Follow by Email

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Radio Interview regarding Israel's war w/ Hamas

Upon returning from my recent trip to Israel, I was interviewed about Israel’s war with Hamas by KNEWS RADIO’s “Bulldog” Bill Feingold on Monday evening, January 12th. Click on this link to listen to the interview.

http://www.nertamid.com/rabbi/audiovideo.html

Rabbi Isaac Jeret
Spiritual Leader
Congregation Ner Tamid of South Bay
www.nertamid.com

Monday, January 12, 2009

2009/1/6 -- DAY #10c: United As ONE …

This day (Tuesday) was one of the more difficult days of my journey to Israel. Beginning with the subdued dedication of the synagogue at the Beit Hachayal in Be’er Sheva and continuing with hospital visits with Israel’s wounded soldiers and their families; the pain of war was palpable in every interaction and experience. The day would conclude quite differently.

Upon returning to Tel Aviv, I joined a dear friend with whom I was delighted to have reconnected just a few days earlier and attended a rally in support of Israel's southern citizens and the IDF in the center of the city. Approximately 5,000 people were expected to attend. Tel Aviv is at the heart of one of the more liberal regions of the country. The steadfast solidarity expressed by the diverse crowd that gathered was encouraging and energizing.

Popular Israeli bands warmed up the crowd. The Deputy Mayor of Ashdod, a city hit hard by Grad-type missiles in the course of Hamas’ war against Israel’s civilian population, spoke eloquently of the unity that was both required and exhibited throughout Israel, during this difficult time. A young soldier, having recently concluded his three years of armed-service in the IDF, reflected upon his service in Lebanon and exhorted the crowd and all of Israel to strengthen with their spirit and without qualification all of Israel’s boys serving in defense of the country. He shared that, from his own experience in Lebanon, he understood, and wanted everyone to understand, just how important it is for Israel's soldiers to know what almost 90 percent of all Israelis feel: Israel is, indeed, entirely behind this the boys of the IDF and in solidly supportive of fighting -- and truly winning -- this war.

The Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel then urged those gathered, from Orthodox to secular, to pray, expressing his belief that no group of Jews has a license on prayer or a monopoly on God’s ear. I was stunned when he went out of his way to engage the crowd in a prayer on behalf of Jews world-wide who might be in peril or might need support; yes, Israel, even at war, expresses its care and concern for the entirety of the Jewish People, wherever we may be! This was one of the most unselfish and inspiring moments of prayer that I have ever experienced.

Finally, two young girls from Sederot, 9 and 11 years of age respectively, addressed the crowd. They shared their personal stories of their own survival of Hamas and other Palestinian terror; stories that neither of them should have been old enough to have been told about, much less to have lived. Their hope for a future of peace and tranquility were nothing short of courageous. Finally, the nine-year-old girl said the following: “Im K’var, Az Kvar! – If we have already taken the initiative to fight this war, let’s win it!” The crowd roared. I found myself choking back tears, hearing in the sweet voice of this adorable little girl both the return to a peaceful existence that victory would facilitate for her and her family and the utter terror and devastation that would obtain for them with any lesser result.

I left the rally, heading to dinner with my dear friend, holding these two little girls, their traumatic memories, and their courageous dreams of peace and quiet - all close to my heart. Li-El, his father, his entire family, and every soldier and family that I visited with earlier this day continue still to weigh heavily on my soul (see my earlier posts today to this blog). Back in Los Angeles, I have two boys of my own. If a ship had sailed 50 years ago from Europe, southeast into the Mediterranean Sea, instead of westward across the Atlantic Ocean, my two boys could easily have been this evening two boys from Sederot. Where we are, at any moment in time - as Jews in particular given our wanderings at the hands of our oppressors -- is nothing but an accident of history; that is, unless we aspire, or somehow manage, to be in the one place where we can shape our own history and master our own destiny as a People, rather than anywhere else, where the cauldrons of history have tended to mold our fate, and all too often leaving bereft and forgotten in our hour of desperate need.

This night, and whenever we so demand of ourselves as a People, we are all ONE; in our dreams, in our fears, in our love, in our yearnings, in our passions, and in our hopes -- in our conviction and in our solidarity. Such Achdut -- such unity -- is achievable only and ultimately when we are at home in our Homeland, and especially so when we are blessed, for even a moment in time if not forever, to share it all -- all that matters most to us, with those who matter most to us; when we're blessed to share all that we love, in the place that we love, with those whom we love.

