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Confounded -- Chronicle Online/The WORD 10/19/23

Weekly On-line Rabbi's D'var-Torah

October 19, 2023 4 Cheshvan 5784 NoachJust yesterday a group of Jews—many of them wearing kippot and tallitot (skullcaps and prayer shawls)— were protesting in the Rotunda of the US Capitol in Washington, DC. In one of the videos I saw, they were singing a song that we have often sung in our congregation—“We Rise” by Batya Levine. They were wearing t-shirts with an anti-genocide message. You might think that these were my people. Sadly, they were definitely NOT my people. They were there to protest the US support of Israel and to call for a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel. Their signs said nothing about freeing the 200 hostages in Gaza—many of whom are children and babies. Their signs said nothing about the deadliest day for the Jews since the Holocaust. All of their signs called for a ceasefire and for an end to the “genocide.” I am both angry and perplexed that a group of Jews could experience what the Jewish people have all experienced since the early morning hours of October 7 and think that this is the appropriate Jewish response. My initial reaction was a wish that the billboard sponsored by the organization "Jewbelong" that appeared on I-80 last Tuesday could somehow be magically transported to their jail cells (yes, they were arrested!). That sign said, “Oh, don’t be naïve. Hamas would chop your head off too.” (I know it's hard to read.) It may seem crass, but the reality is that quite a few Israeli peace activists are among the missing and murdered. Hamas does not discriminate in its hatred of Jews. But, perhaps even more than their inability to acknowledge that Hamas is an antisemitic terrorist group and they are most at fault for the current situation in Israel, I can’t believe that they would use the word “genocide” so casually. Since 1948, when Israel was established, the Jewish populations of neighboring Arab and Muslim states have virtually disappeared. In Lebanon, the Jewish population has gone from 20,000 to 0. In Syria, from 30,000 to fewer than 20. In Egypt from 75,000 to fewer than 15. In Iran, from 100,000 to 8,500. There are no Jews living in the territory under Palestinian control (other than the hostages!). Over the same period of time, the population of Gaza was approximately 200,000 in 1948, and it had grown to about 400,000 when Israel took control of Gaza in 1967. Today, there are over 2,000,000 people living in Gaza. I don’t want to use the word “genocide,” but if there is any ethnic cleansing going on in the Middle East, Israel is NOT the guilty party. If Israel had, in fact, been trying to perpetrate genocide, they are pretty lousy at it. Although this week’s Torah portion, Noach, is best known for the story of the Flood and the creatures who survived it on the Ark, there is another well-known story tucked in at the end of the portion. In nine short verses, the Torah tells us the story of the Tower of Babel. At the time of the story, all of humanity spoke one language and they conspired together to build a great tower, which somehow insulted God. The punishment for building this giant tower—perhaps a ziggurat—was to make it harder for human beings to cooperate. God said, “Let us, then, go down and confound their speech there, so that they shall not understand one another’s speech.” As a result, each human being spoke a unique language. Human beings could no longer communicate effectively with one another. The construction of the Tower of Babel came to a halt. I cannot properly express how sad and confused I am that a group of my fellow Jews would respond to the atrocities perpetrated against Israel and Jews in this way. I can only imagine that somehow their language has been confounded, that they simply don’t understand what is going on in Israel and Gaza right now. I have no other explanation. Three times a day, traditional Jews recite the following blessing as part of the Amidah prayer: “You, God, grace humans with wisdom and teach humanity perception. Bestow upon us Your knowledge, insight and understanding. Blessed are You the grantor of wisdom.” I can only pray that God will send a little wisdom and understanding in their direction. Shalom, RAF.

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