RABBI MIRVIS LESSONS OF WAR

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis

THIS SHAB­BAT we be­gin the Book of Deuteron­omy, in which Moses, prior to his pass­ing, warned the Is­raelites of try­ing times ahead. We will be chal­lenged, he said, by ra’ot rabot vet­zarot — many evils and dis­tresses (Deut. 31:17). Play­ing on the word tzarot, which can mean ei­ther ‘dis­tresses’ or ‘com­pet­ing’, the Tal­mu­dic sage, Rav, ex­plained that Moses is warn­ing us of ‘evils which will com­pete with one another, like a bee and a scorpion’ (Chagiga 5a).

In Tal­mu­dic times it was be­lieved that one should treat a scorpion bite with hot wa­ter and a bee sting with cold wa­ter; the re­verse would be danger­ous (Avoda Zara 28b).

Rashi ex­plained that Rav is de­scrib­ing a sit­u­a­tion in which a person has been bit­ten by a scorpion and stung by a bee in the same place. What is the rem­edy? Hot wa­ter will be help­ful to the scorpion bite but detri­men­tal to the bee sting, and the re­verse if cold wa­ter is ap­plied. Sooth­ing one will ag­gra­vate the other.

Dur­ing these chal­leng­ing times, our brethren in Is­rael have been faced with ex­actly this type of dilemma. Ev­ery de­ci­sion has the po­ten­tial to solve one prob­lem but ex­ac­er­bate another.

We can only imag­ine the dilemma that faced the kid­napped teenager, Gi­lad Shaar, be­fore phon­ing po­lice for help. The de­ci­sion to re­main silent would pre­vent oth­ers from know­ing of his plight. The de­ci­sion to make the call risked the bru­tal re­sponse of those who sub­se­quently mur­dered him, Naf­tali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrach.

The IDF is forced into im­pos­si­ble dilem­mas by Ha­mas’ dis­re­gard for the safety of its own cit­i­zens. Ha­mas is pur­pose­fully en­dan­ger­ing Gazans, us­ing them as hu­man shields by fir­ing rock­ets and dig­ging tun­nels in densely pop­u­lated civil­ian ar­eas, in­clud­ing homes, hos­pi­tals and schools, and of­ten for­bid­ding civil­ians to heed Is­raeli warn­ings to evac­u­ate these ar­eas.

All gov­ern­ments have a moral duty to pro­tect their cit­i­zens from harm. It is with a heavy heart that Is­rael con­ducts op­er­a­tions in Gaza to re­duce the dan­ger to its cit­i­zens from Ha­mas, which in­dis­crim­i­nately tar­gets Is­raeli civil­ians with on­go­ing bar­rages of deadly rock­ets.

As long as such a threat re­mains, so does the obli­ga­tion on Is­rael to act to de­fend its cit­i­zens. As a re­sult of Ha­mas’s em­brac­ing of a cul­ture of death, ev­i­denced by cal­lous dis­re­gard for the safety and well­be­ing of its cit­i­zens, we are wit­ness­ing a con­se­quent tragic loss of in­no­cent life. As nec­es­sary as such op­er­a­tions are, the death and suf­fer­ing of in­no­cent Gazans causes me deep pain and an­guish.

In the search for long-term peace and se­cu­rity, there is no per­fect or easy so­lu­tion for Is­rael to turn to. While ev­ery use of force alien­ates po­ten­tial part­ners for peace, ev­ery con­ces­sion has the po­ten­tial to strengthen those who seek to de­stroy the Jewish state.

With all these chal­lenges, I am deeply con­cerned by the as­so­ci­ated rise in an­tisemitic at­tacks across Europe and the use of Nazi imagery and lan­guage. Free­dom of ex­pres­sion is an im­por­tant right, but when protests against the poli­cies of a govern­ment turn an­tisemitic and when Jews are ver­bally and

I stand side by side with the peo­ple of Is­rael

phys­i­cally as­saulted the alarm bells should ring loudly for us all. We have been here be­fore.

I am proud of our youth groups whose trips to Is­rael this summer have pro­ceeded un­in­ter­rupted. Their courage to­gether with the sup­port shown by par­ents is in­spir­ing and is to be com­mended. My own plans to visit Is­rael dur­ing the summer are un­al­tered and I know that many other Bri­tish Jews will visit Is­rael to show sup­port and sol­i­dar­ity.

I con­grat­u­late Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron for the strong lead­er­ship he has shown on this mat­ter and for his sup­port and un­der­stand­ing of Is­rael’s plight and its need to de­fend its cit­i­zens.

Af­ter warn­ing the Is­raelites of fu­ture ad­ver­sity, Moses charged Joshua with the words chazak ve’ematz — ‘be strong and of good courage’ (v.23). In so do­ing, Moses was teach­ing a time­less mes­sage to the Jewish peo­ple. When con­fronted with at­tempts to de­stroy Jewish life, we must be strong and coura­geous in the de­ci­sions we take to ad­dress com­plex scorpion and bee dilem­mas — to se­cure peace while min­imis­ing blood­shed and to neu­tralise the threat against the cit­i­zens of Is­rael while con­tin­u­ing to main­tain high moral stan­dards and pro­tect­ing civil­ian life.

I, along with our com­mu­nity, stand side by side with the peo­ple of Is­rael. Their loss is our loss. To­gether with them we mourn the fallen and con­sole the griev­ing.

I pray for the time when the prophecy of Isa­iah will come true: “…and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into prun­ing forks; na­tion shall not lift up sword against na­tion and they shall learn war no more.” Let us build a fu­ture of hope and as­pi­ra­tion for Is­raeli and Pales­tinian chil­dren where they need not know rocket fire nor bomb shel­ters. I en­cour­age all par­ties to leave no stone un­turned in pur­suit of a true, just and last­ing peace for the en­tire re­gion.

May the Almighty bless us all.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.