Tuesday, July 22, 2014 3:30 pm ·  0 Comments
By Stephen Wise
As the hostilities continue in Israel and the Gaza Strip, now for a third week, its quite painful to watch and hear about war and death and struggle in the Jewish holy land. There are too many opinions on who started it, who is to blame and who should end, to put it all here. I think what is more helpful is to ask thoughtful questions about what is happening, so the conflict is not reduced to simple one word or one line sentences that don’t really delve into the deeper understanding of the context of the events and how to perhaps resolve some of the issues.
In Israel’s national anthem, Hatikva, four values are extolled in the penultimate line, “To be a free people in our land”. This summarizes what Israeli’s want.
First “To be”, that is Jews have known for centuries what it was like not to have a homeland, not to have a safe place to live and suffered through attacks none worse than the Holocaust. At what point will the Jewish state be allowed to simply live in peace without the constant threat of war and destruction?
Second, a “people” relates to the understanding that Israel stands for more than the sum of its parts. Israel represents the Jewish people as a whole, who live there and in all corners of the world. It is the Jewish homeland, and every Jew tries to visit and faces her when he or she prays. Jews are connected to the country in a visceral and emotional way, that traces back through our history and very soul.
Third, “in our land” is perhaps the most controversial part. This land was promised to the Jewish people by God as written in the Bible, and we began our journey as a people in Israel. The Romans exiled us from the land around 70 CE and we yearned to return and finally did officially in 1948 when the United Nations voted to create the modern state of Israel, as it exists today. However, it is obvious that when the UN made that vote, it was not a perfect situation as many other people lived on that land over those years and through until today. How are borders established when many people lay claim to one piece of land? What about when wars happen and people move from one part of the land to another?
Fourth, “free” – how do we understand freedom? Is one free to do anything or are there some limits, in terms of violence or speech that can hurt others? If one is attacked, how should one respond?
As one addresses these questions in light of the conflict, we can see that there are no easy solutions. Jewish traditions maintains that we are a peaceful people who pursue peace and value life above all.However, we also have sources that allow us to defend life when someone rises up to kill. Here lies the major issue.
Today Israel is in a state of defence, to protect its citizens and borders from terrorist attacks and hand held rockets fired from Gaza and landing in Israel. To properly defend the country, Israel must prevent these attacks from where they originate in Gaza, which is under the control of Hamas, a terrorist organization that in its charter state that they are struggling against the Jews, it calls for the creation of an Islamic state in place of Israel, as well as the obliteration of Israel.
This is why Israeli’s planes target missile launching sites in Gaza and why the army has moved into Gaza to root out terrorists, close up weapon smuggling tunnels and prevent more attacks. I hope and pray each day for an end to the hostilities and that the two people can come to some sort of agreement to share the land, without resorting to violence. I am realistic to know that peace is hard to achieve and may not be at hand, but I am also optimistic enough to say that looking back at history, there have been longer conflicts and that hopefully the time will come when we shall lay down our swords and shields and turn them into pruning hooks.