This email was forwarded to me from one of my NY contacts. It was a Shabbos message from her Rabbi, who has a daughter in Israel. It makes heartfelt and worthwhile reading.
Two images resonate from this past Shabbat, which capture the overwhelming magnitude of the crisis which Israel, and all who advocate on her behalf, have confronted with resiliency in these past few days.
The first derives from the wellsprings of our faith through the words of the prophet Jeremiah that were recited in synagogues throughout the Jewish world this past Shabbat, July 15. Jeremiah lived in challenging and turbulent times well over two millennia ago and he witnessed the sounds of war and sights of battle. Jeremiah’s words reverberate with uncanny power:
“From the north, evil will pour upon the inhabitants of the Land (of Israel)… do not tremble before them… and they will do battle against you, but they will not prevail over you for I, the Lord, am with you, to safeguard and rescue you.”
Shortly after reciting these words while on a kibbutz just south of Tiberias, our daughter Yael and the USY youth group she was leading heard and saw the first barrage of missiles fired by
Hezbollah into nearby Tiberias. The staff and students of two youth groups totaling one hundred, were then very quickly evacuated further south to Bet Shean, where they spent the rest of Shabbat. Sakkanat ha-nefesh is to set aside the Shabbat for the greater good of protecting and safeguarding human life.
Yael and so many other members of our community and friends are currently in Israel and have been witness to the rapid escalation of violence perpetrated by Hezbollah, which has occupied southern Lebanon for decades and now holds two Israeli soldiers hostage — and all of Lebanon hostage in this explosive crisis. I have spoken to many of our families with loved ones in Israel and our prayers of strength are extended to all who are enduring the shelling and the violence which Hezbollah continues to pour upon Israel from the north.
Our sons and daughters on youth group programs and on Israel Birthright continue, for the most part, to remain in Israel and are enjouying themselves immensely, despite the crisis. Barring
any unexpected developments in the ever-changing dynamics of this crisis, nearly all of the tourists in Israel have remained and are modifying their itineraries to avoid the impacted areas of northern Israel.
What can we do individually and collectively to advocate on behalf of Israel and provide strength? I offer the following avenues for us to consider where we can make a difference each day.
1. Please carefully read the email that will follow this one — the address to the Knesset on Monday, July 17, 2006, by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. His words are majestic and passionate. They forcefully address the issues that are on our minds and help us convey to others why Israel is counterattacking the terrorism of Hezbolleh and why Israel has a moral imperative to act in this fashion.
2. Transcend partisan differences of Democrats and Republicans
and voice your support of the President in his resolute stand with Israel. The American Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, has firmly stated that Israel has the right to defend
itself from these attacks, and that Lebanon must exert her sovereignty over her own territory. Write to President Bush at [email protected] to voice your opinion or call the White
House Opinion Line at (202) 456-1111.
3. Be accurately informed about Israel and this crisis. The Jerusalem Post (http://www.jpost.com) updates its excellent website with accurate information throughout the day. Furthermore, if you watch CNN, I would highly advise that you balance their reporting by watching Fox News as well. Keep your eye on the insightful opinion pieces that often appear in the New York Times, the New York Sun, The Jewish Week and the Wall Street Journal, and always be aware of biased accounts that you may read or see. Write and respond often and be an advocate for Israel on a daily basis, especially when reading online blogs.
4. Give generously as an additional manifestation of your support for Israel (and the following suggestions are by no means an exhaustive list).
— Magen David Adom, Israel’s Red Cross (http://www.afmda.org), is stretched to the limits and beyond meeting the emergency services for all Israelis.
— UJA-Federation (http://www.ujc.org), which represents the Jewish communities of North America, has an Israel Crisis Fund.
— Our fellow Conservative congregations in Israel (www.masorti.org) have been severely impacted. Their response to the humanitarian crisis includes providing Spanish language
translations of Hebrew news reports to thousands of recent immigrants to Israel from Latin America, and setting up counseling centers and Rabbinic response networks throughout Israel.
— Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (http://www.israelsoldiers.org) provides necessary respite, rest and comfort to soldiers when they return from duty along with cultural, educational and
5. Call your friends and family in Israel. Our voices and our support will truly make a difference.
6. Pray for peace — and for our capacity to hope for the time when the world will see that Israel seeks to live in harmony with her neighbors and for the day when her neighbors will seek to
live with shalom with Israel. That is what faith is about — the faith of Jews, Muslims and Christians NOT to use religion as a tool to instigate terror and violence but as a source of hope in dark times, for a mending of souls and communities.This Shabbat and each Shabbat during this crisis we will offer special prayers for Israel at our Friday evening prayers at and at Shabbbat morning services. Participate and be inspired for yourself, for our community and for Israel.
I add one additional inspirational prayer, composed by an Israeli colleague, that we may recite daily:
May the One who blessed our ancestors, Abraham Isaac and Jacob, and Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, have compassion and mercy on the captives, Gilad Shavit, Ehud Goldwasser, and Eldad Regev.May the One who redeems prisoners, redeem them from the hands of their captives and take them from servitude to freedom, from darkness to light. May God heal them completely, healing of the body and healing of the soul, and strengthen their spirit. May it be the will of God that speedily the words of the verse shall come to pass, “And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon
their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing
shall flee away.”
May the One who blessed our ancestors, Abraham Isaac and Jacob, and Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, send complete healing to all the soldiers and citizens who were injured in the attacks of the brazen enemy from Lebanon, and send comfort to those who mourn.
May our God, and shield of salvation strengthen the hearts of all of our
people, the inhabitants of Israel, who are on the frontlines, and teach them to stand strong against the terror attacks from the air.
Please God, guide the hands of the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces as they enter into battle,so that they return the war to its gates, and return peace and tranquility to the land of Israel.
May it be Your will, our Sovereign in Heaven, that the words of Micah your prophet are speedily fulfilled in our day:
“And You shall judge between many peoples, and shall decide concerning far away strong nations; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, nor shall they learn war any more. But they shall sit every one under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid; for the word of the Lord has spoken it.” And it says in Torah “Therefore do not fear, O my servant Jacob, says the Lord; nor be dismayed, O Israel; for, behold, I will save you from afar, and your seed
from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and shall be quiet and at ease, and none shall make him afraid.” So may it be Your Divine Will that you shall bring strength to our people,
and with strength we will find shalom. AMEN
Rabbi Howard Buechler
Dix Hills Jewish Center
Dix Hills, N.Y.