Hear, oh God, Your People is Israel, Israel is ONE

Rabbi Isaac Jeret
Spiritual Leader
Congregation Ner Tamid of South Bay
www.nertamid.com

2009/1/6 -- DAY #10b: In Memoriam – A Synagogue Is Dedicated

This morning (Tuesday), I traveled to the IDF’s Beit Hachayal (a Soldier’s Residence facility) in Be’er Sheva, to attend and participate in the rescheduled dedication of its synagogue in memory of my father and its adjacent library in honor of his two grandsons, my own sons, Jacob and Judah. The dedication was supposed to have taken place six days ago, but the bombing of Be’er Sheva that morning forced me to turn around when I was approximately halfway there from Tel Aviv; the early warning system for civilians to alert them to incoming missiles wasn’t working correctly and the IDF did not want to risk that something might happen during the dedication.

Between last Wednesday and today, the IDF’s ground-incursion into Gaza began. Israel’s foot-soldiers are now engaged in a war to defend Israel’s citizens and defeat those enemies that have attacked Israel’s citizens mercilessly for the last eight years. As such, today’s dedication of the synagogue at the Beit Hachayal was unlike any other that I had ever attended or participated in. It was subdued. No Torah scrolls were danced in, no food was served, and no music was played or sung. Israel is at war. The soldiers with whom I’d have otherwise danced and sang were in Gaza, defending the country. I cut a ribbon with minimal fanfare, posed for some pictures, and then I shared some remarks. I will share here an expanded version of my remarks in memory of my father and in dedication of the IDF synagogue at the Beit HaChayal in Be’er Sheva; an abbreviated version was spoken this day, very much in the hope that a more joyous and complete dedication will occur in the near future, when all of Israel’s boys of the IDF will have returned home safely from their sacred mission to defend our People and our Homeland:

My father, Henry Jeret, Harav Hanokh Menachem BEN Harav Yisrael V’Miriam, was a proud Jew. He grew up in Poland, watched his world disappear amidst the murderous destruction of the Jews of Europe at the hands of the Nazis, and vowed that he would do his part to ensure that such horror would never-again befall the Jewish People. Given the opportunity to assist in the effort to create the State of Israel, he did his part. Trading black-market cigarettes for arms – seeking willing traders among the Allied troops stationed in Austria and Germany, his job was to procure arms and to help to smuggle them to Palestine for use both in the defense of Jews living there already and in the endeavor to establish a sustainable and protectable Jewish State. My father lived for just longer than four decades subsequent to these undertakings, but he took his greatest pride in his participation in these historic achievements of the Jewish People; out of the ashes of the Holocaust, leading up to the declaration of the State of Israel, and culminating with Israel’s victory in its War of Independence.

My father was a man of faith. He witnessed God’s miraculous hand where others saw random chance and arbitrary choice. As much as he experienced his own survival during the Shoah as an expression of God’s Will, he experienced the creation of the State of Israel as the commencement of the redemption and ultimate liberation of the Jewish People and humanity on the whole. For my father, Israel was more than a dream or even a vision, it was a guarantee; one that began and would always sustain with the assurance that our People would never-again be led to slaughter as sheep and one that could, in potential, evolve into the most beautiful and inspiring expressions of both Judaism and Jewishness in our history. However, at minimum, Israel was for my father and remains for me, a guarantee that Jews will continue to exist; with this guarantee, the Jewish future is at least as certain as any other and a vibrant and compelling one is at all possible.

My father taught me many lessons. I carry them with me, both intellectually and as they are indelibly inked upon my soul. He taught me that the words, “never-again” are sacred words; that they bring meaning and honor to the numerous past degradations and sufferings of our People as much as they can bring safety and security to any current generation of Jews, if acted upon, and when done so before it is ever too late. He taught me that “never-again” begins with our freedom as Jews to express in our Homeland our own unique values, toward our own unique purposes, as we, ourselves, choose to define our own destiny. He taught me that “never-again“ begins with our freedom as a People to organize without fear, to make Jewish and secular choices as we desire and as would benefit our People, and to defend these God-given rights, on our God-given land, as ever necessary.

