*Sermon given in Boca Raton Synagogue this past Shabbos, Parshas Masei
Sgt. Eviyatar Moshe Torjamin was only twenty years old. He was a student at Yeshivat Ha’Kotel, a hesder yeshiva in the Old City of Yerushalayim that combines army service with Torah study. He had only two weeks left until the end of his service and was therefore given the option of not entering the fighting in Gaza. Nevertheless, he insisted on taking part in the war. Worried that he would be delayed in getting back to the yeshiva for the beginning of the new zman (semester), he sent a message asking to have his personal seforim (books) set up in the Beis Midrash so that he could jump right in. His place in the Beis Midrash was set, but he will never again sit in it, for rather than sit in his makom (seat), this week his parents and siblings have been receiving the greeting of Ha’makom as they sat shiva for the loss of their beloved son and brother, Eviyatar.
Eviyatar’s is only one of many tragic stories that could be told over this past month. It has been a horribly painful time for the Jewish people. Three yeshiva students were kidnapped. Jews everywhere were shaken by their disappearance and longed together for their return. Then we learned the devastating news of the discovery of the boys’ bodies. Soon after sirens began to sound and rockets began to rain down not only in communities in the south but in Tel Aviv, Yerushalayim and as far north as Zichron Yaakov. Israel decided to strike back against Hamas terrorists in Gaza and, after long deliberation, ultimately began a ground operation that has already cost forty-three Israeli soldiers their lives.
This month has been one filled with sadness, fear, uncertainty, suffering and sorrow. It has been particularly difficult Yocheved and me to absorb all of the news and events while away on vacation and apart from you, our beloved BRS family and community. We longed to daven with you, hope with you, cry with you and stand with you in support of Israel in every way possible.
There are many reasons to look at what is happening with Israel and with Jews around the world and to feel pessimistic, anxious and concerned. We are all drawn to the news 24/6 and follow everything that is happening in real time. We are obsessed and consumed by alerts, updates, articles, pictures and videos. We are gripped by the stories as if we are following a reality show, but it is not a show. It is our reality. It is our story. It is what is happening to our people and to our family.
So much of the mainstream media, as you know, have been intellectually dishonest, unfair and slanted in how they have presented this conflict and the events that surround it. Sometimes it feels as if Israel is not only fighting Hamas, but fighting the NY Times, CNN, and perhaps even the FAA who are not analyzing the situation from an objective, logical, moral perspective, but from a sensationalistic, distorted, and agenda driven one.
We have been inundated with news coverage, but there is so much that is not being covered, not reported on, or even spoken about outside of Jewish media:
- They do stories on family members of Hamas fighters, but what about the wives, children and parents of the young men who are going into Gaza risking their lives in order to restore peace and quiet to their people? What about the impact on parents and spouses whose lives are literally put on hold for weeks, while they are consumed by wondering, fearing, imagining the worst and dreading the phone call no parent ever wants to receive? There are parents in our BRS community whose sons are serving in Gaza right now, and they describe that they cannot sleep at night, they cannot eat, and they cannot function. Who is caring for their stories, who is writing about them and the lasting impact of living with this stress and worry?
- They do stories on the impact of rockets on children in Gaza, but where are the stories describing the trauma and impact on over a million children in Israel who have been introduced to sirens and bomb shelters and who have a new appreciation of just how short 15 seconds truly are? My nephew could not sleep at night because he was afraid he wouldn’t wake up if there was a siren. Another nephew began wetting his bed every night, clearly out of fear. Who is telling the story or concerned with how all of this will affect their lives going forward after the rockets stop falling? How will they cope with the sound of every fire truck that passes by, or a firecracker set off in their vicinity?
- They do stories about the economic impact of the war on Gaza, but what about Israel’s economy and how it has been impacted by the drastic drop in tourism, the practical closure of its airport, the disappearance of tens of thousands of businessman and employees from their business and place of work while they have been called up as reserves to defend their country? Who is sending Israel aid? Who will provide millions of dollars to compensate for the impact of this war on Israel’s economy and businesses?
