Home November 2011 Israel Needs Us and She Needs Us Now!

Israel Needs Us and She Needs Us Now!

I will not begin my talk today with a relevant story or funny quip. I am here
to speak about life and death. I am here to speak about the year 2011–5771 as it
may be the most important year in modern history. The events of this year have
changed and will continue to change the face of the earth. I am here to speak in the
spirit of the prophet Isaiah, who said, “For Zion’s sake I shall not be silent, and for
Jerusalem’s sake I shall not rest, until her righteousness go forth as brightness and
her salvation as a flaming torch (Isaiah 62:1).” My friends, Israel is in need and she
needs us now.
On Yom Kippur we speak of two kinds of life. We speak of our physical life
and how fleeting it is. And we also speak of our spiritual life and how ephemeral
it can be. Our spirit shines best when it is encased within a physical body so that it
can fully express the Divine image in which it was created. It is true of the Jewish
people too. Our heritage is best expressed and more fully alive when there is a body
able to convey it. This is the essence of the State of Israel—the Jewish Homeland.
To be sure the Jewish spark is found in every Jewish person and family. In Israel,
our Jewish soul is also found in the land itself. The very earth speaks our values. Its
borders serve as a safe haven for Jews all over the world. The State is the sanctuary
of our history and the cathedral of our greatest hopes. Judaism is the soul and Israel
is the body. One without the other makes it more difficult for either to survive.
Let’s remember that Israel rose out of the ashes of the Holocaust. And so we
must remain ever cognizant that just less than seventy years ago the forces of evil
tried to wipe out our Jewish soul by murdering our individual bodies. One third of
the Jewish people were summarily killed—no longer to exist on the face of the earth.
Just this last century our very existence as a people was threatened. Friends, simply
put—if it could happen in the 20th Century, it could happen in the 21st Century. For
when there are fanatical, unstable rulers in the world, let alone whole populations
of people, who state day after day in their speeches, in their classrooms, in their
music, in their homes that they want Israel wiped off the face of the earth—we ought
to take those words seriously. We ought to see it for the threat it is and it is real.
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It is not good enough to just say, “Oh, those crazies
are at it again.” It is not good enough to say, “Well,
I am sure it will work out.” We are talking about the
very existence of Judaism’s body and without our
body, the soul will have a tough time surviving. It is
life or death. It does not get more serious than this.
There is nothing more important to talk about on Yom
Kippur than about our life and death—both spiritually
and physically, both individual and collectively. Our
Jewish soul as embodied in the Promised Land of Israel
is at risk today.
The year 2011 gave birth to what is known as the
“Arab Spring.” This term is a western media imposition
indicating the hope that the “Spring” would blossom into
fruitful governments that would function and make the
world shine with beauty, just as the spring flowers do.
Well, I suppose, the proof will be in the pudding. I am
worried that the Spring will produce weeds that need
to be pulled instead of flowers that need to be watered.
The jury is still out, but I am very worried. Secretary
of State, Hilary Clinton said on July 1th of this year,
“There are vicious autocrats clinging to power [in the
Middle East]. There are interest groups pretending to
support democracy, and only waiting until they can
assume power. (Reuters-July 1, 2011)” This must be
the Jewish people’s greatest concern for the future of
our religion and the safety of our spiritual homeland.
We existed for 2000 years without a homeland and we
paid a dear price for not having a homeland when we
needed it—we ought to ensure that it never happens
again.
Tunisia, Algeria, Lebanon, Jordan, Sudan, Oman,
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen, Iraq, Bahrain, Libya,
Kuwait, Morocco, and Syria—all have experienced
some form of unrest within their countries during this
past year. To go through each of them would take
much longer than I have, but I would like to highlight
Israel’s direct neighbors and their existential threat to
Israel, and therefore, to us as Jewish families, and even
more, world citizens.
Egypt. On the face of it, to oust a dictator who
ruled for more than thirty years ought to be a good
thing, for we believe that democracy and freedom are
the way to living the most meaningful and productive
life. And President Mubarak was not inclined to make
that happen for the Egyptians. But in terms of Israel’s
security, it has been said that the devil you know is
better than the devil you don’t. We, as Jews, must
give freedom a chance. We must support it with all
our being. But it is darn scary. It is scary when the
Israeli embassy is attacked in Cairo and the Egyptian
police stood by for five hours until the President of the
United States needed to call their leaders to demand
their government take action. Such an incident does
not bode well for Israel’s security. It does not bode
well when Egypt opens up the border with Gaza so that
weapons can easily be put into the hands of terrorists.