Finally, he taught me his greatest, and most important, life-lesson, one that I strive never to forget and always to teach unto others: The survival of the Jewish People is the deliberate choice and ultimately the obligation of the Jewish People alone; God can help, but, only if we help ourselves before it is ever too late, and we ought never entrust our security or defense unto any other nation or state, for no one holds our interests and concerns at heart as we do so ourselves. To my father, who watched as one transport after another led our People to their murderous ends, and as the Allies in the cause of Freedom and Liberty failed to intervene as they might have, this lesson was obvious. How it can be anything other than obvious to anyone in the world today remains a mystery to me, given only the most recent history of the State of Israel, much less the entirety of its historic national defense over the last sixty years. It is with this, my father’s greatest life-lesson, in mind, and equally mindful that our People is facing a treacherous and hateful enemy in a war that is truly existential in proportion for the Jewish People and for the State of Israel, that I share the following observations upon this sacred but rightfully understated occasion.

As the world has entered the 21st century of the common-era, we, the Jewish People, are challenged more so than we have ever been to view clearly our strengths, vulnerabilities, opportunities, and responsibilities, and to respond wisely to the realities that they represent. Illusions abound, often the result of our newfound freedom and prosperity in a modern world, and particularly as we have been granted the rights and opportunities for each of these in North America. We have come to believe our own press, to see our strengths, but, to ignore – and even to deny - our vulnerabilities, cherishing instead the illusory-myths that cloud their view:

1. The volume of that which Jews produce, Israelis in particular, in the way of intellectual, scientific, and artistic achievement, and the overall excellence that Jews achieve per capita in any of the disciplines in which we strive, suggests that we must be quite large in number; in actuality, we are very few.

2. Our rate and breadth of achievement should suggest that many in the world would want to join us, or join forces with us, toward the betterment of all of humanity; yet, we are decreasing in population and the line is short with nations and individuals courageous enough to ally themselves with us.

3. We feel so secure financially and politically, acting as if we were barely a minority, if one at all, and often airing our dirty laundry in public; yet, many who seek to cause us harm turn our scornful words toward one another against all of us as a whole and encourage the world to count the days until our destruction is at hand.

The irony is that, if we were to focus upon the truths above rather than the illusions, we would likely have fewer vulnerabilities to worry about; if we acknowledged the minority-at-risk that we are, we would be more protective of our reputation as Jews, more appreciative of the unlikelihood of the extent of our achievement, more careful to act wisely and decisively to defend our present and sustain our future, and more prudent and thoughtful in prioritizing our efforts and contributions to the world-at-large when our relatively scarce resources dictate that we, ourselves, should be our greatest priority.

Our collective escape into an illusion of security and influence is well and dangerously apparent in our current-day distortion of the “never-again” imperative. Let me explain. Today, we imagine that diplomacy will achieve our greater aims for security so that we will not ever-again need to utilize force to defend ourselves and protect our Homeland. We imagine that the degree to which we show ourselves as flexible and considerate is the degree to which others in the world will do the same toward us, including our fiercest adversaries. We assume that our military strength is a given and that it is insurmountable. When our enemies exhibit a complete lack of regard for our might, we describe them as irrational, imposing upon them our own values and concerns as we would apply them, reassuring ourselves that with the right leadership they would surely see the world as we do. With every one of these self-deceptions, we have deluded ourselves toward the belief that our enemies will respond positively to us because they truly want to do so, but cannot yet do so because of political or social circumstance. We elevate tyrants to the virtue of moderates to sustain our self-deception and to live within the fantasy of false-hopes. In Israel, one of the primary underlying motivations for this self-deception is the belief that, if Israelis are not to able to participate in the freedom, security, and prosperity that the rest of the Western World appears to enjoy, then Israelis will simply give up on the Zionist dream and even leave Israel, a theory backed by statistics that appear to show this trend.

These assumptions are erroneous, however, and for two reasons. Let’s remember first and foremost that trends explain the past and the present of social phenomena; however, one moment, a new awareness, or one current event can bring any trend to a grinding halt. Secondly, the great illusion shared by Israelis and by the rest of the Western World has been that Israel has faced treacherous enemies while the rest of the West has not. In fact, the only differences between Israel and the rest of the West are the following:

1. Unlike the rest of the West, Israel has faced directly and unceasingly – for over six decades – the powerful hatred and destructive intentions of political Islam, whether expressed in a secular or religious manner. Israel has suffered and defended itself against the aggression and political expansionism of Arab countries, Islamic states, and Jihadist terrorists throughout its existence. The rest of the world has only recently come face to face with these phenomena and is inexperienced, and often na├»ve, in its quest to understand and deal with them.

