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Virtual Talmud

Last Thursday was the 17th of Tammuz, the day the walls of Jerusalem were breached 1936 years ago. These three weeks that lead up to Tisha B’Av (the 9th of Av) traditionally are observed as a time of semi-mourning, in memory of the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple and a reminder that not all is right in the world.

These three weeks also remind us that all is not right in the world in another way: rRockets are raining down on Israeli cities and the U.N. Security Council tries to condemn Israel rather than those responsible.

Israelis have suffered rocket attacks on cities in border areas recently and throughout its history. (Lest we forget, this is one of the reasons Israel took the Golan: because Syria regularly rained rockets upon Israel’s northern borders and Israeli children slept most nights in bomb shelters.) However, the last time rockets fell on major Israeli cities, we were in a war. We are again.

David Brooks, in his op-ed in this Sunday’s New York Times, writes that what makes this war different from other wars is that in other wars, the leaders were concerned about their own losses, here the radicals revel in civilian losses as part of their martyrology; in previous wars the radicals were on the fringe, and now they are in charge; in other wars, there was always the understanding that negotiations could help, here we know they don’t; in other wars there was the assumption that one could trade land for peace, but here the radicals seek Israel’s total destruction.

Brooks points out that these Hezbollah (and Hamas) attacks occurred on the heels of an Israeli pullout and in the midst of Israel planning to leave other significant amount of West Bank land. (Yes, it is true Israel is working unilaterally, but that is because they are lacking a reliable peace partner for the discussions. When dealing with Jordan or Egypt, Israel showed its willingness to work in partnership because there was a serious partner with whom to work.)

What are we to do?

Today, there is a rally in New York in support of Israel at the U.N. In New York this past Shabbat and a visitor at two different congregations, I was moved by all the prayers for Israel and for peace during both services. One of the synagogues announced the rally. The other did not. Was it an oversight I later asked? No, they were concerned that such rallies are dominated by the Israel-right-or-wrong right-wing, and while they supported Israel, they did not want to ally themselves with this message.

Our sages, trying to find a reason for the destruction of the Second Temple, teach that the destruction occurred because of senseless hatred between Jews.

There is a time for everything, a time for debate, and even for arguments. There is also a time for unity. These three weeks is just such a time.

We may hold different views about Israel and the choices its government makes. But we need to stand united against those who are declaring war against the Jewish State. They are clear and united about their ultimate goal: Israel’s destruction. We must be equally clear and united behind Israel’s defense.

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