It doesn’t bode well when the very treaty that has kept
Israel and Egypt’s peace intact is called into question.
The Muslim Brotherhood, the party most likely to
take power in Egypt after their elections “opposes
Israel’s existence as a matter of religious doctrine. Top
Muslim Brotherhood officials have repeatedly called
for the abrogation of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty.
(AIPAC High Holy Day Resource Guide–p. 9)” Is this
a spring or a winter in Egypt?
Let’s look at Jordan. Basically a friendly nation
to Israel since peace was declared almost twenty years
ago. At the first sign of unrest however, King Abdullah
fired his Prime Minister and his entire cabinet. Jordan
is a powder keg ready to implode. The King holds on
tenuously to his power and fears he may be the next
leader to be overthrown. To have a jittery neighbor to
the east is never good. Is this a spring or a winter in
Jordon?
Syria. Surprisingly the border between Israel and
Syria has been relatively quiet over the past number
of years. Only when people started to rebel this year,
did President Assad, the dictator, begin to provoke
Israel with incursions and incitement on the border,
not to mention what he did and continues to do to his
own people. He murdered protesters by the hundreds.
His own people—he killed them. Just like that!
International estimates have the death toll in Syria at
as much as 4300 people, not to mention the close to
10,000 people he imprisoned… his own citizens. If he
is willing to do this to his own people, what might be
of Israel? Is this a spring or a dark winter in Syria?
Lebanon. Basically, we can refer to Lebanon as
little Iran. I almost need not say more. Hezbollah, the
terrorist organization, which is now the leading party
in Lebanon, is fully funded by Iran. But more than
Lebanon itself, her existence in the world community
baffles me to say the least and scares the hell out of
me the most. To quote Prime Minster Netanyahu’s
speech at the United Nations last month, he puts it this
way: “Gadhafi’s Libya chaired the U.N. Commission
on Human Rights; Saddam’s Iraq headed the U.N.
Committee on Disarmament. You might say: That’s the
past. Well, here’s what’s happening now—right now,
today, Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon now presides
over the U.N. Security Council. This means, in effect,
that a terror organization presides over the body
entrusted with guaranteeing the world’s security.” He
concludes, “You couldn’t make this stuff up. (un.org)”
The world body known as the United Nations gives
Lebanon its most prized position and at the same time
continually condemns Israel. Spring or winter?
I have not even addressed the very serious
provocations from Turkey towards war with Israel or
greatest threat of them all, Iran. There is not enough
time to speak to each of these, but suffice to say, my
friends, Israel needs us and she needs us now. Never
has there been a more perilous time for Israel. From
the events of this spring, the potential for peace and
justice is great, but the reality of what the winter will
be is also cause for great concern. 2011–5771 is a
make or break year for the world.
The Rambam, the foremost Jewish commentator,
wrote “…one must view oneself throughout the year
as having an equal number of merits and sins which
influences the world; half meritorious, and the other half
unworthy because of sinful actions. If one committed
a sin, one has pushed himself and the entire world to
the side of debt, and causes them destruction; if one
performed one mitzvah, one good deed, he pushed
both himself and the entire world to the side of merit,
and caused for them deliverance and salvation. (The
Laws of Repentance)”
The Rambam is saying that everything we do
matters. Every action taken by an individual, a country
and region might be towards the success and growth of
the world or the opposite, the failure and diminution
of the world. One step either way changes the course
of history. Our world literally stands in the balance in
2011. The choices our Arab brothers and sisters make
now will have an impact for centuries to come. The
choice they make between freedom and oppression
will write the history books.
Of course, the most vexing and seemingly
intractable issue is that of the Palestinians and Israelis
and how co-existence will be possible. Where to
begin—let’s begin with the facts, for I hope not to
just share my thoughts with you today but also to give
you facts so that you will be knowledgeable about the
Middle East.
