Sunday, January 4th, 2009
Few can watch the footage of Palestinian suffering in Gaza these days without feeling great sadness and empathy. But while some of us blame the cynicism and brutality of Hamas for purposely putting civilians in harm’s way as part of its strategy, appealing to the world to stop Israel in its tracks, others blame Israel without considering the context – or worse yet, are convinced that Israel is the aggressor here, not an independent state fighting terrorist thugs whose sole purpose is to destroy it, and Jews everywhere.
I am well aware and proud of so many friends and neighbors who not only follow the news from Israel closely now, during this time of crisis, but as a regular part of their day, every day of every year. These are the people who participate in grassroots efforts on behalf of the IDF soldiers now (from taking part in special prayer sessions at synagogues to sending them pizza). They are the folks who visit Israel regularly, give generously to charities in and on behalf of the Jewish State, and are the backbone of rallies on behalf of kidnapped soldiers or military campaigns.
On the other extreme are a vocal but relatively small portion of the community who oppose Israel’s campaign in Gaza, more concerned about unintended casualties among the Palestinian population than security for the citizens of Israel’s south who have been have been the target of thousands of rockets from Gaza over the last few years.
(And note to journalists and editors in the general press who often use the gentle word “lobbed” to describe those rockets coming out of Gaza: a “lobbed” rocket kills, just as ones that are “fired.”)
I suspect that the majority of American Jews are somewhere in the middle, supportive of Israel’s effort to protect its citizens, but uncomfortable with the IDF campaign, and the painful images they see of the results of the bombings. “Can’t you find another way?” they might be asking of Israel, as if the government and people had not endured years of attacks and provocation before striking back?
“We’d love to, but this is the Mideast, not the Midwest,” would come the reply.
The reality, of course, is that those of us who have been to Israel, seen its borders, met its people, and understood its challenges, are the most compassionate in times like this. My worry is that with an ongoing economic contraction at home, and fewer projects and programs to bring Israeli and American Jews closer together, the gap between us will only widen, and that level of compassion will decline.
I hope I’m wrong.