- They do stories about Gaza families forced to leave their homes, but where are the stories about the 8,500 people evacuated from Gush Katif and other Jewish areas in Gaza nine years ago? They were told their tremendous sacrifices were necessary for peace. We can’t imagine how their pain has resurfaced or become compounded by watching how their sacrifices were for naught, and their former homes have become sites where rockets are now being launched at them. Who is telling their story or concerning themselves with their plight?
- They do stories about the fear in Gaza, but where are the stories in the mainstream media about Jews in France being chased and attacked in their synagogue? Where is the expose on how Jews in London are afraid to go out with their yarmulkas visible.
Yes, there is in fact so much to be sad about, so many reasons to be down, mournful, anxious and afraid.
We find ourselves in the period of bein ha’metzarim, the three weeks between the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av, an inauspicious time designated for mourning, loss and destruction. Close to two thousand years ago, a group of rabbis looked up at Har Ha’Bayis, the Temple Mount. In the place that had held our holy Mikdash, a place where Jews gathered 3 times a year, a place where sacrifices were offered and where our Sanhedrin sat, there was now a pile of rubble and the smell of ash.
The image and the realization of the new reality, the vulnerability and fragility of the Jewish people and the uncertainty of what the future would hold, brought feelings of grief and sorrow. In fact, the Talmud at the end of Makkos, in a very famous passage, tells us that the small group of rabbis saw a fox running where the Kodesh Ha’Kadoshim, the Holy of Holies, once stood and they began to weep. However, rather than cry, one of them began to laugh. The colleagues turned to Rabbi Akiva and wondered how could he be so callous, how could he be so cold, so distant? How could he possibly laugh in the face of so much loss, suffering and uncertainty?
R’ Akiva explained: We have two prophecies, that of Uriah and that of Zechariah. Uriah described, ‘Tziyon will be plowed like a field’ (Micha 3:12). Zechariah foretold, ‘Od yeishvu z’keinim u’zekeinos…yeladim v’yelados mesachakos, old men and old women will sit in the streets of Jerusalem… and the streets of the city shall be filled with boys and girls playing’ (Zechariah 8:4-5). I also was fearful about the future and what it would bring, but now that I see the prophecy of Uriah come true as a fox runs across the plowed Har Ha’Bayis, now I know that the prophecy of Zechariah will also come true and it gives me so much reason to hope. His friends turned to him and said, Akiva nichamtanu, Akiva nichamtanu, Akiva you have comforted us. Why do they say it twice; why not just once? He had clearly found the right words to lift their spirits so say once, nichamtanu, you comforted us. Why twice? Why the repetition?
Suggests Rabbi Dr. Abaham J. Twerski, what in fact they were telling him was this: Akiva, you have comforted us with your words, but Akiva, you have also comforted us with your actions, with who you are, with how you choose to live your life. Akiva nichamtanu, by being Akiva you have brought us comfort.
You see, R’ Akiva had endured incredible hardship and loss in his life. He experienced tremendous poverty, he buried thousands of students, he lived through the destruction of the Temple. However, R’ Akiva made the choice to be optimistic, to live with faith, to look with hope and to see the light, even when overwhelmed by darkness. Akiva nichamtanu, Akiva nichamtanu, Akiva you have comforted us with your words, but even more you have comforted us by being you, by showing us that when given the choice, choose to see the light, to be hopeful and optimistic, no matter how many reasons you have to feel otherwise.
R’ Akiva has taught us, particularly during these three mournful weeks, mournful on the calendar and mournful in reality, not to see the sadness on the surface, but to see the hope and optimism and light that lie just beneath it.
When we think about the unfair way the media and the international community are treating Israel, there is reason to despair. When we consider, the 3 boys and 43 precious soldiers whose candles have been extinguished, worlds unto themselves that are no longer, there is certainly reason to be sad and mourn.