Everyone agrees that the Two State Solution is the
best outcome to achieve stability in the region. This is
not a new idea. In fact, the Two State Solution between
Jews and Arabs was introduced in 1947 and was
known in the UN as the Partition Plan. This plan would
separate the land into two areas; a Jewish state and an
Arab State and Jerusalem would be an international
city shared by both, administered by a special body.
The Jews, represented by the Jewish Agency, although
not thrilled with plan, accepted it completely and
wholeheartedly. However, the plan was reject by the
leaders of the Arab community in the land and the
Arab League throughout the region. Of those voting
in the UN in 1947, thirteen countries opposed the
plan. They were: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Cuba, Greece,
India, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria,
Turkey and Yemen. The Two State Solution has been
proffered for sixty four years, time and again. Israel
wants peace. The proof is in the pudding since the
time of its establishment. Please, if you remember
anything from today’s talk, remember that – the Two
State Solution has been around a long time, and Israel
supported it from the very beginning and the Arabs did
not. Not much seems to have changed in six and half
decades.
The Palestinians desire their own state, but what
do they do once they get it? In 2005, Israel completely
withdrew from the Gaza strip and said to the Palestinians,
“Please, be my guest…have your own country.” By the
way, Israel wanted this so much, she forcible removed
her citizens from their homes in Gaza—which is
another point I will address in a moment, but suffice
to say, Israel will do what she needs to do to affect
peace and in so doing the Palestinians have the right
to self determination. What did they choose to do with
that right when the opportunity came? They elected
Hamas to be their government. Hamas being one of
the most brutal and vicious terrorist organization in
the world—perhaps more vicious than Al Queda, but I
don’t know how to compare evil to evil. They decided
that instead of spending their time building their
infrastructure, they would spend their time and money
to continually shoot bombs from the border of Gaza to
the southwest part of the country—into the Israeli cities
of Sedrot and Ashkolon. Not just a few dozen bombs,
but thousands over the course of the last years. I have
been to those cities myself. I saw it with my own eyes.
Children in these cities are not allowed to play outside
and everything has a steal roof, even walk-ways are
covered for fear of kasam rockets hitting. If receiving
international recognition as a country is at the cost of
the murder of innocent civilians, we must pause, take
note, read recent history and determine the best plan of
action. Will the West Bank be Gaza number two? This
is the definition of being between a rock and a hard
place. Israel needs us and she needs us now!
I don’t think I have mentioned yet that Israel is the
only real democracy in that region of the world, save
maybe today in Iraq—although that sort of remains
to be seen. In Israel, there are several seats in the
legislature held by Israeli Arab citizens. I know of no
Arab nation that gives Jews any rights, let alone the
right to govern the people? All citizens of Israel are
allowed to vote. For example, women are free and
full citizens of the State of Israel. In several Arab
lands, this is not the case. It is hard to believe, but
it is true. There is no disputing that there is no freer
or more democratic nation in the Middle East and no
Middle Eastern country more conscience of civil and
humanitarian rights than Israel.
This being said, Israel is still a country and every
country has its faults, its unpopular or flawed policies,
its intransigent leaders. Each country too has blots
on it otherwise positive ledger. Israel is no exception
to any of these. The settlement policy in the West
Bank, and the continued building of new settlements,
is the most troubling of policies as such. This policy
shortens the arm holding the olive branch. It does us no
good. But make no mistake about it—there is no moral
equivalency, none whatsoever, between the building of
buildings, however misguided that policy might be,
and suicide bombers, and of katusha or kasam rockets,
of bus bombs killing dozens of innocents—there is
no justification in the world for such barbaric acts
and anyone who tells you so, or even intimates it, is
delusional themselves.
President Abbas, the man in charge of the West
Bank, not Gaza, formally requested the UN recognize
the Palestinians as a sovereign state. Before he did this,
he signed a reconciliation agreement with Hamas, who
is in charge of Gaza. “Hamas continues to call for the
destruction of Israel. Supporting statehood without any
change in Hamas would serve as a de facto international
recognition of Hamas’ legitimacy. Hamas, by the way,
continues to be a recognized terrorist organization,
outlawed in numerous states throughout the world,
including the UK and US. (Seeking Peace–Ministry
of Foreign Affairs–State of Israel)” How, literally, in
God’s name can they be trusted?
