I’ve been getting lots of emails from both the right and left about how to handle the Gaza situation. I thought I would share with you Rabbi Ron Kronish’s letter from the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel’s monthly newsletter. I highlight this organization because it’s one that you may not know about, I used to work there, and it is working here on the ground in Israel on interfaith dialogue–a difficult task to accomplish in a climate of war. I always enjoy catching up with the work of this organization and hearing Ron’s eloquent words.
I write this monthly message to you in the midst of the war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas. This is a very delicate and dangerous time in Israel and the region.
On the one hand, the state of Israel needs to protect its citizens, as any other state would have the responsibility to do the same. When Hamas sends rockets and missiles to Israeli communities all over the southern part of the country, with almost one million Israeli citizens in danger, the leaders of the state cannot refrain forever from some defensive action.
On the other hand, one wonders if a military strike in Gaza will achieve its purpose, i.e. stopping the firing of missiles into Israel and crushing Hamas. Is the ground invasion really necessary? Will it solve the problem or just create new problems—more hatred and more terrorists? Is it possible to destroy a guerilla army with military might? Or, has this proved to be unsuccessful in so many places in the world that one wonders why it would succeed here?
Would not diplomacy be a better route? More effective? With less casualties on both sides? Have our leaders really exhausted every effort at diplomacy?
And what about the killing of so many innocent civilians? While Hamas targets innocent civilians all the time, Israel tries to target only Hamas people, but many innocent civilians are killed in the process. We are sorry for every innocent civilian that is killed. Both sides should be sorry about the killing of innocent civilians, which is the horrible result of so much war and violence.
This is a very difficult time for those of us involved in dialogue and reconciliation processes. Emotions are running very high. Both sides of the conflict see themselves as victims, and have very little empathy one for the other at this point in time. One of the immediate outcomes of such a nasty violent conflict is the end of empathy, which makes it very difficult for Palestinians and Jews to come together to encounter the divine image in each other and engage in sensitive and substantive dialogue.
Yet, when the violence subsides, as it will in the not-too-distant future, we will still be faced with the same dilemmas: how can we find a way to live together peacefully in this part of the world? Can dialogue offer some hope? Can we engage young people, women, educators and religious leaders in processes of dialogue, education, reconciliation and action that offer an alternative future to the one of continual confrontation and violence?
These are the critical questions and challenges that confront us as we begin a new year. Let us hope that we will find the spiritual and material resources to answer these questions in the affirmative in the year ahead.
Rabbi Dr. Ron Kronish