However, my dear friends, if we put on our R’ Akiva glasses, if we look back on the past month through his lens, there is so much to be hopeful for, so much light, so much to be optimistic about and so much to look forward to. We have learned such incredible things about ourselves and we have come to appreciate so much that we took for granted until now. Consider the following incredible blessings and miracles:
- For the first time in two millennia, our safety, security and well-being is not outsourced to the world and we are not entirely dependent on the beneficence. We don’t have to be victims, passively accepting our destiny. Unlike during the crusades, inquisition, countless pogroms or the Holocaust, we don’t have to hide or run or beg others for mercy. We are blessed to have our own country, to be in our homeland, to have the most resilient, tenacious, focused, brave, spiritual army in the world. Who has not watched the video of IDF soldiers coming back from an all night mission singing, dancing and proudly waving Israeli flags to the words mi she’maamin lo m’facheid, whoever has faith in Hashem has nothing to fear?! Mi k’amcha yisroel, what an incredibly special people.
- We learned this week that though Nefesh B’Nefesh and the FIDF have an incredible program to take care of chayalim bodedim, Lone Soldiers, the truth is that there is no such thing as a lone soldier. Twenty one year old Sgt. Sean Carmeli, a heroic young man from Texas, volunteered to serve in the IDF 6,000 miles from his home. He was tragically killed defending Israel last week. His favorite Israeli soccer team learned of his death and worried that given his few connections in Israel, his funeral would be empty. They placed one post on Facebook and sent a message on What’s App asking people to come to the funeral so it would be dignified. They even provided busses to and from Haifa so people would have no excuse not to come. Imagine how the Carmeli family felt when they arrived at their son’s funeral and expected a handful of people only to discover over 20,000 who had never met Sean but attended his funeral, simply because we are all brothers and sisters. There is no such thing as a lone soldier; we are all one family. Mi k’amcha yisroel, what a remarkable people.
- Consider the miracles that we have merited to see before our very eyes. Imagine what devastation there would have been if not for the miraculous invention of Iron Dome — against all odds and with the gracious support from the United States necessary to provide it. Think about what we now know is the miracle of discovering these tunnels. Maariv and others have reported that through interrogations of those arrested, around Rosh Hashana time, “thousands of terrorists were meant to cross over to Israel from Gaza through the tunnels and kill and kidnap as many Israelis as they could.” Thank God, though illogical, Hamas rejected multiple cease-fire offers that would have avoided the Israeli ground forces entering Gaza and discovering the tunnels before what might have been the largest terrorist event in history.
- Remember the divisiveness and infighting in the Jewish world just a month ago. Could you have ever dreamed that the Jewish people could experience the level of achdus, unity, interconnectedness and peoplehood that we have felt in the last month? Jews around the world have united in prayer, in hope, in giving, and in a shared sense of destiny. I read an email from someone who got off a plane when the boys were missing and before he even left the gate area he rushed to turn on his phone. He describes that there was a Chassid on his flight who also stood there right at the gate and quickly turned on his phone. The two saw the news at the same time, that the boys were gone, their bodies had been discovered. Their eyes locked and then filled with tears. Two strangers who had little in common, at that moment felt the strongest bond and the closest connection.
- A grass roots effort began in Israel for chareidi women to cook dinner and bring it to families whose husband/father has been called up for reserves. It has been growing in popularity and is appreciated by the beneficiaries.
- Think about the incredible unity and unanimity in the Israeli government and security cabinet right now. Despite the incredibly diverse opinions represented, they have been unanimous in their decision to go into Gaza, to start a ground operation and even to withstand extraordinary pressure and reject a ceasefire until Hamas is defeated. The Israeli government, Tzahal, the country and Jews around the world are together. We are one people with one destiny.
- My brother attended a rally in Tel Aviv when the boys were missing that had tens of thousands of people. He wrote to me on his way home about the indescribable feeling of realizing that night that he belongs to a country, a nation and a people who truly care about him and that if anything ever happened to him, millions of people would do all that it takes to bring him home. What an incredible feeling to live with. Mi k’amcha yisroel!
