These are terrible times in Israel. Many people are simply afraid each time they have to leave their homes and worry constantly for their children. Our thoughts and prayers are with our family and friends and all the people of Israel. Our sympathies are with all the bereaved and the wounded and their families. We stand in solidarity with all people against terror and violence.
We pray that anger and frustration may be replaced by a politics founded on hope, understanding, peace and security for all the citizens of the country, so that no one will have to live in fear, pain or hopelessness any more.
I’ve received many moving and courageous emails from Israel. One of the most striking came from Devora Greenberg of Hanaton, the Masorti kibbutz in northern Israel:
As the wave of terror continues to engulf the streets of Jerusalem and other cities and communities across the country, our minds are filled with thoughts and prayers for a more peaceful time. Images that we saw through social media shocked us to the core and some footage was eerily reminiscent of memories from the Second Intifada. One of the ways for us to deal with these days of tension, unrest and fear is to respond with acts of love and kindness. In order to counter hate and bloodshed we spread comfort and a sense of gratitude.
She then described how Noam youth together with members of the kibbutz took part in a demonstration at the Zarzir Bedouin village, Jews and Muslims calling together “we refuse to be enemies”.
The Parents Forum PCFF for Israelis and Palestinians who’ve lost loved ones in the conflict are resuming their regular public events so as ‘to be a resource for reconciliation and dialogue and to change minds, one heart at a time, inspiring others to support peace and reconciliation instead of revenge’.
Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann, active at the forefront of conflict reconciliation through Rabbis for Human Rights, wrote with courageous dignity that ‘We too, even when faced with a wave of murderous violence which might, God forbid, lead us to devalue the lives of others in our fear, must remember that the Torah teaches us that all life is precious, without distinction.’
At a time when it is easier simply to be angry, afraid or hopeless, these remarkable people present examples of fortitude and hope. If they can conduct themselves in this manner while while living in the midst of the conflict, then we in the diasporas, whether Jews or Muslims, must do no less. We must avoid passing messages through social media which exacerbate prejudice, falsely accuse and increase hate.
Instead we should reach out to family, friends and colleagues in Israel and beyond, help those protecting lives and treating all the wounded, support those trying to build bridges or keep them open, and work for peace and understanding. We should increase our efforts to create connections across our faiths within our local communities.
I asked an activist friend what we should do from here. ‘Pray’, he replied. We pray that, like God who as we read this week in the Torah decides never again to send a flood, we draw back from the brink of destruction and find a way forward defined by respect and mercy for all life.
Here are two prayers to hold in mind:
- May God protect your going out and your coming home, now and for evermore. Psalm 121
- Our brothers and sisters, the whole house of Israel, and all people whoever and wherever you are, in distress or captivity, on land or sea, may the All-Present God have mercy on you and lead you from trouble to deliverance, from darkness to light and from oppression to freedom, speedily, soon, now.