Welcome! I am Rabbi Jonathan Biatch of Madison, Wisconsin. "Pulpit Perspectives: My Observations as a Congregational Rabbi" is published every two weeks to reflect my observations about life in my congregation and with my members. The opinions expressed here are solely my own. I invite you to join the dialogue!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Israel is the Heart of our Matters

Extraordinary events sometimes lead us to extraordinary actions.

I usually do not read email or work on a computer on Shabbat, yet the attacks on Israel during this past week compel me to offer these thoughts even on this day of rest.

After a busy week of rabbinical work, I returned from the synagogue last evening to the startling news that Hamas missiles had reached the outskirts of Jerusalem.

We had, of course, been aware of the missiles that fell in the Tel-Aviv suburbs, and we offered prayers last evening for the peace of Israel.  Yet there seems to have been a terrible line that had been crossed when Hamas targeted a city that not only is the capital of Israel, but also one that contains the holy sites of the three Abrahamic religions.

This is a line that cannot be violated.

In Israel, the attack against Jerusalem occurred near the time of sundown on Friday (9 AM Madison time on Friday), but for some reason I missed this important news item during the course of the day.  My fellow band members and I led services last night oblivious of the day's events.

None of us, however, should remain oblivious to the potential for death, destruction, and desecration in Jerusalem.

If you are a consumer of the propaganda assault of Hamas, you will hear that the 'mighty Israeli military machine' is raining down destruction on the cities and towns of Gaza.  Such propaganda disregards the hundreds of missiles that Hamas has fired in the last few weeks on southern Israel, and now the cities of Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem.  Such propaganda also refuses to acknowledge the right of a sovereign nation to defend itself against aggression.

This is precisely the situation in Israel: Israel cannot permit any enemy to endanger its population, and I believe that we must support - to the highest degree possible - Israel's right to protect her citizenry from missiles that have become more accurate and lethal.

Make no mistake: The Hamas-controlled militia in Gaza are the aggressors, and the casualties in Gaza are the fault of the Palestinian leadership there.  They use civilian neighborhoods, including schools, to harbor their missile batteries, and must bear the full responsibility for civilian casualties.

Please know that these are not pro-war sentiments:  When, however, inhuman means are used to achieve questionable ends, they must be called out for what they are.

At the same time that I write about protecting Israeli citizens from offensive missile attacks, I also maintain that the search for peace must continue, and that a negotiated settlement is the preferred way to end the strife between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Regarding Jerusalem, our tradition reminds us to pray for the peace of that holy city.  Psalm 122 says this:

"I rejoiced with those who said to me, 'Let us go to the house of the Eternal.'  Our feet are standing in your gates, Jerusalem.  Jerusalem is built like a city that is closely compacted together.  That is where the tribes go up - the tribes of the Eternal — to praise the name of the Eternal according to the statute given to Israel.  There stand the thrones for judgment, the thrones of the house of David.  Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; may those who love you be secure.  May there be peace within your walls, and security within your citadels.  For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, “Peace be within you.”  For the sake of the house of the Eternal our God, I will seek your welfare.

So may it be for us.  May we keep each other safe, and may we always keep the thought of Jerusalem in the forefront of our thinking.

Shabbat Shalom!