- I was on a conference call with Rachel Frankel who described that if Hamas knew the unity it would bring, they never would have taken the boys. Gil-ad Shaar’s mother said thank God the boys’ bodies weren’t found earlier even though they had been killed immediately because it enabled the army to do all it needed to do in Chevron. What mothers are capable of putting the nation ahead of themselves? Such amazing strength and faith – Mi k’amcha yisroel!
- Consider the outpouring of chesed, generosity and donations. The IDF has more underwear and socks than they could possibly know what to do with. There has been a steady stream of care packages, toiletries, cold drinks, equipment and more. I urge you to continue to give at this time.
- Do you know that the biggest challenge facing the security at hospitals in Israel right now is the influx of visitors who are neither friends nor family with the injured soldiers but have come to visit in droves.
- I received an email from a friend who went to visit soldiers in the hospital. He described a visit to a soldier from Rosh Ha’ayin who lost an eye from a shrapnel wound. His family was with him but he was very depressed, and it was hard to lift his spirits. As they were on their way out of the room, a ten-year-old boy came in which was unusual because children are not allowed in that ward of the hospital. They listened as he turned to the soldier and said he had lost his eye to cancer and had come to tell the soldier to be strong; you can live a wonderful life with one eye and everything is going to be okay.
And so each moment of each day of the past month has been filled with these conflicting emotions. On the one hand, we cry from the horror we have seen. But at the same time, we cry from the beauty of what we have witnessed. We feel overwhelmed by sadness, but at the same time, we are overwhelmed by the strength of our people. We are depressed and uplifted simultaneously. This has been the worst three weeks, soon to be nine days, in many years, but at the same time, in other ways, it is the most hopeful as we palpably feel the unity necessary to bring Moshiach.
To be a Jew is to live with this tension, to embrace these contradictory feelings. R’ Akiva has taught us that our job, our task, is to channel one into the other, to experience the bad, but seek to find the good.
The Ohr Ha’Chaim Ha’Kadosh wonders why does it say eileh masei, these are the travels? It should say eileh ha’chaniyos, these are the encampments, since after all the parsha describes the forty two times we stopped. Perhaps the answer is that though we have stops in life, we have moments of being still, we must remain focused on the journey. We must, like R’ Akiva, put one foot in front of the other and carry forward with strength, hope and faith.
When we completed the fourth book of the Torah this morning, Sefer Bamidbar, we all said, chazak chazak v’nischazeik. When the Rama quotes this practice, he simply says we say chazak. We, however, expand the statement by turning towards one another and saying chazak – you be strong, and chazak – you be strong and nischazeik, together we will strengthen one another. Do you know where those words, chazak v’nischazeik come from? They are from a pasuk in Shmuel that is so appropriate not only to end Sefer Bamidbar, but because we need to hear them right now – Chazak v’nischazeik b’ad ameinu uv’ad arei Elokeinu, be strong on behalf of our people and our holy land. Israel and the Jewish people are arguably as strong as we have ever been and together we will only grow stronger and stronger.
Let’s be honest. We have not solved our differences. When the dust settles the debates about yeshiva students serving in the army and all the division among the denominations of Judaism will undoubtedly return. However, what this month has taught us is, if we want to experience unity, if we want to focus on what we have in common, if we want to remember we have a shared destiny, if we want to never take for granted having our own country and army and the sacrifices it takes to have them, we now know that we have the capacity to live this way.
Before this month, I think many of us didn’t realize how connected we feel, how drawn to Israel and her well-being we are, how sincere our davening can be, how deep our faith extends or how much we are willing to donate to help others. We have learned a lot about the world, much of it disappointing. But we have learned even more about ourselves. We said in Rosh Chodesh benching a moment ago, mi she’asa nissim la’avoseinu, may the One who did miracles for our forefathers and brought them redemption, bring it for us. We end that sentence with the words that are the catalyst for salvation – chaveirim kol Yisroel.
