Minister’s forum: Israel and war |

Minister’s forum: Israel and war

Jonathan Freirich

As the strife in the Middle East continues to escalate throughout this week (I write this on Wednesday, July 19), casualties continue to mount on both sides of two of Israel’s borders, within Israel, in Lebanon, and in Gaza, I wish to offer a little reflection on this terrible situation.

Briefly, here is some background on this topic. Six years ago Israel pulled out of Southern Lebanon, a security buffer that the Israelis had held for 15 years to protect its northern cities and towns. This brought Israel into compliance with the UN sanctioned borders of Lebanon, and placed upon the Lebanese the burden of patrolling and protecting their own border. Israel made it very clear that any incursion across that border would be viewed as an act of war by the sovereign state of Lebanon. In the wake of the pullout, the Lebanese government exerted no effort to control that border, leaving it instead under the control of Hezbollah, by any account a Muslim extremist militia, who also now hold seats in the Lebanese cabinet and parliament.

After contentious internal debate, Israelis withdrew from the Gaza strip last summer, uprooting its some 9,000 settlers there, and leaving the Palestinian Authority to govern there. Hamas, another extremist organization, like Hezbollah supported by outsiders like Syria and Iran, received a majority of votes by the Palestinians despite their loyalty to their stance that Israel must be destroyed. Not unlike Lebanon, the Israelis understood the pull-out from Gaza to indicate that any cross-border troubles there would be viewed as an act of war by the Palestinian Authority.

After taking Israeli soldiers hostage across both of these borders, as well as a continued barrage of rocket attacks coming out of Gaza over the last year, and South Lebanon starting last week, the Israelis have declared war in return – as promised when their borders have been repeatedly violated.

The Israelis are angry – whether they are from the left, right, or center – and they feel that they have worked very hard to move toward peace and the creation of homes for as many people as possible in their region. The response to their efforts has always been more aggression. While Israel endeavors to warn the Lebanese where they will strike ahead of time, and often succeeds in only striking their assigned targets, Hezbollah rains unguided missiles down upon the civilian population of Northern Israel, killing Israeli Jews and Arabs alike. There are awful casualties on both sides.

Can violence in response to violence solve this problem? The clear answer to that is no. But we must work to understand these problems before we react to them. We must be careful to be well informed before coming to any conclusions. Let’s try to choose more sources over less, and trust none implicitly – our news media is out to scare us because they know we watch more when we are frightened. If you wish to get news from the source, look at the Web – is one of the best Israeli newspapers, and it is available entirely in English. If you feel you need to see some news from an Arab perspective, then try out: – remembering always that both of these sources will be slanted to support certain perspectives.

Let us talk to each other, and inform each other. Let us work together so that we can bring peace between peoples here, and hopefully, influence others in the world to do the same.

– Jonathan Freirich is rabbi of Temple Bat Yam in South Lake Tahoe and the Valley Region Jewish Community.

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