This afternoon I write to you broken-hearted. The incessant raining of rockets fired by Hamas into Israel, over 300 in the last 48 hours, has my stomach in knots. Along with so many in our community, I am reaching out to friends and family in Israel currently living life from minute to minute, unsure of when they will need to run for shelter without even a second to spare. Currently, Hamas is targeting Tel Aviv, Beer Sheva, Jerusalem, and Haifa, every major population center, as Israel’s Iron Dome defends its citizens.
In this moment, we pray that the IDF’s remarkable head-of-a-pin precision continues as Israel seeks to protect its citizens and bring an end to Hamas attacks. We pray that civilians in Gaza and Israel remain safe. Above all, we pray for peace, even against all odds and every indication in reality.
In tense moments when we may feel so distant from our homeland, friends, and family there can be a tendency towards feelings of helplessness. I am grateful to my colleague Rabbi Karen Reiss-Medwed1 for creating a list of things we might do to express our love and concern for Israel during Operation Protective Edge.
Rabbi Reiss-Medwed advocates that we do some or all of the following:
1. Stay connected! Call your US Israeli friends, colleagues, co -workers. They each have someone who is sleeping in or near a shelter tonight. Just check in on them and ask them how their family is faring. Call your US friends who have family in Israel (you know that cousin on the kibbutz you heard of) and check in on them.
2. Help others feel connected! Sit with the Israeli Shlichim who are here for summer camps. Most are young and have no idea what it is like to be overseas during an Israel crisis. They most need to call home, hear Israeli news. They need us to help them feel connected.
3. Be connected! Almost every town with Jews has a coffee place, a yogurt store, a bookstore run by Israelis. Now is the time to use social media and organize a meet up. Show up in droves, check in on them and their loved ones in Israel and lend some support. Get together with people in places where our presence will message care and compassion.
4. Connect with your wallet! Go to your local store and buy out all Blue and White products. The financial hurt in Israel from the last escalation were staggering – pre-empt it from happening by actively shopping now. Shop online if you have nothing local. There are great sites for summer products, start shopping now for your honey for Rosh HaShana, be creative.
5. Connect the larger community! Check in with your synagogues, day schools, complimentary schools, JCC’s, Federations. Follow their Twitter and Facebook accounts and help ensure that our institutions are part of the social media drive to raise awareness, compassion and love during these trying times.
6. Connect with thoughtful compassion! Do not whitewash the situation – speak and share from a place of love and honesty. This situation is complex and we can own that, and still empathize and care. Let’s talk about why the Southern towns, who are on the periphery, do not evoke in our larger community the same response as Tel Aviv; let’s talk about what it means when a militant organization like Hamas uses innocent civilians, women and children, hospitals and schools, to shield themselves and let us try to understand the ways the other side are treated; let’s moderate our tone and voice, even as we follow and worry and care and love each time we hear of a missile or an Iron Dome defense.
7. Connect with Israel trips! Each time there is an escalation we hear of Israel trips being cancelled. This time the escalation was rapid and into the summer season so there are many teens and college age students in Israel right now. Call their parents, call them, offer hugs and offer words of thanks and support that they are in Israel and staying put during this time. What pride we can have to those who are making the trip and sharing these moments in Israel.
8. Connect through the Arts! There is no better time to familiarize yourself with Israeli Art and to share that with your families and communities. The music reflects the deepest angst that Israelis experience living these escalations; their written word of poetry and short stories tell the narrative in many varied ways. Now is the time to check out the Atlanta Film Festival lists and the Atlanta Book Festival lists to get another viewpoint on life during these trying times inspired by the souls of Israel.
9. Connect with the IDF! Send them a pizza; send them cards; give them a social media “shout out”. These young women and men have stepped up to the plate and are committed to protecting the State of Israel. These individuals serve with morals and ethics, love and compassion, and deserve our gratitude during these times.
10. Connect and Pray with your Fingers: Make a commitment to post one photo on social media each day of Operation Protective Edge. Even if you usually only post photos of dogs/hair/your kids/birthday cards. This is a chance to be an activist from your living room, and pray with your fingers for peaceful resolution!
This past Shabbat I spoke about what it feels like to be a “people dwelling alone”. It is precisely in these moments of feeling alone that we must reach out to our friends for support. Therefore, I would add one other “action item” to this list. Reach out to your Congressional Representative and our Senators and implore them to reiterate their support for Israel, including its right to live in peace and to defend itself. No other country in the world faces daily rocket attacks against its civilians, nor would any other country tolerate such violence.
May God protect Israel in the days and weeks to come. May the terrorism being perpetrated by Hamas be brought to an end, and may we eventually reach the day when the value for human life and human dignity becomes a value shared by all humanity.
Rabbi Philip Ohriner
1 Rabbi Karen Reiss-Medwed PhD was ordained by The Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 1995 and serves a missaderet gittin,. Rabbi Reiss-Medwed is also on faculty at Northeastern University. I came across her thoughtful “call to action” on the Conservative Rabbis Facebook Group.