When will Jewish Lives Matter?

“I have been young, and now am old; Yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken.”
Psalm 37:25

On Friday August 1, 2014, a ceasefire was brokered during Operation Protective Edge between Israel and Hamas. It wasn’t the first of the war nor would it be the last. Hamas has a history of breaking these agreements. This particular one had been completed quickly by US Secretary of State John Kerry three weeks into the war. Obama had already expressed concerns about innocent Palestinian civilians dying, although he did concede that Israel had a right to defend herself.

Shortly after the ceasefire was affirmed, Hamas broke it.  Major Benaya Sarel, 26, and 1st Sgt. Liel Gidoni, 20, were killed in the explosion detonated by a Hamas suicide bomber. Hadar Goldin was reported kidnapped-later confirmed dead.

Breitbart News quoted an unnamed military source at the time who said, “Hamas used an UNRWA ambulance, a mosque, and the Islamic University to carry out the attack that killed the three IDF soldiers.” According to Hemi, Hadar’s twin brother, The terrorists dragged the body of my dead brother below ground into a tunnel from which he has never been redeemed…”

This despite the fact that Robert Serry, the U.N. official who had led efforts to broker the cease-fire, had urged the Palestinian side to reaffirm its commitment to the cease-fire in the wake of Goldin’s reported capture declaring that it was a serious violation of the humanitarian cease-fire; and after U.S. President Barack Obama had called the action “barbaric;” and  after U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon had called for Hadar Goldin’s immediate and unconditional release. The International Red Cross had also been contacted. John Kerry had condemned  the violation by Palestinian militants of the Gaza ceasefire as “outrageous” and had demanded that Hamas move to “immediately and unconditionally release” the missing Israeli soldier.

And one year later, Hadar’s body has still not been returned. Where is Obama, today?  And Kerry? Where are the UN and US officials? Where is the outrage? Where is the anger of the Israeli citizenry and the government regarding the taking of this boy?  Where are the demonstrations?

Israel has been engulfed in a week of mea culpa. A week of breast-beating over the death of an innocent young girl stabbed by a Religious Jew just released from jail and the barbaric attack against a Palestinian family-allegedly-and I repeat allegedly, by Jewish people. The fact that our people are so angered by these senseless killings speaks to our belief in the sanctity of all life. Yet, when it comes to Jewish lives, we seem to be more reticent.

How often do we see our people in the streets, moaning and groaning and rending their garments over the never-ending terrorist attacks against the Jews? Instead, we find ourselves berating our own people. Talking as if this kind of barbarity is common behaviour amongst the Jews. As if the Jews were terrorists equivalent in barbarity to the Palestinians. Dr. Martin Sherman  posted August 6 in the Jerusalem Post “The insanity – and there is no other word to describe the frenzy that seized the public debate over acts, however heinous, perpetrated by a handful of individuals (some yet unidentified) – on the outermost fringe of Israeli society, betrayed a dangerous and dysfunctional disability in the nation’s capacity to order its priorities.” 

The danger is if we don’t declare that Jewish lives matter, why should others? Not only do we cry more for others than our own, we question the right of the IDF to ensure that all captives are returned. That no soldier is left behind.  We question the Hannibal Directive which Haaretz journalist Anshel Pfeffer described as “the military ethos of never leaving wounded men on the battlefield, which became the spirit following the War of Independence, when hideously mutilated bodies of Israeli soldiers were recovered. So Hannibal has stayed a fact of military life and the directive activated more than once during this current campaign.”

Israel went all out to get Hadar back. And the result: Amnesty International, the London-based group accused Israeli of committing war crimes as they searched for Goldin’s body. Philip Luther, director of Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa program, pointed to what he called Israel’s “relentless and massive bombardment of residential areas of Rafah in order to foil the capture of Lt. Hadar Goldin, displaying a shocking disregard for civilian lives.”

Last week, one year after the taking of Hadar, his parents, Leah and Simcha spoke. Mr. Goldin said, “Israel should not be concerning itself with what price it will pay, but with what price Hamas will pay for not giving the bodies back.”

We have a Jewish state that must protect all Jewish lives. Yet, we still fall back into that old shtetl mindset. Don’t ruffle feathers. Keep a low profile. It too, shall pass. We have endured wandering and prosecution, persecution, inquisition and mass industrial murder. Within our own state we endure terrorism against our weakest and most precious-our children. What we seem to refuse to acknowledge, to accept, to internalize is that these attacks against the Jewish people and now the Jewish State will not pass.

Maimonides wrote in the Mishneh Torah “We have borne their humiliations and falsehoods and absurdities that are beyond the powers of humans to bear…we have trained ourselves young and old to endure this humiliation as Isaiah decreed “I offered my back to those who flogged it and my cheeks to those who tore out my hair’ and still we do not escape their constant outbursts. We prefer peace with them yet they prefer strife and war.”

It has been 800 years since Maimonides wrote these words. When will Jewish lives matter?

About the Author
Diane Weber Bederman is a multi-faith, hospital trained chaplain who lives in Ontario, Canada, just outside Toronto; She has a background in science and the humanities and writes about religion in the public square and mental illness on her blog: The Middle Ground:The Agora of the 21st Century. She is a regular contributor to Convivium: Faith in our Community. "
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