Like R’ Akiva, we must choose what to focus on and to see all the hope and good that has emerged. Today, Jews everywhere are chaveirim kol yisroel. We need to embrace our unity, nourish it, reinforce it and promote it so that it grows only stronger and stronger until we bring the final redemption that we so desperately long for.
My friends, do not despair – chazak, chazak v’nischazeik. Remain strong, and together we will strengthen one another.
While the response to our proposed mission was positive, unfortunately, due to a number of factors, the mission sadly did not come together in the end. I sincerely hope our community will find the ability to successfully organize a large mission of support and solidarity to Israel in the future.
While we may not be able to show support for Israel by traveling there right now, there remain many things for us to do, even from afar. We cannot be apathetic or indifferent to the plight of our brothers and sisters at this time. In addition to remaining informed about what is happening in Israel, sharing email and posting to social media, I encourage you to dedicate time each day to take additional meaningful action on behalf of Israel. Here are some things we can do:
1. Pray Like You Mean It - In addition to adding the consistent recitation of Tehillim, we can all make an effort to improve our prayers. Consider attending minyan more regularly, making a greater effort to come on time, pledging not to talk at all during davening, trying to truly concentrate on each of the berachos of the amidah, and speaking to Hashem in your own words. Don’t underestimate the power of sincere prayer, a power our Rabbis at least partially attribute past redemption of our people to.
- I strongly encourage you to visit www.shmiraproject.com and sign up to spiritually adopt a specific soldier to daven on behalf of and keep in your thoughts.
- For a list of injured soldiers in the IDF in need of our prayers, please see page 5.
2. Give Generously Now – We have all been bombarded with emails requesting funds for various needs of the IDF and it is hard to know where to direct our giving. I highly suggest that you consider the following organizations and efforts, whom I know personally and trust implicitly:
- Yashar L’Chayal – Thanks in part to Glen Golish’s introduction and his great efforts on behalf of IDF soldiers, our community is blessed to have a close relationship with Yashar L’Chayal and its director, Leon Blankrot. Based on direct experience, I have great confidence in their ability to identify and fill the needs of the IDF in real time with no overhead. I highly recommend contributing generously by visiting www.yasharlachayal.org/immediately.
- Friends of the IDF – The FIDF Palm Beach Region, to which BRS belongs, has adopted the Golani Brigade as our Adopt-A-Brigade Program. Their restricted emergency campaign supports the FIDF dignity program with food & clothing vouchers as well as FIDF spirit weeks for the brave soldiers of the Golani brigade to recover emotionally and physically after incredibly stressful service. 100% of the funds donated to the emergency campaign goes directly to the soldiers. www.fidf.org
- Nefesh B’Nefesh – Under the leadership of our beloved Rabbi Fass and Tony Gelbart, Nefesh B’Nefesh in coordination with FIDF provides the only official Lone Soldier Program recognized by the IDF. http://www.nbn.org.il/support
- One Israel Fund – In coordination with Security Chiefs and the IDF, the One Israel Fund brings basic life saving kits and security equipment to border communities who are vulnerable to tunnel infiltrations and rocket attacks. www.oneisraelfund.org/donations
If you prefer to contribute to our local Israel emergency campaign for us to distribute as a collective community, please contribute to the BRS Israel Emergency Fund or through our South Palm Beach Jewish Federation at www.bocafed.org
I want to express tremendous gratitude to those who have enabled us to donate 6 generators to the IDF as well as enabled us to help the father of a severely injured lone soldier travel immediately to be with his son. Thank you!
