By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
On the eve of Israel’s Independence Day I remind myself again that had there been no Israel, the Jewish people would by now been on its way to becoming like the Amish and Judaism would have been reduced to a museum item.
But I’m painfully aware that independence came at a price. 23,447 men and women lost their lives, 68 of them this year. Another 2,576 have been killed by terrorists, 32 of them this year. That’s why Independence Day is preceded by Memorial Day when the dead are remembered and the mourning families offered support and comfort.
I wish we’d live in neighbourly peace with opportunities to mourn together with the Palestinians who’ve also lost many lives and whose national future is so much more precarious.
Israel’s achievements in its 68 years of existence have been spectacular. It’s today a modern state, prosperous by Western standards (including, alas, glaring inequalities and prejudices). I never tire of reflecting on what a blessing peace with Israel could be for the Palestinians giving them opportunities to share in Israel’s achievements in the realm of technology and countless other fields
But even on this day of celebration in Israel I cannot rid myself of the fear that what has been so laboriously achieved may be squandered. I believe that the politics of the current Government of Israel border on the toxic. The fact that it was democratically elected isn’t a source of comfort.
[And the fact that the United States may be on the verge of something similar is small consolation. Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate, now a declared supporter of Donald Trump and a close friend and promoter of Binyamin Netanyahu, is one reason for this US-Israel comparison.]
The situation in Israel is complicated by the fact that nobody seems to know how to bring about peace. Those who rule the Palestinians seem to be there only for themselves, not for their people and not for peace. Our compassion for ordinary folk there is tempered by contempt for their leaders.
Yes, the occupation and the ominous signs of annexation of the West Bank are very troublesome but the alternatives aren’t obvious. We who thought that withdrawing from Gaza would be a step toward making peace with the Palestinians have been proven wrong. The terrorist organization Hamas rules the strip now; we fear that it would also rule the West Bank had Israel withdrawn from there. And Hamas means having Iran on Israel’s borders and a bitter war with many more casualties.
I had the pleasure recently of meeting visiting groups of two of the congregations I served: North-Western Reform Synagogue in London and Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto. Jews in the Diaspora won’t find the answers they’re seeking here, but they’re being given opportunities to show solidarity and to be alerted to the fact, in the words of a famous popular song, that “we’ve no other country.”
Like many of us who’re here, they too will remain confused. But confusion must neve lead to despair. Though things look grim they’re not hopeless. Here, fear and hope go together. Israelis may still vote in a government that promotes liberal democracy. The Palestinians, with the overt help of other Arab states and covert support of Israel, may shed Hamas in favour of a leadership that cares for its people. We hold our breath and are determined to persevere – and survive. We’ve no other country.
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