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“Thoughts on the Israel-Hamas War: The Fronts Abroad and the Fronts at Home”

10/27/2023 08:08:02 PM


Peter H. Grumbacher, Interim Rabbi

“Thoughts on the Israel-Hamas War: The Fronts Abroad and the Fronts at Home” Peter H. Grumbacher, Interim Rabbi Temple Beth El – Newark, Delaware October 27, 2023 ______________ Yes, we had a wonderful time on our cruise, and I’m not going to present a travelogue on our experiences. Too much happened between the last time on stood on this bimah and tonight. I regret not having been here when you probably need a rabbi the most, but I know that physically you were protected by the Newark police – God bless each and every one of them – and that the congregation itself, you the people who care so much for one another, strengthened yourselves in this tragedy. You gathered to honor the memory of Jack Stone when dozens of you attended the dedication of the wall of remembrance. I know the heart of the membership was with the Stone family, but we also must say, Hinei mah tov u’mah na’im shevet achim gam yachad, “How good and how pleasant it is when we can gather together, ” and how important it is when, at a time of concern and anxiety, our unity is in the face of what is going on in this sad world of ours. “This sad world of ours.” What else can one say about nations and organizations, universities and their presidents, actors and musicians, and far too many others whose moral compass is radically in need of realigning? Let the United States be attacked by, only for example, an army of Mexican irregulars who for whatever reason have been determined to destroy as many Americans as possible, who cross the border and slaughter men, women and babies; civilians, not soldiers; the elderly along with our youth, with wild abandon, kidnapping and dragging back to their country a variety of victims! What kind of response would be expected? This is an imaginary scenario. My point though – and you have already figured that out – is that there’s a huge difference between Israel and the United States. It’s different for many reasons, not the least of which is that Hamas, as established by their own words in the manifesto that brought them into being, has as its goal the extermination not just of Israelis but of Jews regardless where they are; and let it not be forgotten, not only Jews, but Christians…we are all infidels in their eyes. First Israel and then beyond! Israel has across its history been extremely mindful of the ancient value we place on life, on pidyon shevuyim, saving the captives, the prisoners, those kidnapped by pirates on the seas, and by terrorists such as Hamas. In 2011 Israel exchanged 1,027 jailed terrorists in her prisons for the return of Gilad Shalit, one Israeli kidnapped five years before. This mirrored the 1985 deal which released 1,150 prisoners for three soldiers. But Israel has also released terrorists in exchange for the bodies of their soldiers. You might know of this value, and surely not at all be surprised. But you should also know that it is not the view of all Israelis based on the decisions of our ancient and modern sages. The old joke – 10 Jews, 11 opinions – plays out in this predicament. Many have felt that such a deal keeps the value of kidnapping a viable option for Hamas and their ilk. They have believed that in the long run it allows for the murder of far more of its own. Ultimately I believe they have been correct in this position, that it has kept us from successfully defeating Hamas and other groups like it. And while some of you might disagree with me, might even be surprised at how I feel about it, might even feel it is un-Jewish, knowing that what happened on October 7th is not the end-all and beall of what Hamas has in mind, I say Tzahal, the Israel Defense Forces, must do what it has to do to eradicate this cancer from the world! True, such a position results in the death of civilians, a truly tragic consequence, especially the death of children; and Israel’s response has led to the death of thousands of innocent Palestinians, children included. I mourn their demise, I truly do, but when we look at what those Hamas mamzers do, not only in terms of their heinous deeds against Israel, I believe there is no choice other than the severe response we’ve thus far seen. What do I mean, “…what those Hamas mamzers do”? Hamas keeps their weapons of mass destruction in the homes of the innocent. Hamas holds back the run-of-the-mill Palestinians who are minding their business from seeking shelter because they don’t give a damn about human life. For the sake of psychological warfare and their knowledge that the world isn’t particularly thrilled with having Jews around, they will kill their own and tell the world the lie…and the world will believe it! Generalizing on my part? Perhaps a bit. But at this point my compassion has reached its limit. That’s what Israel is facing, the facts since October 7th and the reality that is facing them now and tomorrow. But there is more. It is the reality that is equally as frightening….Israel’s enemy is Hamas while our enemy is our friends. Surely there are those whose moral compass is pointed in the correct direction…of that there is no question. And even our friends do have the right to question Israel’s policies and to even question Israel’s response to the tragedy. Many Jews do; I’m fully aware of that. But in my heart of hearts I fear that there are those whose anti-Israel positions are at their core, antisemitic. That’s no chochma, the Hebrew and Yiddish term which means “wisdom” but in this case it means, “brilliant conclusion of something that is already obvious.” And truth be told I don’t want to harp on it more than saying what I just did. What I do want to ask is what should our response be? This is the time to have pride in our Jewishness, to stand up for our People. You were here last week to support Jack Stone’s mishpacha, his family; we were here because, as I surmise, we felt we had to be here to support each other. We’re in need of prayer; we’re in need of action; we’re in need of money sent via the Jewish Federation of Delaware and/or via agencies that buoy the State of Israel in this time of extraordinary need. My good friends Yehuda and Debbie Geller who live on the Golan Heights point to the guards they have to hire since their young and strongest are in the army unable to guard their community as they have. This is one cause which we are supporting in addition to the emergency campaign of our Federation. But we also have to be able to answer questions our neighbors might ask, and we also have to be aware of who has not offered condolences on the barbarism of Hamas, who support that very barbarism, who are not friends. We in this congregation must internalize the formula that is said each time a book of the Torah is completed: chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek. “Be strong, yes, be strong, and let us strengthen each other.”

Fri, February 23 2024 14 Adar I 5784