2. The effects of the war against Islamic expansionism are beginning to include a financial and military cost to the rest of the West that Israel has had to bear uniquely until now. The economies and security considerations of other Western countries may well come to look like Israel’s long before Israel’s comes to look like theirs.

3. Israel’s view of Islamic expansionism is not clouded by anti-Semitism. Unfortunately, the rest of the West, Europe in particular, is easily confused by Islamic expansionist propaganda, in part due to its own history of misguided distrust and destructive hatred of the Jewish People.

4. “Peace is our preferred option, while it is our enemies’ last resort” -- another of my father’s teachings. The lesson, not only of the Holocaust, but, also very much of the sum-total of Jewish History is that diplomacy may work when it is the only option left to our adversaries, and it may not work, even then. The diplomatic possibility of peace-making with the enemies of both Israel and the West, with any enduring hope, exists only when our enemies know that we have the force to defend ourselves and the absolute willingness and intention to use such force as required. Moreover, whether peace is ever achieved or not, our survival is not dependent upon it with this approach. A life of meaning can be achieved without the extravagance that financial and material wealth – the so-called, “peace-dividend,” might provide; it cannot be achieved if we are destroyed. Peace is not a necessity, it is a preference. We must revaluate peace itself as our preferred option, rather than a necessity for survival. When our enemies understand that we can live without it, they are far more likely to join with us in seeking it.

It is time for the Jewish People worldwide to reclaim the never-again imperative without reservation and with pride. It is time for the State of Israel to make no more apologies whatsoever for its undertakings in the defense and protection of Jewish lives; this is the guarantee with which its existence was initially and can always be justified, whether the world understands it or not. It is time, once again, for Jews to take care of Jews, not while ignoring the rest of the world, but not by allowing the rest of the world to define or limit in any way when, how, or with which measures the Jewish State should act in its own self-defense and in defense of Jews worldwide. No one has, ever-again, the moral right, to dictate to the Jewish People whether and how we should enact the guarantee of survivability that the State of Israel represents for the Jewish People. The entire Western world would be wise to follow suit.

In closing, when King Solomon dedicated the first Temple in Jerusalem, he instructed all Jews to direct their prayers to the one place that God would reside with God’s greatest presence in our world, the center-place of the Jewish spiritual experience, the Temple in Jerusalem. He then prayed to God, petitioning God always to hear the prayers of those whose hearts were turned in prayer toward Jerusalem’s Temple. Today, upon dedicating this synagogue, knowing with pride that Israel’s finest young men and women share their heart’s concerns and gratitude in this Beit Tefilah – this House of Worship, humbly, and with no illusions of any comparison to King Solomon, I petition God to dwell in this space. I pray that God will always hear the prayers of every individual who enters through the doors of this synagogue, that God will protect them, that God shield them from harm, and, always, that God will bring the soldiers of Israel home, back to their families, back to their country, and back to their People, alive and well, and victoriously. AMEN.

Barukh Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melekh Ha-Olam; Shehecheyanu, Ve’Key’manu, Ve’hey’ge’yanu, La’Z’man Ha-zeh / Blessed are You, God, our God, Sovereign of all Time and Space; Who has kept us alive, and sustained us, and brought us unto this moment. AMEN.


Rabbi Isaac Jeret
Spiritual Leader
Congregation Ner Tamid of South Bay
www.nertamid.com

Friday, January 9, 2009

2009/1/6 -- DAY #10a: Visiting Wounded Boys of The IDF at Soroka Hospital in Be’er Sheva …

This afternoon (Tuesday), I visited with soldiers wounded in Gaza over the first three days of the ground-incursion and their families. I can’t quite describe how I feel upon leaving the hospital. I want very much to write this immediately, while driving back to Tel Aviv. However, I am finding it difficult to choke back the tears; so many young lives in peril, others lost, some families hoping against hope while others thank God for their good fortune – while others are utterly devastated. I have to write this now because every detail of every soldier and his family is precious, and I know that if I wait until this evening to write this entry, details will be missed. In reading my documentation of, and reflections upon, some of my hospital visits today, readers should know that I will take great care to avoid discussing anything that might be too personal on the part of the soldiers or their families while, at the same time, I will try my best to enable you to gain a sense of the impact of my visits this afternoon; quite likely, the visits made a greater impact upon me than they did upon those with whom I visited.

