By Joan Garson, Vice-President.
via AZRA Canada.
July 30, 2014
I decided last Sunday that it was time to be in Israel, with my daughter and my Israeli friends. I knew it would be easier to be in Israel experiencing this difficult time, than to be in Toronto reading about it.
When I arrived in Israel Tuesday morning, to a subdued Ben Gurion airport, I was greeted by fresh signs for shelters posted on the walls. And before we left the airport my daughter reviewed what to do if we heard a siren (I have not yet heard one). In another distressing change, she also reviewed which parts of Jerusalem I should not visit, because of unrest among the Palestinian population. We also discussed the brutality of Jewish extremists. We can be very proud of Kehillat Kol Hanishama ( the largest Reform Synagogue in Jerusalem) among many others, for its work with Tag Meir, against dreadful racist activities of Jews. (Tag Meir (tag of light) is a group of over 40 organizations countering the crimes that are being committed by radical Jews against other religions.)
Although as I write this I have only been here for 36 hours, it seems much longer. In the midst of a beautiful summer week in Jerusalem, there is sadness and worry. The streets are very quiet. Hotels are quite empty and there are few tourists on the street.
I have never experienced such a unified, purposeful Israel. The people I speak with – my daughter, the leaders of the Reform Movement, friends, are all distressed by the suffering of innocents in Gaza. At the same time they are very clear: the tunnels and the rockets must be stopped. This is despite the terrible price that the young people of Israel, and their families and friends, and the country, are paying every day.
Friends are attending funerals and shivas of children of congregants or staff of Reform synagogues or of lone soldiers, and visiting wounded soldiers. Their own children or those of their rabbis or friends or neighbours are in the army and many are in Gaza. It feels like the first words of every conversation are a check up on everyone we know; sometimes the news is not good. At the same time there is a common sense of clarity and justification. The world may not understand why Israel feels this war must continue, but each Israeli knows it. And this is the case amongst the people I spoke with without regard to the political views held before this war began.
Wednesday evening I attended the JNF Canada Israel Rally with Yair Lootstein and several hundred others including MPs, Senators, the Canadian Ambassador to Israel, Rabbi Baruch Frydman-Kohl and of course Efie Stensler Chair of JNF. Israeli friends confirm that events like these are important to Israeli morale, particularly as we read of anti-Semitism around the world, and hear the increasing demand for Israel to end its operation. News of events of support held outside Israel is also very welcome and are widely followed.
Everyone wants this to end, but not without closing the tunnels, and an appropriate ceasefire.
It will be very hard to leave.