This is an eerily familiar experience. From the distance, we anxiously monitor a conflict in which Israel defends herself from terror and attack. We’ve been here before, too many times.
I remember being a Middle School student whose Social Studies teacher let me and my friends listen to our transistor radios in 1967. I remember being in synagogue on Yom Kippur 1973 when my rabbi asked me to go into his office, turn on the radio, and report back to him what was happening. I remember every time since then and four years ago, when Israel last responded to missile attacks from Gaza.
We’ve been here before, too many times. Each memory comes with emotion, concern for family and friends, for the Jewish people and the Jewish state, and for the larger impact and devastation that inevitably harms innocent civilians throughout the region.
On Sunday, I met with our Religious School students to provide them a context for the news they are hearing about, or perhaps following with their families at home.
I asked them what they have heard and what they knew. We looked at a large map of the area and I gave them vocabulary to use when hearing about and discussing the conflict. We spoke of our personal and historical ties to Israel. I tried to answer their questions. They asked good questions about who and why and what does it mean.
With our students, I distinguished between Palestinians and Israelis who seek a peaceful co-existence and Hamas which thinks firing missiles into Israeli civilian centers is a strategy for securing their desired destiny.
In my view, Israel now exercises her right to defend her people and try to establish deterrence for the future. We recognize the great lengths Israel takes to avoid civilian casualties, fighting in defense only. We have compassion for all who suffer, and hold up peaceful co-existence as a most cherished goal for Israel, her neighbors, and all peoples. Why don’t we ever hear Hamas or their allies speak of this same peaceful co-existence with Israel?
We are clear. Those who declare, “There is no security for any Zionist or any single inch of Palestine and we plan more surprises,” are culpable for the devastation they bring on their own citizens. We ask of Hamas, how high must the cost of conflict be before the price of recognition and decency seems reasonable?
Yes, we are uneasy as we follow the news reports and genuinely sensitive to the consequences of war. All good people should be. But, we are also on the side of what we know to be right because we’ve been here before, too many times.