Next time I plan to share a provocative piece by a leading Reform rabbi about the gravest threat to the future of liberal Judaism. It fits much of the Conservative movement as well. But for now, this has to be about Gaza.
On the bike ride, October 25 was a relatively peaceful day around the Gaza strip so we kept to the usual route heading south and adjacent to the strip. We had a rest stop overlooking the strip where a local woman, a Young Judea friend with the director of the Arava Institute, talked to us about life in the Israeli communities nearby. It was in ways the oddest talk. She had had a difficult night, spent mostly in shelters. Though she talked about friends on the other side who want peace and the need to find a new way of dealing with the challenges that Gaza represents, in the end it was clear that the trauma of life on the border far outweighed anything positive she might have wanted to share. She got stuck on her lists of fires started and rockets fired. We could only begin to understand what life must be like in the region, on both sides of the border.
The situation there escalated soon after, culminating in the 400 or so rockets fired at nearby Israeli communities in just one day early this week. A Druze soldier and a Palestinian living in Ashkelon (where we spent the first night) died, and there were many dozen injuries. The Israel Air Force bombed countless targets, each time giving any occupants (usually Hamas operatives) time to leave before they would be in danger, just like the Palestinians do when they send off their rockets. A ceasefire may be in place now, one which might just bring down the Netanyahu government. To some Israelis, the ceasefire was a sign of weakness and ultimately a surrender which will only serve to give Hamas a little breathing room to wreak worse havoc soon while emboldening enemies on other fronts. Maybe there is more positive than meets the eye to the conclusion of this round of fighting, I/we hope so.
I lived near Detroit for 11 years. Just imagine if the people who run Windsor Ontario, just across the Detroit river, began firing rockets into civilian areas of Detroit. Don’t we think there would be a strong reaction from the U.S. military and the rocket fire would cease? But we are dealing with the Middle East, and the geopolitics are so problematical. Israel has so little room to maneuver, and Hamas (and Iran) so little interest in peace. The people of Gaza are also victims, and as long as Hamas is in charge, they won’t have a voice and their future will remain dim.
Finally, I think back to where my connection with Israel began. My kibbutz in my first time in Israel, in 1964, Kibbutz Beeri, was very close to Gaza. Occasionally there would be fedayeen infiltrations in the region, usually single individuals, nothing like this. War was in the Sinai, or Lebanon or Syria, not a mile away. Those were the good old days, in retrospect. We hope some smart person figures out a way to at least bring them back.
Best wishes. Bill Rudolph