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Thought Of The Week

Shabbat Works
Grief and Honor

This coming Tuesday is the 9th of Av, a day commemorating the destruction of the First and Second Temples, observed by fasting for traditional Jews. The spiritual-psychological dimension has us looking within for our destructive patterns.

I find myself this morning, Friday August 1st, far away from that dimension. I shudder at the thought of an Israeli soldier held hostage by Hamas. I am stunned again at the shallowness and reactivity of a world that forms opinions based on photographs. I am saddened when I see that certain Facebook friends are no longer friends, or find that I have to remove them from my friend list. I cannot abide their smug and self-congratulatory opinions, fueled by emotionality and pity for Palestinians that arrive ultimately at hatred for Israel. I find myself deeply disappointed by some of my colleagues who, again during a time when Israel is at war and her sons at the front, fire unremitting verbal attacks on Israel.

I find myself deeply proud of the courage and determination of Israeli soldiers. I have been very moved by the reports of the morale of the soldiers and their families that my wife Meirav has given me during her month long stay. I have been watching Israeli television following the conflict in Gaza. There are interviews of bereaved families and wounded soldiers. They are one in holding that Hamas rocket fire at Israeli cities must stop, and it is the job of the Israel Defense Forces to do so. The soldiers and their families are committed to finishing this job.

Along with Israeli citizens, I shudder at the Hamas plans to use their tunnels this coming Rosh HaShanah, for the purpose of pouring Hamas fighters dressed in Israeli army uniforms into Israel. The carnage would have been unimaginable.

I mourn the death of Israeli soldiers. I mourn the deaths of innocent Palestinians, victims of the cynical military tactic of Hamas of making sure that civilians are in harms way. They know that the world press will gather like vultures around the death and destruction for photographs, which will then be used to arouse sympathy for the death that Hamas itself has engineered. One cannot photograph inner wickedness; only the consequences can be seen.

I find the use of the term "war crime" leveled at Israel to be abominable. It is a war crime to place civilians in harms way as Hamas is doing in Gaza, and to wantonly attack civilians as Hamas is doing with their barrages. Every rocket fired at Israel is a war crime. In the Geneva conventions, it is not a war crime when civilians are unavoidably killed in the pursuit of military objective. The conventions are clear on this. It is a war crime to place military targets among civilians and to use protected structures, such as schools, hospitals and so on for military purposes. Once they are put to military use, they are no longer protected by the Geneva conventions. The deaths of Palestinian civilians are horrid and distressing and are, indeed, due to crimes - war crimes committed by Hamas.

Much of the world has become blind and unhinged from any sort of rational truth.

I pray that by Shabbat morning I won't have reason to feel and think these things, but I am not optimistic.

In the meantime, let us gather together on Shabbat, to grieve and hope together. And hopefully find our way to some Torah study, in honor of those risking and giving their lives for Israel. Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Mordecai Finley


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