Of course, Israel wants peace—the proof is in
the pudding. In the late seventies, Israel gave up the
Sinai to Egypt, its historic enemy from the time of the
Bible. This is a portion of land larger than Israel’s
current existence, serving as a security buffer, but it
was the right thing to do, because Israel believes in
peace. Israel made peace with Jordon, an arch rival for
decades upon decades—why, because it was the right
thing to do, because Israel believes in peace. But in
both these situation, the leaders of these Arab nations
came to Israel and said, “We believe you have a right
to exist and we expect from you peace and we will give
you peace.” Israel said, “Let’s sign on the dotted line
and make it happen.”
The Torah commands us
“If you come to a city to engage in war, you
must first offer peace. (Deuteronomy 20:10)” Our
religion demands of us that we be warriors for
peace, that we go to all ends to achieve it. But our
tradition also deals in reality and makes it quite
clear that we must defend against the forces of
evil when they threaten us. Israel wants peace,
but she is rightly concerned with her safety, with
her very existence. If you were the Prime Minister
of Israel—what would you do? Would you role
the dice and give the other side a chance to do
right, given that every opportunity they have had
to make peace, they have squandered, eschewed,
disregarded and rejected it? Or would you stay
stuck in an untenable situation whose outcome is
most certain to end in war? We have come to a
city—we have offered peace—what must we do
now?
I am glad I am not the Prime Minister, but
I know Israel needs us and she needs us now.
Here is what we can do. We can support Israel
and we can go to Israel. We can support Israel
in a myriad of ways. This year, our Temple
will be travelling to the AIPAC conference as
a group. AIPAC, The American Israel Public
Affairs Committee, is the strongest Jewish lobby
in America focussed on encouraging the United
States of America government to continue to
support the democracy called Israel. I have been
several times the National Policy Conference of
AIPAC, where I have heard Presidents Clinton,
Bush and Obama speak and met Senators and
Representatives too numerous to name. More
than half of all of Congress comes to dinner at
the banquet and they sit at our tables inviting
our comments and insight. It is a conference that
informs and even more, makes you feel as if you
are having an impact. It makes you feel this way,
because it is so. Join me in Washington DC on
March 4-6 to ensure the strong bond between
Israel and the United States continues.
In June of next year we will be taking a family
oriented trip to Israel. I am not much of a “should
rabbi,” telling you “you should do this or you
should do that”…but the one “should” I feel
strongly about is that every Jew should, if they
are at all able, travel to Israel. The trip will change
your Jewish soul that no amount of sermons,
study, singing, or prayer can do. It is no mistake
that all the sociological studies suggest teens that
travel to Israel on a teen trip have their Jewish
identity solidified in ways that no other piece of
education can match. Notwithstanding all the
doom and gloom I spoke of—when you are in
Israel, there is no safer feeling in the world. I can’t
really explain it except to say that when you are
in the Jewish homeland, you are indeed at home.
You will walk among your ancestors. You will
pray at the western wall of the ancient Temple.
You will climb a mountain two thousand years
old. You will see the soul of the Jewish people
found in its most important body—the State of
Israel. There is no greater mitzvah at this time of
history than to travel to Israel. Nothing is more
important today. Come to AIPAC with me. Come
to Israel with me for Israel needs us and she needs
us now.
2011–5771—a historic year. Today, we hope
to be written into the Book of Life. What will be
written of this year about our world? What will be
its history? We can help write part of the story by
our undying and unqualified support for Israel,
our homeland. As family, we stand together in
the best of times and in the most trying of times.
We need not agree with all her policies, but we
must understand her status among the nations
as being extraordinary, as being exemplary
and as being a light unto the nations. We must
understand that Israel is in us and we are in Israel
and that never again will the world be without a
Jewish state. At the end of services this evening,
just as we do at Passover, we say, B’shanah Habah
b’Yershalyim—Next Year in Jerusalem. This
will be literally true as our Congregation will be
present in Israel next year. But whether or not
you join me in Washington DC or in Israel, I want
Jerusalem to be part of your soul, part of your
heart, part of your irreducible essence. I want
you to understand the depths of her struggles
and even more, how important her presence is
on this earth. For without the body of Israel, the
Jewish soul, the Jewish people can barely survive.
Friends, Israel needs us and she needs us now!
Israel needs us and she needs us now!

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