Dear friends, Shavuah Tov!
I am writing to you after being in Israel for two weeks, studying at the Hartman Institute, reconnecting with friends and colleagues, and making a life here in Jerusalem. The markets are full of people and fresh produce, and the streets are teeming with residents and visitors. Bike riders and strollers move along the Rakevet, the pedestrian path in the Baka neighborhood of West Jerusalem, conversations between friends and lovers are shared in whispers and laughter on the park benches. If there wasn't a constant barrage of rockets launched into the cities of Southern Israel, life here would be as normal and as hopeful as before. But there are rockets flying here, there is significant military presence near the border of Gaza. And there are casualties. There is death in Gaza, there is mortal fear in Sderot and Beer Sheva, and there is fear in the deep recesses of each resident of this small but mighty country. Whispers take a hushed tone, when the subject of war comes up.
The fear that is felt here is not simple. So far, there have been three sirens that sounded in the Jerusalem area. The reactions among colleagues and friends are disparate - there are those who run swiftly and quickly into the shelter of buildings and safe-rooms, and there are those that could not be disturbed by the siren's sounds. One colleague related that a woman on the street asked whether or not the siren was for another purpose, "Was the siren for Yom Hazikaron, Israeli memorial day?" The irony of her response is keenly felt. So we laugh, knowing that our fear is not so easy to discern. Personally, I felt this struggle as the first siren sounded. On the street, my body sought shelter, and my mind readily dismissed the notion I was in danger. We have protection, we have security. I prepared myself and asked, "How can I help someone in need?"
We are actively choosing to respond to the attacks in Gaza with physical and ideological deterrence. The Israeli army is ordered only to attack the terrorists and spare the innocent civilians in the midst of terrorism. The Israeli army seeks to protect all citizens, all those in whose trust they are responsible, and to restore the sense of security we all seek and pray for. All of us. For this we show our solidarity and support.
Therefore, we must act, not out of a place of threat or fear, but out of a place of confidence and solidarity. We can share our resources, by donating to the organizations that will ensure our leadership acts responsibly and swiftly to restore peace among all of us. We can stand in support with our families and friends all around the world, waving flags and chanting words of peace. These rallying cries must be heard. In the Psalms (120:7) we must not forget the words, "I am all peace; but when I speak, they are for war." And also we pray, in Psalm 122:6-9:
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; may they prosper that love thee.
Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces.
For my brethren and companions' sakes, I will now say: '
Peace be within thee.'
For the sake of the house of the LORD our God I will seek thy good.
There is no end to threat, to chaos that unsettles our sense of security and tranquility. It is the beauty and horror of our humanity. Our need for stability often overlooks this truth. Indeed, the chaos is sometimes unbearable. As we move toward action in response to this truth, we can, indeed we must, seek the good of the people of Israel, here and around the world. Let us seek the good, through the morass of evil the befalls our enemies in their midst, and let us seek the good of the One Who Blesses all of Creation and inspires us to be Blessings to all Creation as well.
Personally, my friends, I am safe, secure, concerned, but grateful. I appreciate your care and attention, and hope that my safe return is met with the return to safety and tranquility to all of Israel.
Rabbi Joshua Hoffman