3. Use Your Voice -
- Our Representative Ted Deutch and Florida Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen have introduced House Resolution 107 denouncing Hamas’ criminal use of civilians as human shields. Please contact them and thank them for their leadership and support of Israel – Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (202) 225-3931, www.ros-lehtinen.house.gov; Rep. Ted Deutch 202-225-3001 www.teddeutch.house.gov
- Additionally, it has come to my attention that members of Congress are being contacted by anti-Israel voices at a much higher rate than by those who support Israel. Please contact as many members of the House and Senate as possible to thank those who support Israel and encourage those who haven’t. Please visit www.AIPAC.org to contact elected officials. It literally takes a moment but can make a big difference. Don’t underestimate the power of your voice. For example, AIPAC’s lobbying efforts are largely responsible for the incredibly generous funding Congress and the Administration approved for the Iron Dome that has saved countless lives each day of this war.
- As Israeli government officials as well as AIPAC made clear, the FAA ban on flights to Ben Gurion handed Hamas terrorists a victory and served to isolate Israel from the world causing great loss and damage. I suggest calling the FAA (1-866-TELL-FAA) or email them (www.faa.gov/contact) to register your dissatisfaction with their decision.
May Hashem protect our precious soldiers and enable them to succeed in their critical missions. May He protect our brothers and sisters in Israel and around the world. May we merit seeing these days of mourning and sadness culminating in Tisha B’av, transformed into a time of redemption and joy.
Dear BRS Family,
Like you, my heart weighs extremely heavily by the announcement of the IDF’s ground offensive in Gaza and the danger it poses to our courageous and heroic soldiers in addition to the likely collateral loss of life that tragically occurs in every war. Over the last month, as events in Israel have unfolded, there are two feelings that pervade nearly my every waking moment.
Firstly, though I am away for my summer vacation, it has been incredibly difficult being apart from you, my beloved community and my cherished family. I have longed to daven with you, hope with you, cry with you and stand with you in support of our brothers and sisters in Israel. From a distance, I have drawn tremendous inspiration by the large BRS participation in two Boca Raton community events. We are all so fortunate for Rabbi Moskowitz’s capable and sincere leadership during this difficult time and I want to personally thank him for all that he has done. I greatly look forward to returning next week and rejoining you, my BRS family.
Secondly, like you, I continue to feel extremely anxious to help Israel in meaningful ways during this time. Some of the things we could do include:
- Regularly recite tehillim as well as ask the Almighty in our own words to protect our brothers and sisters in Israel, guard the brave members of the IDF from harm, and enable them to complete their mission of bringing peace and serenity to Israel. Never underestimate the value and impact of genuine, sincere and heartfelt prayer.
- Advocate for Israel to the media, on social media and to all you meet. Engage your co-workers, neighbors, those at the gym or fellow shoppers at the supermarket and share the truth about Israel’s just operation to protect her citizens from terrorist attacks. Let them know that Israel has one of the most moral armies in the world and takes exemplary measures to protect civilians in Gaza.
- Contact elected officials – thank those that have been vocally supportive and challenge the others to publicly support Israel’s right to take all measures necessary to protect her citizens against Hamas, a terror organization that is violating human rights by firing rockets at civilians while at the same time using their own civilians as shields. Ask them to be clear and unequivocal in their message and to issue a press release, as well as post on Twitter and Facebook.
- Feel solidarity and empathy for those under attack by being alerted in real time of falling rockets. Download the Red Alert app in itunes or Android to gain a very small insight into what they are enduring.
- Support communities in the south who have been traumatized by the incessant fall of rockets. You can donate to the OU emergency fund that is directly benefitting the citizens of Sderot, Kiryat Gat, Kiryat Malachi, Beit Shemesh and Ofakim here.
- Provide packages and necessities for members of the Israeli Defense Forces who are on the front line of this war. Donate to Friends of the IDF here, and/or Yashar L’Chayal here.
There is one more thing we can do for Israel, though understandably, it isn’t for everyone. There is no greater expression of “imo anochi b’tzara, I am with you in pain,” than actually being b’tzara with our brothers and sisters. We can show our family in Israel that when the going gets tough, we, and our children, still go to Israel.
