Let me teach you a Hebrew word that is very much “in” today in Israel: matzav, literal translation, “situation.” The word used to be used quite innocently. One Israeli would say to another, Ma hamatzav, “What’s the situation,” meaning, “What’s up?” Or, one could say: Yeysh matzav, which can mean, “Something’s going on.” Today, matzav refers to only one situation—Operation Protective Edge, the current war in Gaza.
On this the 3rd Shabbat of the war, we ask each other: Ma hamatzav, “What’s going on?” Israel has uncovered over 30 tunnels, some more than a mile long that stretch into Israel—built for terrorist strikes. Caches of missiles and armaments have been captured or blown up. There’s still much work to be done. As I hear it, in order to properly clean up the tunnel threat, at least 2 more weeks are needed.
Thursday night it was reported—although not in the American media—that thousands of Palestinians marched from Ramallah towards Jerusalem. Thank God the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) turned them back. The last thing Israel needs right now is to open another battle front.
Predictably, although Israel is winning the battles, she is suffering unfair condemnation—not only in Europe, but here in America, especially with the likes of the NY Times and CNN. It was quite refreshing for me to hear Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, in an interview with Erin Burnett, call out CNN’s coverage of the conflict in Gaza as irresponsible and one-sided, citing its coverage of a UN run school wherein 16 children were killed. As Dermer pointed out, CNN failed to mention that there were missiles stored in UN schools and that Israel warned them to vacate! Dermer castigated CNN’s one-sided reporting as a “disservice to its viewers.”
It’s unbelievable to note that when the UN discovered missiles in their schools—what did they do with them?—they handed them over to Hamas! Hamas, who targets school children with their missiles and terrorist attacks! We don’t know exactly what happened at that school, but it is entirely possible that the missile that hit it was not fired by Israel, but by Hamas, landing short of its target as other of its rockets had.
The Obama administration was more subtle. When a Hamas rocket fell 3 miles from the Ben Gurion Airport, it seized the opportunity to unfairly pressure Israel to accept Hamas’ terms for a cease fire by forbidding American airliners from landing in Tel Aviv. Of course, Europe followed suit. Everyone knows that with Israel’s Iron Dome shield there is no danger to any airliner coming in or out of Ben Gurion. This was clearly a punitive act done to pressure Israel. As I heard Charles Krauthammer say yesterday, “Planes fall out of the sky in Malaysia, Ukraine, West Africa and Taiwan and what airport does Obama try to shut down? Tel Aviv!”
It seems that no matter the provocation, Israel is condemned. Hamas launches over 2,000 missiles and Obama and the EU demand restraint!Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman points out that there was not a single condemnation of the killing of 3,000 Palestinians in the Yarmuk refugee camp in Syria. And very little was said about the Christians of Mosul in northern Iraq that were given 24 hours by ISIS to convert, leave, or die. A church there dating back 1800 years—before the advent of Islam—was then burned to the ground. Was there any outcry? The Western media were too busy decrying the “massacre” in Gaza.
The last 2 Shabbatot I spoke about the war and the world reaction. Today I would like to focus upon how the Israelis are holding up through this horrific barrage of 2,000 missiles. Let me sum it up in just 17 seconds. Go…(wait 17 seconds)…That’s the amount of time you have after hearing a siren to get to a shelter. Not an hour goes by these days without a siren going off somewhere in Israel!
In Sderot and other Israeli towns near the Gaza border, 13-year-old children celebrate their Bar Mitzvah without experiencing, since their birth, even one day free of fear of rockets, always having 17 seconds to reach for an improvised cover. This year’s High school graduates never went to school or returned from school since kindergarten, without a real threat of a Hamas rocket hitting them on the way.
Little children are taught to lie face down on the floor when an alarm catches them too far away from the shelters. A few minutes later, explosions are heard. Perhaps a rocket falling in an empty area…often the “Iron Dome” defensive missile intercepts the intruder from the sky…sometimes a rocket falls in a building, causing damage and bodily harm. And then life goes on till the next siren sounds. It’s debatable whether the children’s stress or their parents’ anxiety has more damaging long term effects.
Haim Harari, one of the world’s top physicists, tells of hosting a Viennese psychiatrist, at the Weizmann institute. The psychiatrist shared an amazing dream. On the day preceding his dream, Hamas aimed rockets, for the 1st time, at Jerusalem. They were, thankfully, intercepted by the Iron Dome. The remarkable dream of this Viennese guest, he writes, went like this: A Hamas rocket from Gaza, aimed at Jewish Jerusalem, hit the Al Aqsa mosque. The United Nations Human Rights Council immediately called for an emergency session, and severely condemned Israel for the war crime of not intercepting the rocket with the Iron Dome!
