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We must finish this war: An open letter to Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg

The rabbi of our synagogue leaving his home to join the reserves on Oct. 7th. Picture by Daiana Arias used with permission.

Politicians around the world, media personalities, and UN officials have been warning and even threatening Israel not to proceed with the war and particularly not to engage in Rafah – the last strong hold of Hamas on the border of Gaza with Egypt. They argue that the cost in civilian casualties would be too high.  They tell Israel to stop before the goals of the war are achieved, exactly when those goals are within reach.

I find these chattering advisors from afar annoying, but only after the head Masorti (conservative) Rabbi in the UK, Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, came out with a similar statement telling us to stop, did I feel the imperative to answer.

I belong to the oldest Masorti Synagogue in Israel, the Moriah Congregation in Haifa.  Our Rabbi was called up into the Reserves on Oct. 7th and served for more than three months, this while he has a pregnant wife and young son.  My own son was called up, as were all his friends and many more from our congregation  Therefore, it is with some authority that I can say to you, Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, it would have been better if you had remained silent and not advised us on how to conduct a just war against Hamas in Gaza.

We do not send our children to defend us unless we trust that they will not be called to target civilians or to commit immoral acts. They are our children, nobody cares more about how they behave than we do.  Nobody. We would be unable to live with ourselves if we did not know of the righteousness of our cause.  We do more than any country has ever done to protect enemy civilians and this is demonstrated by the remarkable statistics of combatants versus civilians.  (Don’t take Israeli’s word for this statistic, instead read the analysis by expert in urban warfare John Spencer.)

When we go into Rafah we will continue as we have done these five months.  Why do you think otherwise? We are morally obligated to rescue our hostages and destroy Hamas so that they can no longer endanger our people. We are morally obligated to finish the job now so our grandchildren are not forced to fight this war again because of our failure today. We are morally obligated to allow the displaced people here in Israel to return to their homes.  Our rabbi’s sister-in-law is one of those people.  Therefore, we will finish and achieve our just goals while following the laws of warfare and international humanitarian law as we have been doing since this war was forced upon us.

Rabbi Wittenberg, you said “I live in dread of the future hatred this is likely to engender” but as you know from our long history it is NOT our actions that engender our enemies’ hatred. “In every generation they raise up to destroy us”. Hamas and all the jihadists incite hatred of Israelis, Jews, Christians, and all those they call infidels without any connection to how any of us act.  It was not our actions that made the Germans hate us. It was not our actions that caused the brutal invasion of our country and massacre of our civilians on Oct 7th.

Only if we are allowed to win this war will there be a chance that the Palestinian Arabs will be deradicalized. For the sake of our people and also for the sake of the people in Gaza we will do what we must to win this war.

About the Author
I've lived in Israel for thirty plus years, I was a marine biologist and raised two sons here, but I didn't know the country. Then my husband and I, with our dog Taffy, hiked the 1000 kilometer Israel National Trail and a new path opened up in front of us and we discovered Israel. Now I am a Registered Israeli Tour Guide and it is the adventure of a life time to show others what I've found.
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