I am nervous about Israel’s future. I mourn for those killed and pray for those injured—both Israelis and Palestinians.
My nephew, who is living and studying in northern Tel Aviv, spent the better part of the last two evenings in a bomb shelter. Countless friends, and acquaintances, have done the same. Others are deploying to this conflict’s front lines.
It is personal. I am a Jew. This is our Jewish home.
And now our home is being attacked. Our home is being torn apart. Its citizens are fighting against one another. The long simmering conflict between Arab and Jew, Israeli and Palestinian, has once again boiled over.
Many are the prognosticators who prophesy what will be. Many are the commentators who analyze why this is happening now.
It is because Israel, and in particular Bibi Netanyahu, cannot, even after four elections, form a stable governing coalition. Or it is because Mahmoud Abbas suspended Palestinian elections, preventing perhaps Hamas from taking over in the West Bank.
It is because Palestinians rioted at Al-Aqsa Mosque and threw stones, and even firecrackers, at Jewish worshippers celebrating Jerusalem Day. Or it is because Israeli police stormed the Temple Mount complex on one of the holiest days in the Muslim calendar.
It is because Israel nearly evicted Palestinians from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, reclaiming territory that was taken from Jews in the 1948 war. Or it is because Palestinians exaggerated the significance of this legal case and used it to gain the elusive moral upper hand.
Choose your facts. List your grievances.
It is because Palestinian textbooks are rife with antisemitism and anti-Israel incitement. Or it is because extremist right wing Israelis shout, “Death to Arabs.”
It is because Israel forged ahead with peace deals and normalized relations with the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Sudan and Bahrain, leaving the prospects for peace with the Palestinians feeling even more distant. Or it is because the Palestinian leadership continues to respond to peace negotiations, and promises of a Palestinian state with intransigence, obstinance and talk of regaining territories within Israel’s 1948 borders and repopulating them with Palestinian refugees and their descendants.
Lay claim to whom you wish to assign blame. Speak only of the facts that hue to your narratives. Shout from the ramparts your righteous indignations. Post pictures of that which affirms your worldview. Rank the injustices.
At this moment, my heart only knows this present truth.
These are the worst missile attacks Israel has ever suffered, most especially central Israel. Hamas’ terror rockets have become more accurate. Their sheer volume has overwhelmed Iron Dome. If Hezbollah also fires rockets from Lebanon, then I fear an even more protracted, and costly, war.
Arab Israelis and Jewish Israelis are rioting and attacking each other. Towns that once enjoyed Arab-Jewish coexistence, have even seen violence. Only weeks ago, Arabs and Jews appeared united, together fighting against their common enemy of the Coronavirus.
Again Halevi: “How can I taste what I eat and how can it be pleasing to me? How shall I render my vows and my obligations, while yet Zion lies beneath the fetters of Edom…”
I can only see the truth my heart now speaks.