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Reflections: Rockets Over Tel Aviv

05/12/2021 11:00:33 AM


Rabbi Joseph R. Black

Dear Friends,

Earlier today I was on a conference call sponsored by the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) featuring Isaac Herzog – JAFI Chair, and Ambassador Michael Oren. The purpose of the call was to provide some perspective on the rapidly unfolding situation in Israel. In the middle of the call, during Ambassador Oren’s remarks – delivered from his living room - we heard sirens and loud noises. Rockets were raining down on Tel Aviv.  We could see and hear the trails of both the Hamas rockets and the IDF’s Iron Dome missile defense system outside of his window.  The call ended abruptly so that participants could run to safety. As I write this letter, I am watching Israeli TV and seeing video of hundreds of rockets over Tel Aviv, Ashkelon and the middle of the country. I see images of buildings in flames and schools destroyed. Rockets also fell on Jerusalem.  I have been calling and texting with friends and family in Israel as they huddle in terror in their shelters and safe rooms – listening to the explosions all around them.

Israel is in crisis.

The current situation is the result of multiple factors including, but not limited to:

  • The fact that Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day – commemorating the day that East and West Jerusalem was united during the 6-day War in 1967) and the end of the Moslem holiday of Ramadan are taking place in very close proximity to one another. Historically, these two holidays often become flash points for conflict.
  • The tense situation around the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem.
  • The cancellation of elections for the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank by Mahmoud Abbas.
  • The failure of four successive Israeli Elections to create a successful governing coalition.
  • The governments of Iran and Turkey actively promoting violence – either directly or through their terror proxies.
  • The fact that radical extremists in both Israeli and Palestinian circles feel emboldened and called to act in a time of political transition and chaos.
  • And many more factors too complex to list in such a restricted space.

Regardless of the root causes of this most recent conflict, there are those who will attempt to simplify what is happening and use images of destruction and chaos to demonize the State of Israel. As a Zionist - as a person committed to an equitable and just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem - I know full well that there is enough blame to cast on all sides of the issue. Nonetheless, I stand firmly and forcibly with the Jewish State as it defends itself against terror. Tragically, Israel’s necessary response to this attack will undoubtedly result in casualties among the Palestinians. In Jewish tradition, we never rejoice in others’ suffering. But we also must affirm and support Israel’s right to self-determination and the protection of its citizens. What makes this situation all the more tragic is the fact that Hamas and its leadership use the suffering of its people as weapon in and of itself. The more images of carnage that it can project around the world, the more sympathy it draws to its cause of destroying the Jewish State.

Over the next few days and weeks, we will all see attempts to paint Israel as the aggressor. Enemies of Israel will attack not only Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself, but its very existence as a nation. Anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic propaganda relies on the fact that most people do not have the time, patience or interest in learning the facts about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. If you want to learn more about what is happening on the ground, here are a few sources to consult:

  1. Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union For Reform Judaism wrote the following article:
  2. The American Jewish Committee published a concise article about “Myths and Facts” regarding the current crisis:
  3. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) also has an important perspective.
  4. If you’d like to read the Israeli press, here are three English language sources with differing perspectives:
    1. Haaretz is a Left-leaning newspaper
    2. The Times of Israel is a fairly Centrist newspaper
    3. The Jerusalem Post leans to the Right

The Psalmist teaches us to “Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem.” Our hearts are one as we look towards Zion.

Rabbi Joseph R. Black

You can find this and other reflections from Rabbi Black on his blog.

Sun, September 26 2021 20 Tishrei 5782