Li-El, 20 years old and married just about one year ago, remains in critical condition. He hasn’t regained consciousness since he was first hit by a mortar shell fired by Hamas Terrorists last Saturday evening, sustaining severe head injuries. His father, Effie, speaks (in Hebrew) of the miracles that have graced his son, his only son, to remain alive; hope remains. When he was hit by enemy fire, the company-doctor was nearby and aided him immediately. His evacuation was tended to with clockwork precision. His doctors at the hospital went to work without delay. Effie prayed for his son; one tear slowly rolled down the side of his left cheek; he didn’t notice – he hadn’t slept in over two days, as he sat either with his son, or outside his son’s room, with his entire family. Effie told me that he believes that God wants the Jewish People to live freely and safely in Israel and that his son believes this too. Effie lamented that Israel had learned far too little from the war against Hezbollah in Lebanon and northern Israel in 2006. He asked rhetorically, with both sadness and frustration, “Why does Israel have to go to lengths any greater than any other country to protect the civilians of the enemy? Why not conduct war as others do so, like the Russians, the Americans, and others? Why risk the lives of young men like Li-El by utilizing ground-forces and having them engage an enemy sworn to kill them, street to street and house to house? Is Jewish blood cheaper than any other blood?” I had no answers. I just held his hand and listened. My heart was slowly tearing; I felt that Effie was right, and he knew that I felt that he was right, but there was nothing really nothing that I could say in response that would helpful to him – or help Li-El. Effie’s cousin was sitting nearby. He started chanting Psalm 127, asking for God’s intervention on Li-El’s behalf. Effie and I joined him, briefly – this could help us all.

Then, Effie seemed suddenly to recall that I had said that I was from Los Angeles when I introduced myself at the outset of my visit: “Koby Bryant!” he exclaimed, “My son and I haven’t missed one game – my son, whenever he’s home from the army, of course – even the game last year when the Lakers lost to the Celtics by 40 points!” For those who know better than others my own sports-team preferences, no, I did not share that I am a Celtics fan. Effie asked that we exchange phone numbers. We did so. He asked that I call to inform him in advance of my next visit to Israel; we agreed that the three of us – Effie, me, and Li-El – would get together to watch a Lakers’ game upon my next visit. With God’s help, we will do so. I asked for his boy’s name; Li-El Hoshea Ha-Kohen BAT Miriam. He made certain that I understood that the name Hoshea implies by its meaning that God will save his son. His wife, silent throughout my visit until this moment, asked me to include in my prayers only her son, and not her, or Effie, or anyone else in the family – all she needed was for God to take care of her boy. Li-El’s wife sat silently throughout the visit, dazed and exhausted. As I left the room, I felt the deepest, sharpest pain in my soul that I recall having ever felt in my life. Li-El Hoshea Ha-Kohen BAT Miriam – God, if there is a prayer in this world that you might hear right now, please, God, hear the prayers of Li-El’s parents, his wife, and his family; please hear this prayer.

Oren, 20 years old and single, was hit by shrapnel. He assured me, as he assured himself, that he would be fine. His injuries were minor, he said. They weren’t quite as minor as he would want to believe, though the prognosis was a good one. Oren was surrounded by boys and girls of the IDF and volunteer-visitors from the Be’er Sheva area. They were keeping him company, keeping his spirits up. His spirits were high, but it will still be a few days before he goes home to continue to recover and to begin to rehabilitate his arm and leg. All he wanted was to get well enough, quickly enough, to rejoin his unit and continue to defend Israel’s men, women, and children against Hamas; aside from Li-El, who would likely have felt similarly, this was the sentiment among all of the soldiers with whom I visited; they are proud and they feel a great sense of responsibility to one another, to their fellow soldiers, to their country, and to the Jewish People. As Oren shared, and as had been shared by so many soldiers throughout the week, he has no choice but to return to battle when he is able to do so; he is fighting to protect his own family and his home from people who want to kill him and destroy Israel. As he concluded, “we are fighting a war in our own backyard, not thousands of miles away from home – if we lose, we won’t have a home!”

