Maurice Ross

Wrestling with G-d

As we all started to settle back into a routine of normality during a ceasefire that has so far been observed by Hamas, the questions that always seem to arise after Israel has been to war are being discussed:

Did we win?

Have we achieved what we set out to achieve?

Did our Defence Forces have the resources they needed?

I am even sure that when the dust settles we will have an internal enquiry: were the right decisions made? Were the right actions taken? Did we lose too many soldiers? Was there a failure in our intelligence? And so on.

We Jews are a questioning people. It’s all part of our psyche and of our belief system.

Not only will we question our own actions, but we will also take to heart the accusations against us by those who have ulterior and darker motives in doing so.

Since Jacob fought with G-d we have always been questioners, wrestlers of our conscience and ethical soul searchers. We have been, and will continue to be constant wrestlers.

As a nation, Israel will now wrestle.

Instead of ignoring accusations levelled against us that: we are murderers; we committed war crimes; we starved the people of Gaza; we destroyed their homes; we fired at UN schools; and more – we will wrestle with the issues.

No other nation goes through such soul searching.

And I am proud to be part of such a nation. I welcome the wrestling of our conscience and the ethical soul search. It gives us answers that we need for ourselves. It reassures us that we endeavour to do the right thing and when we don’t we put things right. It is why we are a democracy preserving and honouring life for all our citizens.

As for what the rest of the world thinks, I no longer care what it thinks. And as for the United Nations it has lost all realms of moral ascendency, if ever it had any.

Indeed it has descended to such a level of immorality, that, if tomorrow, a resolution was brought to the UN Assembly by those who call for the destruction of Israel, that night was day and day was night, eighty per cent of the delegations would vote in favour, fifteen per cent would vote against and the remaining five per cent would abstain!

Israel, rightly so, would absent itself from the Assembly and give itself time to recover. After all we need all the energy we can muster to continue our internal wrestling.

But with all the wrestling that we do, we need to remember what this war was all about.

Let us not forget that three innocent teenagers were kidnapped and murdered;

Let us not forget that for years our southern communities were subjected to rockets fired at them on a daily basis;

Let us not forget the tunnels that were built from which terrorist attacks were going to be carried out on our civilians.

Let us not forget that we were fighting for our survival.

It is our enemy’s declared intention to wipe us off the face of the earth. They are not fighting to gain a state as the world wishes to see it. They could have had such a state many years ago but chose instead the path of terrorism. They fight to have our land as well.

To do so:

they hoarded rockets to fire at civilians – a war crime;

they built tunnels to carry out a terrorist attack – a war crime;

they used schools and hospitals as ammunition stores and launching pads – a war crime.

That is why we had to fight this war.

We did not fight this war to reoccupy Gaza. We did not fight this war in order to raze Gaza. We did not fight this war to kill the people of Gaza.

If we had fought the war for those purposes we had the power to achieve those results. Even I, as a non-military person can think and write of the methods. But I will not write them here, because the very thought that I can think of them frightens me. In fact the very thought of them offends my humanity as it offends the humanity of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF). The IDF did not fight the war by those methods.

The Israel Defence Forces are the most humane in the world. As an entity it goes out of its way to avoid civilian casualties to the detriment at times of its own soldiers and its own objectives.

More and more is now becoming known of how Hamas fights its dirty war.

We now know that the rockets that fell on the UNWRA schools on the first two occasions were Hamas rockets and that on the third occasion the rocket did not fall on the school, but away from it, at terrorists launching a rocket. The scenes in the school were set up, in what is now coming to be known as “PALLYWOOD”.

Take a look at the two maps of Gaza that are now circulating. The first shows the areas in which it was known that rockets were stored and from where those rockets were launched. The second shows the areas of destruction by Israel. The areas coincide. Israel does not attack non-military targets.

The proof is coming out even if the world does not wish to see it.

Sadly, very, very sadly, in war there are civilian casualties. We in Israel know only too well about such casualties. We have suffered many wars and terrorist attacks and have buried too many not to understand and feel the pain of the death of innocents.

We feel for the innocents in Gaza and we wish to live with them in peace, side by side. We reach out to them to have equal desires.

Like with all other wars that we have fought, we hope for better things to come out of it.

Gaza now has the opportunity to once again be rebuilt. People of Gaza, please see that your enemies are not us here in Israel. Your enemies are those who use you as bait in a game of such evilness that only you can win if you use all your energy to do so.

There comes a time when you must rise up against that evil and against all the odds reach out to those who will help you.

Look over the border at what we have achieved here in Israel. We did not achieve it through hatred. We achieved it by the wrestling that we do with ourselves and coming out all the stronger for it.

The parable of Jacob wrestling with G-d is that Jacob was really questioning his own conscience and actions. The fact that he won against G-d not only validated his conscience and actions but also his moral thinking and ethical behaviour.

When Jacob overpowered G-d, we are told he asked for a blessing. G-d said “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with G-d and with humans and have overcome.”

We are then told that Jacob then went on to face his estranged brother Esau and instead of meeting each other with vengeance and aggression they hugged each other and cried.

We, the Jewish citizens of Israel are the children of Jacob. You the people of Gaza, are the children of Esau.

We may not yet be able to meet each other and hug and cry. But let us at least make a promise to the other. You promise us to overthrow Hamas and its cronies and we will promise not to attack you when the rockets and terrorist actions stop.

We in Israel have always aspired to the prophetic vision to turn our swords into ploughshares. Our conscience is clear to be able to do so. We hope that you can do the same.

About the Author
Maurice Ross was born in Ireland in 1955. Made Aliyah in 2007, having lived in London, UK since 1965. Former Jewish community Professional and Educator.