“Hamas Has a Strange Way to Say Thank You”
This Shabbat, our hearts and prayers are with our brothers and sisters in Israel as they are now living under the constant threat of rocket attacks. We also pray for the 40,000 reservists of the IDF, the Israel Defense Forces, who have left their families to defend the People of Israel.
These past few weeks have been so emotionally draining for the Jewish people. It started with the kidnapping of those 3 young Israeli teens. We all prayed and recited Psalms on their behalf only to later hear the awful news that their bodies had been found. A collective gasp was heard throughout the Jewish world. These 3 innocent kids, who meant no harm to anyone, hitchhiking home for Shabbat from their yeshiva, were murdered for no reason, except that they were naïve enough to get into a stranger’s car. Every Israeli whose kids have ever hitchhiked—which means every Israeli—identifies with them.
And then the funerals followed. Rarely have the people of Israel felt as unified as they did on that day. Politics were forgotten as tens of thousands of people came to the funeral from every corner of the country. They stood together in the blazing sun as the bodies were interred: Men in black coats, young people with knitted kipot, people with no kipot, settlers, anti-settlers, people of the far right, people of the far left and everyone in between stood together united at these 3 graves. For one rare moment, all Israel was one.
And then came the murder in Jerusalem. If the reports are true, 6 Israelis—some of them youngsters—some of them students in yeshivot—cruised the streets of an Arab neighborhood in Jerusalem until they found a teenager and shoved him into their car, took him away, set him on fire, and dumped his body in the Jerusalem Forest. And when this body was discovered, all Israel shivered with shame.
Arab mobs, seizing upon the opportunity, then took to the streets throwing rocks, destroying property and creating chaos in their wake. Hamas launched hundreds of missiles from Gaza that reached all the way to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem—cities where no missiles from Gaza had ever reached before. Air raid signals went off in Holon while a bride and groom were under the Chupa—scattering everyone to the shelters in the middle of the ceremony! Can you imagine? What wasn’t widely reported was that terrorists landed on a beach in Israel and tried to cause havoc from there. Fortunately, they were caught in time.
What was President Barak Obama’s response? He urged restraint on both sides. Restraint? What does that mean? It means that he was asking Israel to sit there like a good little boy and take the hits without responding. How do you think even Barak Obama would respond if drug cartels shot 500 rockets from Mexico into American cities? Do you think he would restrain from responding? Bibi Netanyahu did what the leader of any country would do. He ordered up the reserves and bombed the factories where the missiles are made, the places that they are fired from and the homes where the leaders of Hamas live. He said in very clear and blunt terms: “If the Hamas wants peace, all they have to do is stop the missiles. And if they want war, all they have to do is keep firing them. It is for them to decide. We are ready for either choice.”
In the last 2 weeks, more than 500 missiles were fired into Israel. The others fell in open areas, and only a couple were missed by Iron Dome—Israel’s extremely effective anti-missile defense system. We’re all so proud of this technological marvel—the Iron Dome. But do you know what each defensive missile costs Israel? $100,000! Do you know how much most of the rockets the Arabs shoot cost them to make? $100! Sometimes the Arabs may shoot 70 rockets a day—that’s $7,000 to make and $7 million to defend!
I read a wonderful piece yesterday by Deroy Murdock, who maintains that Hamas’ current barrage of missiles is a very, “Strange Way to Say Thank You.” He notes that this week, White House Middle East coordinator Phillip Gordon, speaking in Tel Aviv, said: “Israel cannot maintain military control of another people indefinitely…[he] scolded Israel…even as Israelis hid from Hamas rockets that plunged from the heavens like deadly hailstones.” Gordon urged that Israel “should not take for granted this opportunity to negotiate.” In a moment of exquisite irony, Gazan missiles sent Gordon’s audience scrambling for safety. Murdock continues:
As if psychically predicting Gordon’s speech, Israel in August 2005 decided that it could not “maintain military control of another people indefinitely,” [as Gordon said]. So it capitalized on “the opportunity to negotiate” and did something astonishing: Israel expelled from Gaza some 9,000 Jews in 25 settlements and gave the Gaza Strip to the Palestinians.
“Jew-free at last,” Murdock writes, “Palestinians, Gaza’s denizens, faced a golden opportunity.” They could have said, “We want to build the most dynamic bank between Gibraltar and the Taj Mahal,” and financiers from Wells Fargo to Sumitomo would have flown in and shown them how—pro bono.
They could have said, “We want the deepest-thinking university in this time zone to blossom in this soil,” and deans and professors from Stanford to Georgetown to Oxford would have rushed there to develop curricula, erect academic buildings, and stock libraries with Earth’s most compelling books and periodicals.
They could have said, “We want the loveliest tourist spot on the eastern Mediterranean,” and experts from Hilton to Club Med to Carnival Cruises would have sailed in with their talents.
“By now,” Murdock surmises, “Gaza could be developing into the Hong Kong, Berkeley, or Cancun of the Middle East”…But no. Gaza’s Palestinians have done little with their territory other than turn it into a launch pad for heaving projectiles at Israel.
Mudock concludes: In an irony of almost biblical proportions, the Gazan rockets would not be roaring down from the skies if Israel had not generously pried its citizens from Gaza and delivered the strip on a serving tray to the Palestinians. And the thanks Israel gets could not be more vividly displayed. In this respect, Israel has become a 13,000-square-mile metaphor for the fact that no good deed goes unpunished.
What does the Torah say to us and to Israel at this fast changing, terrifying moment? The Talmud (San. 72a) teaches that “If someone comes to kill you, arise and kill him first.” That is right and moral thing to do. As long as the terrorists in Gaza continue to rain down destruction upon the civilian population of Israel, the army of Israel has the right—no the duty—to strike back as forcefully as it can. As Netanyahu said: “If the Hamas wants peace, all they have to do is stop the missiles. And if they want war, all they have to do is keep firing them. It is for them to decide.”
However, in the opening of today’s Torah portion, Pinchas is given a Brit Shalom, a “Covenant of Peace,” by Gd, for his zealousness at the end of last week’s parsha when he killed 2 people who were openly defying Gd and Moses. What exactly is this Brit Shalom, “Covenant of Peace”? There are several explanations, but the one I find most compelling comes from the Netziv, who notes that, “Pinchas’ killing with his own hand, tends to leave a harsh feeling in the heart. He who acted for the sake of heaven, was [therefore] granted a blessing to remain gentle and peaceful.” In other words, this Brit Shalom was to protect Pinchas—not only from the relatives of the ones he killed—but from himself! For when one becomes violent—for whatever the reason—it takes a toll upon one’s soul.
It’s not an easy path that Israel has had to walk this week. We pray that Gd will protect Israel today with a Brit Shalom as well as it does what it has to do to defend itself in Gaza so that there will be no more repeats of what appears to be a revenger murder of that Arab teen—a murder of which we are all deeply ashamed. That stands in sharp contrast to the Palestinians who danced in the streets and threw candy in celebration when the 3 Israeli teens were kidnaped and murdered.
This Tuesday is the fast day of the 17th of Tammuz. It begins the 3 weeks of mourning over the destruction of the Holy Temple, Jerusalem and the Land of Israel. We pray that Gd will turn this time period around and instead be a new beginning. May Gd usher in 3 weeks that will bring peace in Jerusalem as well as peace in Gaza—3 weeks in which wedding ceremonies are not interrupted by air raid sirens. Amen!
Rabbi Mark Hillel Kunis