As we read in this week’s Torah portion how our patriarch Isaac shuddered a great, very great, shudder (Genesis 27:33) — we are all still shuddering over the latest brutal massacre and the ensuing war in Israel.
After a rather lengthy sleep we have suddenly been jolted back to reality with the latest conflagration in the Middle East.
Is anyone shocked?
We children of the West, born in freedom, have been spoiled by the façade of our many distractions that have allowed us the luxury of denial of the stark battles of good and evil, creating an illusion of false security. The reverie of a peaceful siesta is far more comfortable, but one need not be very intelligent to recognize that the Middle East is a combustion chamber, a fermenting hotbed of noxious toxins always ready to explode.
September 11 and other attacks remind us sporadically from time to time that there are powerful brewing forces that must be reckoned with before we enter an age of true peace, but it is so easy to sink back into our comfortable cushions. Such is the nature of the beast of denial.
Just a bit of history can surely wake you up:
1948–1949: Israeli War of Independence
1951–1955: Retribution operations
1956: Suez War
1967: Six-Day War
1967–1970: War of Attrition
1973: Yom Kippur War
1978: South Lebanon conflict
1982: First Lebanon War
1982–2000: South Lebanon conflict
1987–1993: First Intifada
2000–2005: Second Intifada
And more recently, with a with more detail which we all certainly remember:
August 2005: Israel unilaterally withdraws from Gaza.
June 2006: Hamas militants infiltrate an army post near the Israeli side of the Gaza Strip and abduct Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
July 2006: Second Lebanon War, sparked by persistent rocket shelling of Northern Israel by Hezbollah.
2008–2009: Gaza War
Are these coincidences that every Israeli acquiescence is followed by another uprising by its enemies?
In 2006 it was Hezbollah from the north. Six years later, in 2012, it was Hamas from the south.
2014: Yet another Gaza War
Which brings us to today…
October 7, 2023: Operation Al-Aqsa Flood. A barrage of thousands of missiles launched at Israel, over 1,400 brutally murdered — more killed than on any day since the Holocaust — and 240 elders, men, women and children taken hostage into Gaza.
Hamas is back in action…
Hamas clearly views the Arab-Israeli conflict as a religious struggle between Islam and Judaism that can only be resolved by the destruction of the State of Israel, and thus opposes any Arab-Israeli peace talks.
If you’re still asleep, here are a few quotes from the Hamas covenant (or charter):
Preface: “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.” (A quote by Imam Hassan al Banna)
Article 6: “The Islamic Resistance Movement is a distinguished Palestinian movement, whose allegiance is to Allah, and whose way of life is Islam. It strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine, for under the wing of Islam followers of all religions can coexist in security and safety where their lives, possessions and rights are concerned…”
Article 7:”The Islamic Resistance Movement aspires to the realization of Allah’s promise, no matter how long that should take. The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said: “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews, when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharqad tree would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews.”
Article 11: “The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Muslim generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up.”
Article 13: “There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors. The Palestinian people know better than to consent to having their future, rights and fate toyed with.”
Article 28: “The Zionist invasion is a vicious invasion … It relies greatly in its infiltration and espionage operations on the secret organizations it gave rise to, such as the Freemasons, The Rotary and Lions clubs, and other sabotage groups. All these organizations, whether secret or open, work in the interest of Zionism and according to its instructions… When the Jews conquered the Holy City in 1967, they stood on the threshold of the Aqsa Mosque and proclaimed that “Mohammed is dead, and his descendants are all women.” Israel, Judaism and Jews challenge Islam and the Moslem people. “May the cowards never sleep.”
Article 32: “After Palestine, the Zionists aspire to expand from the Nile to the Euphrates. When they will have digested the region they overtook, they will aspire to further expansion, and so on. Their plan is embodied in The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and their present conduct is the best proof of what we are saying.”
What to be done?
As in all serious confrontations one needs a short-term plan and a long-term one. Obviously, first and foremost everything possible must be done in the short term to protect innocent lives and never allow Hamas — or any terrorist group — to violate the security of a peace-loving nation ever again. A show of strength is necessary to serve as a deterrent.
We all would wish that this short-term approach would be enough. But the fact remains that even when these immediate fires are quelled (hopefully sooner than later), the region is festering with centuries old toxins, driven by religious passions and often fanatical faith (misguided or not), and the resulting hostility to Israel will not just go away. It is built on a philosophy and unwavering belief system of millions.
Indeed, these battles have been raging for thousands of years, beginning with the hostilities between Ishmael and Isaac, both children of Abraham, and Esau and Jacob, both children of Isaac.
Thus, one thing is for sure: Until we don’t come to honest terms with the brutal truth about the true nature of the conflict – religious and spiritual as opposed to political – we will not know how to fight this war and we will never win it. Fires may be suppressed, but the underlying forces will not be tamed.
It is no surprise therefore that the current outbreak began on Simchas Torah, the conclusion of a month of intense praying and fasting and celebrating.
During the month of Tishrei we traditionally increase in all our commitments, in our Torah study, prayer and charity. Above all, we intensify our love and kindness to each other – counterbalancing the dark forces that surround us, then just as now.
For a few weeks we had armed ourselves with spiritual weapons, and as the enemy came to destroy us we now deploy all the reservoirs we have been accumulating over Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Sukkot.
Just as we need to fight the physicals war to protect innocent lives, we also need to fight the spiritual war.
As mentioned, first and foremost everything must be done in the immediate to protect the innocent. But in the long term big picture, we must remember that this – as in past battles in Israel, all the way back to the Babylonian and Roman destruction of the Temples – is ultimately a spiritual and religious battle, reflecting the battle of all life.
The true battle of life is not for land, honor or wealth. It is for the dominance of spirit over matter. Our greatest challenge is not political but spiritual. It is about finding purpose and direction.
We thus intensify our efforts in reconnecting with out inner purpose, through our increased study, prayer and charity, thereby creating internal harmony. Above all – we do all we can to battle divisiveness and foster love between each other.
As long as we do not understand the current confrontation – some call it a “clash of civilizations” – we will continue to be its victim, and be putting out fires in a never-ending, slowly bleeding vicious cycle.
The ultimate victor will be not the one with the most powerful weapons. It will be the one with the most powerful spiritual vision.
So while all peace-loving people grieve over the tragic loss of any life, and pray for the return of the hostages and end of all hostilities – we must always remember that even while we are forced to deal with the short-term challenges, there looms a much larger picture.
The universe is at war and has always been at war – the raging battle between materialism and spirituality, between personal gain and higher purpose, between matter and spirit, between evil and good. Center stage of this war – now and throughout history – has always been Israel.
So ladies and gentlemen: It is time to wake up.
Perhaps this is the power of the promise “hineh lo yonum v’lo yishan shomer Yisroel,” “Behold, the protector of Israel does not slumber nor sleep” – even when we may.