Last week, my daughter left to Israel on a summer program. I understand it is not a simple decision to send a child to Israel while rockets are falling across the width and breadth of the country. God forbid, I would never judge or criticize those who have cancelled plans to go. I personally feel that Israel is not just a place you visit when all is calm and peaceful. We don’t just go for Sukkos, summer tours, or to make a Bar Mitzvah.
On a recent conference call with the leadership of the RCA, when asked what we can do to help, a high level Israeli official encouraged us to come to Israel and show support.
Our community has always stood strongly with Israel and there is no greater way to stand with Israel than to stand in Israel. With our President, Dr. Wolgin’s full endorsement, we are organizing a BRS Emergency Solidarity Mission to Israel from approximately July 27th to August 3rd , with the option to leave early or stay later. In Israel we will visit communities in the South and meet with their mayors, rabbis and community members. We will visit army bases on the border and bring packages. With tens of thousands of reservists now called up, there are volunteers needed in other parts of the country.
In this week’s parsha, when the tribes of Reuvein, Gad and half of Menashe express interest in residing outside of Israel, Moshe turns to them and asks – “Ha’acheichem ya’vou l’milchama, v’ atem teishvu poh? Will your brothers go to war, and you sit here?” Today, thousands of years later, Moshe’s words from our very parsha, ring in our ears.
Please email me as soon as possible if you are interested in participating so we can assess pricing and planning – firstname.lastname@example.org
Understandably, not everybody has the time, means or good health to travel to Israel on such short notice. If you can go but cannot afford the cost or you can contribute to helping someone else go, but you personally cannot, please be in touch with me.
By the time our trip takes place, may it be to show solidarity after a sweeping victory in which Israel achieves the peace, quiet and serenity she longs for.
Rabbi Efrem Goldberg
Watching the short clip you cannot help but feel you are seeing a fictional scene produced by Hollywood. A rocket is fired at civilians and a missile immediately launches swirling through the sky until it calculates the trajectory of the incoming missile, changing course to meet it high in the sky where it explodes without damaging or threatening anyone below. But this scene isn’t computer generated or the result of special effects. It is a reality playing itself out every few minutes throughout almost the entire width and breadth of our beloved Israel, thanks to the miracle of Iron Dome.
When the researchers at Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, an Israeli defense company suggested that they could create a system that would launch missiles to meet rockets in the sky and explode them they were laughed at by their colleagues in America and around the world. Yet their resolve didn’t diminish, for as they say- necessity is the mother of invention.
Early versions of Iron Dome required great improvisation. One of the creators described, “As scientists we dream to sit in our offices without limitations of time and budget and to develop perfect products. But the reality is different, and these constraints forced us to think hard. There are parts in the system forty times cheaper than the parts we buy normally. I can give you even a scoop – it contains the world’s only missile components from Toys R Us…One day I brought to work my son’s toy car. We passed it among us, and we saw that there were actually components suitable for us. More than that I can not tell.”
Manufacturing and operating Iron Dome installations is not inexpensive. The original funding came from Israel, but since then, the United States has provided over one billion dollars of funding to provide more installations and support the cost of operating the system. A tremendous debt of gratitude is owed to Congress and the Administration who have been overwhelmingly supportive in providing the funding necessary to allow Iron Dome to be the protective shield in the sky that Israel sadly needs.
In the last few days alone, hundreds and hundreds of rockets have been launched at Israel, some reaching far distances and cities that have not yet been vulnerable to rocket attacks from Gaza. Remarkably, in this latest escalation, the Iron Dome system has over a 90% success rate of taking out rockets on trajectories towards populated areas. Indeed, it has been reported that Hamas is growingly frustrated with Iron Dome’s success rendering their rocket attacks futile.
Bli ayin ha’rah, despite the enormous amount of rockets fired over the last week there have been no casualties. This extraordinary fact is nothing short of miraculous. We must not take the kindness of the Almighty for granted, nor the ingenuity of Israel or the generosity of the American government and people.