As I walked toward my fifth visit, I ran into Chana outside the room. She was holding the hand of a soldier’s wife, giving her comfort and strength. I asked her if she was from the area. She explained that she is from the north of Israel; Be’er Sheva is in the south. I asked her what brought her down south. In a kind, comforting voice, she explained: She had lost her older son in the summer of 2006 during Hezbollah’s war against Israel, launched from Lebanon. Now, her younger son is serving in Gaza, just two years later. Coming down to stay in the south of the country allows her to be closer to the one son whom she has left. Visiting soldiers in the hospital and comforting their parents and families, gives her something to do and makes use of the pain that she felt while her eldest child was in the hospital before he died. Chana is truly a Jewish Hero, of enormous proportions. Room after room, her hugs and soft words aided and comforted the parents of children who had been wounded in battle. Chana is my hero today, along with each of the boys that I visited.

Yo-ad, Yarit, and Maxim were all wounded at the same time. They were admitted together to the hospital and they were given one large room to share after their initial recoveries from surgery, respectively. Maxim was outside in the hallway when I arrived. He is one of Israel's fastest track-runners. His left hand was injured by shrapnel. As a Lone-Soldier (a soldier in the IDF without immediate family in Israel), it was inspiring to see, and most comforting to him to have, his "adoptive" Israeli family at his side, helping to raise his spirits and help with his care.

Yo-ad's wounds required greater intervention to ensure that his right arm will regain proper and full function. Without going into greater detail, with God's help and with rigorous rehabilitation, Yo-ad will recover, hopefully fully, though the recovery will take time and it won't be easy. What struck me about Yo-ad most immediately was that, from the moment I walked into his area of the room, he was my host. It was as though Yo-ad and I were simply conversing in his living-room. There was something unreal about the hospital surrounding us, as if it were a theater-set. This could only have been so because Yo-ad wanted it to be so; neither his injuries nor the challenges that they would yet pose would define Yo-ad. When I shared with him and his mother that I am a Rabbi from Los Angeles, Yo-ad asked if I knew Yishaya Braverman, who served together with him in the same IDF unit and returned to Los Angeles less than one year ago, after his army service concluded. When I told him that I do know him (Yishaya's father, Rabbi Nachum Braverman, is a colleague of mine in Los Angeles and a fellow supporter of FIDF), he asked that I send Drishat Shalom to his buddy, love and regards that I so look forward to sharing personally (Yishaya, if you are following this blog, please know that I will be back on Thursday night and will call you then - I don't have your number or your email here with me). Yo-ad's mother then explained that the family-ties run even deeper, as her husband is the Chief Rabbi of Caesarea and he and Rabbi Braverman are close colleagues and friends as well; Olam Katan -- it is indeed a small world. As Jews, we might well have only 2 to 3 degrees of separation. After all, we are truly a very small family. Yo-ad will recover. He is a strong young man, with a big heart. With God's blessings, his recovery will be a complete one.

Yarit's family was simply surprised and elated to receive a visitor from abroad. While Yarit did not want to speak at length (he was tired from the numerous local visitors who had been with him all day!), his mother took me aside. She told me that Yarit is a kind and loving boy, that he is frustrated that he got hurt because he feels that by not being with his unit he isn’t helping them. There was probably very little that I could have said to Yarit that could have helped to ease his frustration. I told him that we were all proud of him – all of us -- and that he carried every Jewish person with him into battle as he fought to save Jewish lives from Hamas. He smiled, for a brief moment, and then he closed his eyes and rested.

There were other beautiful, wonderful, inspiring soldiers and families with whom I met this afternoon. Don’t think for a moment that their stories are any less compelling. I simply have nothing left within myself to draw upon to write any longer; I’m drained, and my soul aches.

Please God, heal them now.

Rabbi Isaac Jeret
Spiritual Leader
Congregation Ner Tamid of South Bay
www.nertamid.com

