Parasha Toldot

Who Started It?
Did Israel start it when it assassinated the chief of the military wing of Hamas, Ahmad Jabari? Did Hamas start it when it fired on an Israeli jeep patrolling the border? Did Israel start it when 13 year old Hamid Younis Abu Daqqa was killed during a clash with militants in Gaza? Did Hamas start it when it began to take credit for the increasing rocket fire from Gaza into Israel these past few weeks? Did Israel start it when it allegedly attacked a weapons factory in Sudan on October 23, a factory suspected of manufacturing long range Fajr-5 rockets? Or did Hamas start it when it began to smuggle in Fajr-5 rockets to Gaza for eventual use against major Israeli population centers? You get the idea. As any parent knows, as any teacher knows, “Who started it” is impossible to determine usually.  The parties, who are fighting, whether they are small children or great nations, want others to feel that they are justified in their retaliation and justified in their violence.  I don’t know who started it.  And, as I have said as a parent, and as a teacher, and as every couple knows who has ever had a disagreement: It doesn’t matter who started it. These things, however, I do know: I know that in 2012 alone, over 700 rockets have been fired from Gaza, aimed at civilian population centers in Israel.  Although few people have been killed, thankfully, the rocket fire serves to terrorize people and prevent them from living a normal life.  Without deterrence, it would be worse.  I know Israel has a right to defend herself to protect her population. I know that while Hamas’ very goal is to inflict death and injury on Israeli civilians, Israel will make every effort to minimize civilian casualties of Palestinians. I know that despite this, there are those in the world who will excuse Hamas’ targeting of civilians and accuse Israel of war crimes.  Nothing anyone says could change their minds. I know their minds were made up long, long ago. I know that Israel pulled its troops and all civilian population from Gaza in 2005.  The hope was that without Israel as an occupying force, Gaza could serve as a model of self government of Palestinians.  Israelis would see that there was no danger in giving Palestinians the right to govern themselves.  I know that instead of a responsible government in Gaza, we got Hamas and Islamic Jihad and terror –Not exactly a confidence boosting measure. I know that Hamas and all of the Islamic parties are ideologically opposed to the recognition of Jewish sovereignty over even one inch of land in the Middle East.  That is a non-negotiable religious tenet for them.  They refuse to talk to Israel, lest it imply recognition of Israel’s existence. In this week’s Torah portion we are told that there is a famine in the land of Canaan. Isaac takes refuge with Abimelekh, the King of the Philistines, in Gerar.  There Isaac prospers – but the native people become envious and stop up the wells that his father Abraham had dug when he lived in this area.  The King feels he cannot prevent the people from attacking Isaac, and therefore expels Isaac from Gerar. Isaac settles in the outskirts of the town.  He digs a well and finds water, but the herdsmen of Gerar claim it as their own.  He digs another well, but the local herdsmen claim that one also.  He leaves the outskirts of Gerar and settles some distance away. There he digs a well, and is able to keep it as his own. In commenting on this story, the Hofetz Khayim notes that Isaac never gave up or despaired. He continued to dig for water until he dug a well that was not in dispute.  At times like this, we need to have a great deal of Isaac in us.  In times of war we must not despair or give up on peace. Our foes are implacable.  They envy us, argue with us, war against us, and would surely expel us if they could.  We may resign ourselves to the way things are, the way things have been, and think that there is nothing we can do to change the cycle of violence. When we are ready to give up hope, we must remember – a Jew is forbidden to give up hope.  It is our religious obligation to hope.  We have two religious obligations connected to this. The first religious obligation is to remain strong, so we cannot be defeated.  The second religious obligation is to work toward peace, even when it appears that peace is unattainable.  This past Monday my wife, son and I were invited by one of our congregants, David Edelman, to join him and his family at an awards luncheon for Americans for Peace Now.  This is an the sister organization of Shalom Achshav, Israeli’s for Peace Now, established in 1978, when 348 Israeli senior reserve army officers and combat soldiers came together to urge their government to sign a peace treaty with Egypt.  Peace Now and Shalom Achshav advocate for an end to Israeli settlement activity and the establishment of a Palestinian State that can live side by side in peace with Israel. Believe me when I say they are not naïve idealists. Rather, they are hard headed realists who understand that the continued occupation of the West Bank in untenable and harmful to Israel’s security, its democracy and its standing in the world. Even though peace may not come soon, we can still build bridges to peace that others may walk over in the future.  I also urge you to support the Israel Terror Relief Fund. This Fund will help support the more than one million residents of Israel’s South; provide aid to those who are victims of terror and the most vulnerable Israelis during this time of conflict. Such services include trauma counseling, financial assistance, portable bomb shelters, bringing children in the strike zones out of harm’s way, assisting the elderly and disabled, and more such needed relief services.  JUF is also working with local media, churches, civic groups, our elected officials and, of course, campuses, to ensure that Israel’s desire for peace and security is heard and understood. Be strong. Support Israel and do not waver. Pursue peace along whatever avenues that are open.  I close with the words of Rabbi Tarfon in Pirke Avot :  “It is not your obligation to complete the task, but you are not free to abstain from it, either.” Shabbat Shalom