Lt. Yael Yekutiel, 20. Cadet Shir Hajaj, 22. Cadet Shira Tzur, 20. Cadet Erez Orbach, 20. Zikhronam livrakhah! May their memories be a blessing.
In Jerusalem, these four IDF soldiers were killed yesterday in a truck- ramming terror attack. Some fifteen to seventeen fellow soldiers were injured. And, if it weren’t for the heroic response of 22-year old Lt. Maya and other unnamed chayalim, the casualties may have been worse.
This news make me so sad. On its face, the loss of these young Israelis and the horrible circumstance that robbed them of them of their lives break my heart. But that’s not all. This tragic, terrible act took place at the Tayelet Armon Hanatziv--the promenade where my family began our recent Israel journey, reciting the Shehechiyanu and looking out upon
Jerusalem in its full magnificence. And, my family and I made such warm memories standing with soldiers at the Lebanese border, learning about their service to Israel and the origins of their grandparents. We gave them gifts, including Chicago Cubs championship t-shirts. The chayalim were very appreciative. We were all so happy to connect with each other. So the loss of their fellow soldiers hits home. It feels personal.
And, dayenu, these losses would have been enough. But they happened against a very troubling backdrop of violence for both Israelis and Palestinians, an ongoing cycle of death and destruction on both sides. From the Palestinians come a myriad of devastating acts. Stabbings. Shootings. Suicide bombings. And, vehicle rammings.
And, from the Israelis come deadly reprisals. The killing of assailants. Air strikes. And other acts of force, some of which are controversial, like the demolishing of homes and the punishment of whole families.
Or, as in recent news, when an IDF soldier was convicted of manslaughter for shooting an injured Palestinian assailant. This act and the subsequent ruling have caused great division in Israel. Some call for the soldier’s pardon. Others find him guilty of worse than manslaughter.
Palestinians have grown to see such acts not as specific responses to violent action but reflective of general policy on how they are treated.
What a vicious cycle! What a moral mess! And, while the practice of Israeli violence is designed to deter Palestinian terror, I can’t help but wonder if it is really working. Too many innocent people, both Israeli and Palestinians, have perished.
Like many of you, I bear witness to a sharp, painful division between two people, Israelis and Palestinians, the descendants of two ancient brothers separated so long ago and still so resentful and angry. But I think if we turn to the wisdom of our prophet Ezekiel, we might find a glimmer of hope that can help us traverse this seemingly impossible gap.
In the Book of Ezekiel, we witness the ultimate reconciliation between the tribes of Judah and Ephraim, the son of Joseph, who would eventually reunite and work together to redeem the Israel. This is significant because as you may remember, Judah is the primary brother who betrayed Joseph and cast him into the pit.
According to the prophet, God appears to him and tells Ezekiel to take two sticks. On one he is to write “For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions. And, on the other stick, he is to write “For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and of all the house of Israel his companions.” Then Ezekiel must, “Join them one to another into one stick that they may become one in your hand.” (Ezekiel 37:17)
Commentary tells us that such unity won’t come about because of speeches or even prophecy. Rather, unity comes through actions. Thus, Ezekiel’s action teaches us in order to bring true unity, words are not enough. We must take action to tangibly unite disparate groups into a single unit. (Rabbi Baruch Simon).
So, applying Ezekiel’s paradigm to the strife between Israel and the Palestinians, we can come to understand that it’s not UN resolutions or court decisions or peace accords that will guarantee shleimut, or wholeness, between enemies. It’s everyday people. It’s neighbors, however disparate, coming together. It’s human beings created betzelem Elohim, in God’s image, who recognize the intrinsic worth in each other and act in ways worthy of that recognition, who will embrace each other’s pain, who will find peaceful means to resolve their differences, who will spare innocent life as a matter of shared moral imperative, and who will transform life in the territories into peaceful coexistence.
In this healing spirit, I invite you to learn more about a group of Israelis and Palestinians who comprise an important organization called Shorashim, or Roots (And, judhur, I think, in Arabic). Shorashim is an initiative led by Palestinians and Israelis based in the West Bank, who “work within their own communities at the heart of the conflict; shifting hatred and suspicion towards trust, empathy, and mutual support.” Through active projects, they are working to set the foundation for future agreements between their respective governments. In just two years of rapid growth, their work has reached nearly 13,000 people. The carry out their transformative effort with “painful” hope. Leaders from Shorashim will return Chicago in the spring. I hope to bring them to Emanuel. In the meantime, I think it important as a community to think about where we individually and collectively stand with Israel, increasing our commitment to Israel education and the pursuit of peace between Israel and her neighbors.
Make it a day of blessing and be a force for good! Zie gezunt:
Rabbi Craig Marantz
To learn more about Roots/Shorashim/Judur go to www.friendsofroots.net/index.html