While Iron Dome is doing an incredible job defending the State of Israel from the rocket offensive, there is a second front to Israel’s war even before a ground attack is potentially launched. It is easy to dismiss the lies, distortions and bias against Israel prevalent today in some of the media and among much of the world. One is tempted to remember the prophecy from last week’s parsha (Balak 23:9), “Hein am levadad yishkon, they are a nation destined to be isolated and alone,” and to not even bother to demand accurate, fair and just reporting.
But, Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men teaches (Mishlei 18:21) “Maves v’chaim b’yad ha‘lashon, death and life are in the power of the tongue.” It goes without saying that we need to use our power of speech to daven from the depths of our hearts and beseech the Ribono Shel Olam, Master of the Universe to guard and protect our brothers and sisters in Israel and the members of the IDF. But the pasuk means something more. Words, articles, op-eds, interviews, blogs and posts matter. They shape popular opinion, which in turn shapes policy, policies like funding for Iron Dome, military cooperation and international lawsuits.
Verbal rockets are being launched at Israel hourly in the form of moral equivalencies, doctored images, misinformation, criticism, and unfair calls for restraint. Some flinging these dangerous and at times lethal missiles do so intentionally and strategically while others are simply poorly informed and ignorant.
Ron Dermer, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, was interviewed by CNN’s Jake Tapper who asked him about the civilian deaths in the current operation. Dermer asks him, “What do you think America would do if over 200 million Americans were in bomb shelters? What do you think the American people would demand that their government do? Do you think that America would use less force than Israel is using now?” Tapper responds, “The hypothetical is essentially meaningless because is America building housing in Mexico at the time?” Dermer, who somehow remains calm, explains that Israel removed 10,000 of its citizens from Gaza and don’t occupy one inch of it. Yet, since we left, there have been over 8,000 rockets. One can’t help but wonder, in offering the absurd parallel to Mexico, is Tapper just ignorant or is he slanted?
The New York Times bias towards Israel has already been demonstrated before, but this week they hit a new low. Their coverage has been egregiously misleading to the point that they had to issue a correction after misrepresenting Prime Minister Netanyahu’s reaction to the murder of a Palestinian teenager.
While there is nothing we can do to shoot down rockets flying into Israel, there is much we can and must do to be the Iron Dome protecting Israel from verbal rockets from around the world. Part of the genius of Iron Dome is that it calculates the anticipated target of the rocket and only shoots it down if it is headed towards a populated area. We too need to be judicious and thoughtful in our effort to defend from verbal attacks.
We should not waste time, energy or resources pursuing futile avenues like debating people in the comments sections of online articles or being drawn into endless Facebook and Twitter discussions that serve either as echo chambers of like-minded individuals, or escalations of counterproductive vitriol and rhetoric.
Instead, like Iron Dome, we need to respond in efficient and meaningful ways. Write letters to the editor of local, national and international newspapers and submit op-eds and editorials. Engage your co-workers, neighbors, people at the gym or fellow shoppers at the supermarket and share the truth about Israel’s just operation to protect her citizens from terrorist attacks. Let them know that Israel has one of the most moral armies in the world and takes exemplary measures to protect civilians in Gaza. Encourage them to take the time to learn the facts, not just rely on headlines as a source of information. If you need help articulating Israel’s position or learning more about the facts, not just the headlines, AIPAC has wonderful talking points on their website AIPAC.org
Reach out to government officials from the administration, your senators and representatives, down to your local elected officials like your city’s mayor and others. Challenge them to publicly support Israel’s right to take all measures necessary to protect her citizens against Hamas, a terror organization that is violating human rights by firing rockets at civilians while at the same time using their own civilians as shields. Ask them to be clear and unequivocal in their message and to issue a press release, post on Twitter and Facebook and make a speech from the floor if appropriate.
The creators of Iron Dome were told it could not be done, but they persevered because the safety of Israel needed them. Don’t believe that nothing can be done to fight back against the distortions, bias and verbal attacks against Israel. Your phone call, letter, conversation or post could influence policy and public opinion in real and meaningful ways. Persevere, because the safety of Israel needs all of us.