Parasha Devarim

I Am For Peace …..
Since I last spoke from my pulpit so much has happened that it is difficult to know just where to start. While I was on vacation I constantly thought about what I wanted to – no, needed to — talk about when I returned.  As I was visiting the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC at the end of June, I was thinking of the three kidnapped teen-age boys in Israel — Eyal Yifrach, 19, Naftali Frankel, 16, and Gil-ad Shaar, 16.
 At that point I thought — as I was walking through the Holocaust Museum —  I would talk about how when Jews in Europe were kidnapped, Jewish leaders were powerless to get them back. Now, when Jews are kidnapped, there is the Israeli army to vigorously pursue those who are responsible. I thought I might talk about the bravery of the mothers of the teens, and the words of Rachelle Fraenkel, Naftali’s mother, and what it says about the nature of Israeli society as well as world-wide Jewry:  “We feel deeply embraced by the entire Jewish nation, which accompanies us throughout the day, which gives us so much support,” she said.  “We ask that the prayers continue… That’s it, all we want is to hug our children. Eyal, Gil-ad, Naftali, we love you, we miss you, be strong, be strong!” Then the news came that the bodies of the three teens had been found in a shallow grave outside of Hebron. I thought I might talk about the grief that we all felt, the anger that we all experienced, the outpouring of sympathy from much of the world, the perverse response from Israel’s enemies, who began to send rocket fire from Gaza. Then came the grisly murder of sixteen year old Muhammad Abu Khdeir , a resident of East Jerusalem, at the hands of Israeli Jews. When I return, I thought, my first sermon must surely be about this. How could this have happened?  What did this say about the coarsening of Israeli society toward the Arabs?  Then of course came increasing rocket fire from Gaza, escalating Israeli responses, a ground invasion, the discovery of terror tunnels, increasingly harsh criticism of Israel, anti-Semitic demonstrations in Europe, accusations of genocide, a cease fire, a breaking of the cease fire, an Israeli soldier kidnapped.  So many words, so many images, such a maelstrom of emotions……  Where to start a d’var torah – especially when you just returned home this morning?  What exactly is there new to say, after the dizzying pace of events in the past month? It all seems so complicated. It all seems like a moral morass. It all seems so confusing. Yet, it is, in fact, very simple, in my opinion. Here are the words from the Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel, written in 1948. These words represent the highest ideals of the people of Israel. These words articulate Israelis profoundest hope for the future of the Middle East. “[The State of Israel] will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations…… “WE EXTEND our hand to all neighbouring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighbourliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. The State of Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.” Here are some excerpts from the Covenant of Hamas. This is the founding charter of the organization, written in 1988. It represents the highest aspirations of the Radical Islamic Movement.  Its words too articulate its profoundest hope for the future – of the Middle East, and beyond. 'Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.' (Preamble) 'The day the enemies usurp part of Moslem land, Jihad becomes the individual duty of every Moslem. In the face of the Jews' usurpation, it is compulsory that the banner of Jihad be raised.' (Article 15) '[Peace] initiatives,   and   so-called   peaceful   solutions and international conferences are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement.” (Article 13) The Charter also blames Jews for standing behind the French  Revolution; for standing behind  the  Communist  Revolution; and for being behind  “ most   of   the revolutions we hear about…”;  for being responsible — “with their money”, it says — for secret organizations – “such as the Freemasons, Rotary Clubs and the Lions  – which are spreading around the world, in order to  destroy  societies and carry out Zionist interests…;  for both “World War 1 and World War ll “through which they made huge financial gains”. Article 32 cites the Protocols of the Elders of Zion – the 19th century anti-Semitic forgery — as a proof text for Jewish ambitions in the world.
It is painful to hear these words, and the values and ambitions of the Radical Islamic Movement.  But we need to keep in mind what Israel is up against. I close with the words of Psalm 120: Woe, that I dwell with the ruthless/ that I live among the lawless/Too long have I lived with those who hate peace/I am for peace/ but whenever I speak/ they are for war.
Shabbat Shalom