By Rabbi Mordechai Levin
The following facts have long been unacceptable to many Arabs: that the land of Israel is the Jewish people’s ancestral homeland; it is where we had a Jewish kingdom for centuries; there is now a Jewish state within Israel, with Jerusalem as its capital.
Even after signing peace accords with Egypt and Jordan, Israel continues to face a combination of threats. To the east, Iran is advancing its nuclear project to produce nuclear weapons, and its president pledges continuously that Israel will be wiped out from the earth.
To the north, the Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah, which also promises to destroy Israel – and functions as an Iranian proxy – has re-armed since its war with Israel in 2006.
To the south, Israel faces the terrorist Hamas movement, which controls the Gaza Strip. Its stated goal is the elimination of the Jewish state and the establishment of an Islamic nation enveloping all of Israel – what they call Palestine.
Since 1947 when the United Nations agreed upon the creation of a Jewish and a Arab state, the Palestinians have been offered a nation state in a divided land. And they have turned the offer down, for it has always been more important to expel the Jews than to have a Palestinian state.
Hamas in the south – as well as Hezbollah in the north – deliberately locates its missile launchers, weapons factories, rockets and militants, in schools, mosques and densely populated areas. Hamas launches rockets from neighborhoods, schools, markets and mosques.
Its strategy of attacking Israeli civilians while using Palestinian civilians as human shields is responsible for the suffering in Gaza. A well-known cartoon describes an Israeli soldier and a Palestinian terrorist shooting at each other. The Israeli soldier is standing in front of a baby carriage protecting the baby. The terrorist is firing from behind a baby carriage, using the baby as a shield.
The residents of Israeli towns have only several seconds from rocket launch time to run into a shelter. Imagine spending every day over several years waiting for a loud siren signaling that you have 15 seconds to find shelter. What would we do? How would we go to work? How would we send our children to school?
Imagine what America’s reaction would be if Cuba spent years launching rockets at our southeastern coast. No sovereign state would resign itself to having its cities bombarded. That is the reason for the military campaign that Israel launched.
Israel had no choice but to launch a military attack against Hamas. Israel’s operations were defensive, a response to the thousands of rockets that have been fired from Gaza into Israel. It has gone to extreme lengths to avoid killing civilians, but the necessary military actions have sadly resulted in the deaths of innocents.
Every death is a tragedy, whether the victim is an Israeli or a Palestinian. You can’t be a decent human being without being affected. And what is so appalling is that nothing that has happened in Gaza needed to happen. All it took to avoid all the suffering was for Hamas to end firing rockets on Israeli civilians.
We hope a time will come when Israelis and Palestinians will live together in peace, no longer attacking one another, but helping one another to live in peace and security, in freedom and dignity.
Even during this time, we hope and pray for the day when Israelis and Palestinians will build a place of peace and progress in the Middle East. Israel, we stand with you!