Daniel Gordis writes in his blog about a man in his shule in Jerusalem, who in 1939 as a young boy, was put on a Kindertransport train, sent to freedom ahead of the impending Nazi invasion. Many of those Kindertransport children never saw their parents again; some eventually made their way to Palestine. He writes: The Shabbat morning before last, we sang to him in , on the occasion of the birth of his first great-granddaughter. And later that afternoon, when the sirens rang out, we ducked into the shelters. I thought of him then, as we waited in the shelter. Here we are, some 75 years later, and Jews are still fleeing enemies who hate us just because we’re Jews. We waited some more, and then we heard a boom. Then another. Iron Dome shooting the rockets out of the sky.
It’s devastating, I thought, that this gentleman’s great-granddaughter had to be whisked to safety, just like her great-grandfather had. With a difference, though. This time, there was someone to protect her. This time, the Jews have a state!
Sean Carmeli was one of the 1st casualties of Israeli soldiers, along with 12 other members of his Golani brigade last week. He was a chayal boded, a “lone soldier,” an American without family in Israel who, like our own Jonathan Schulman and Stacy Zebrak before him, felt it essential to stand up for his people in the most important way. Lone soldiers do not have families in Israel to go back to on weekends for Shabbat meals, but Israelis go out of their way to invite them for Shabbat and even help them with their laundry.
When Sean’s parents in America learned of his death, they were concerned that, because he was a lone soldier, there would be few people to attend his funeral. But Sean had been an avid fan of the Maccabee Haifa soccer team, and that’s where the story takes on almost surreal dimensions.
A member of the Maccabee Haifa fan club learned of Sean’s death, and took Sean’s cause to the world of social media. In a message that he posted, he requested that fans of the soccer club attend the funeral. The message went viral, and it was circulated to countless Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. The result was that 20,000 people came to his funeral—20,000! The young man who been a lone soldier during his life was surrounded by his people at his death.
Since the beginning of Operation Defensive Edge, not a day has passed without Israel being accused of the indiscriminate killing of civilians. The clear implication of these accusations was that individual lives mean nothing to Israel. The truth, as we all know, is just the opposite! Israel’s army takes great care to minimize civilian casualties, even if that means putting its own soldiers at greater risk. It’s Hamas that uses civilians as human shields. But think about this. In this country accused of not caring about individual lives…on barely a day’s notice 20,000 people attend the funeral of an unknown lone soldier. That’s our Israel!
Let me close with a letter from a soldier in Gaza that puts a challenge to us:
Today our hearts are pounding in fear. Who of us will die? And who will return safely? We are your messengers in fighting. We are fighting so you can live peacefully with your children. So you can stay alive. We are your protection. Will you be ours?
We are going to this dangerous mission knowing some of us will not come back, but will rise to their next position in a storm to heaven, as Elijah the Prophet did. We are going with devotion and dedication. We are asking you to be our protection with your prayers. Protect us by going above and beyond yourselves through doing mitzvot and good deeds.
Pray for us. Pray that you won’t see another mother burying her son. Pray that you won’t see our wives as widows, raising our children in tears. Pray that our children will grow up knowing who their fathers are. Pray that we will eliminate the terrorists who aim to destroy us, and that we will not injure innocent women and children.
Please, we are begging you, as you are reading this, don’t just go on to the next thing you are doing. Say a chapter of Tehillim [Psalms]. Wake up David HaMelech to ask Hashem for full redemption and peace for all the world…I’m certain that your prayers will make a difference. Remember, we are in it together. We are on the front lines carrying the weapons and you are fighting along with us with your prayers. Each word of your prayer gives us strength, protection and success!
This morning 3 verses in the early part of the service struck me so. It was in Psalm 147 verses 12, 13 and 14. Shabchi Y’rushalayim et Hashem, ha-l’li Elokayich Tziyon, “Praise Hashem O Jerusalem, sing praises to your Gd, O Zion. Ki chizak b’richey shaarayich, “For He has strengthened the bars of your gates,” that protect you—the iron bars, the Iron Dome. Beyrach banayich b’kirbeych, “and blessed your children in your midst.” Hasam g’vuleych shalom, “It is He [Gd] that will make your borders peaceful.” O may it be soon. Amen!
Let us rise as we recite Psalm 130 page 540…
Rabbi Mark Hillel Kunis