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

2009/1/5 -- DAY #9: News From The Front …

Today was a day of phone calls and meetings in Tel Aviv. Conversations with unofficial but reliable sources indicated that the fighting in Gaza is fierce, but, that the IDF is achieving its aims on the battlefield. At this point, much of the fighting is taking place street to street and house to house. A confirmed and then published report indicated that one Golani soldier was lured into a tunnel by Hamas gunmen and only avoided being kidnapped by virtue of his heroic self-defense in a dire situation. Still, Hamas reported that two Israeli soldiers were indeed kidnapped. Thank God, this announcement proved to be false. Unofficial sources speculated that Hamas was simply engaging further in psychological warfare, in typical fashion, aimed at demoralizing and striking fear in the hearts of the young men of the IDF. Other sources speculated that Israel’s successful thrusts into the IDF had sufficiently cut-off communications between Hamas terrorists and their command and control that some among the Hamas leadership in Gaza might actually have thought erroneously that Hamas had indeed kidnapped two soldiers. Either way, the important news for Israelis and for the families of all IDF soldiers defending Israel against Hamas attacks was that the reports of the kidnappings were incorrect. Meanwhile, reports do indicate that Israel has indeed captured several Hamas terrorists, another sign of the superb work being done by the IDF.
As for Israel’s southern cities, they continue to bear the brunt of Hamas’ deadly and treacherous missile-fire, as they have so endured such abuse for eight years running. Long-range fire appears to be decreasing but, just as Hamas has not yet fired the anti-tank weapons that they are believed to have, the IDF is said to believe that Hamas may be holding back some of their longer-range missile capabilities for a later point in the war.
Anti-Israel rallies and demonstrations throughout western-Europe and elsewhere are leaving Israelis rightfully shocked and stunned. Virtually every Israeli with whom I speak shares his or her disbelief that the world cannot understand that anyone killed in Gaza is being sacrificed needlesly by Hamas, and is truly being killed by their own leadrship and their misiles, given that the Israeli initiative would never have commenced, and would certainly stop, if Hamas would simply stop firing their missiles, mortars, and guns and agree not to commence again such clear violations of all human decency and illegality according to any proper reading of international Law.
Meetings with various providers related to this coming summer’s Ner Tamid sponsored trips to Israel are productive, as plans move forward for two exciting and meaningful trips.
News of additional wounded and the possibility of up to four soldiers killed trickles in at this late hour. I hope and pray that I’ll wake up to the news that these reports are incorrect, as well.

Rabbi Isaac Jeret
Spiritual Leader
Congregation Ner Tamid of South Bay
www.nertamid.com

Monday, January 5, 2009

2009/1/4 -- DAY #8c: Israel’s Air Force

My final stop of the day was at the Ramat David Air Force Base, in Israel’s northern region. Visiting in my capacity as the Chairman of the Rabbinic Cabinet of The Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), the meeting included a briefing on the development of the base and its operations, opportunities to meet with pilots and ground-crews, watching several take-offs and landings, and gaining an up-close and personal understanding of the lengths to which Israel’s Air Force goes to ensure the safety of Palestinian civilians. Palestinian civilians are called more than 5 minutes in advance of an attack on every populated structure that houses terrorists or weapons-caches, to ensure that they have ample opportunity to avoid injury or worse. When compared to the 15 seconds that most residents in Israel’s south have to find shelter when Israeli alarms signal that incoming Hamas missiles are headed toward their intended civilian targets, one understands how very much Israelis would appreciate the very five-minute warning that Israel gives to Palestinian civilians. However, Hamas won’t oblige, because its very intent is to injure, maim, and murder Israeli civilians.

The courage and humanity of Israel’s pilots and other Air Force Personnel was stunning. I confess that I do not know whether I share their sympathy right now for the very Palestinian civilians who elected a Hamas government knowing full well that it intended to wage a war of terror upon Israel. Still, who we are as Jews, and who Israel is as a Jewish state, depends upon the choice to be as humane and loving as possible, even when the cost to Israel, its soldiers, and its civilians might grow greater as a consequence; we must always remember that civilians and soldiers are the targets of the Hamas missiles that will be utilized, and the personnel who will be alive to launch them, when the Air Force doesn’t strike.

Today ends with the news that one combat soldier of the Golani Brigade has been killed. It is a sad day for Israel, although the defensive initiative in the south is progressing very well, as it appears. Israel’s heart grieves with one family tonight; may tomorrow bring with it peace and quiet – for all of Israel.
Rabbi Isaac Jeret
Spiritual Leader
Congregation Ner Tamid of South Bay
www.nertamid.com

2009/1/4 -- DAY #8b: Speaking At The Ministry of Foreign Affairs

In between conversations with friends and family closest to those now engaged in fierce ground-combat against Hamas and other Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip, my itinerary continued. My first stop of the day was at Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem. I was invited to attend the first day of sessions for both the incoming cohort of StandWithUs-Israel-Fellows and the program’s Alumni and to deliver a speech to them and Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials and staff in attendance. These StandWithUs-Israel-Fellows constitute an extraordinary group of articulate young ambassadors and activists for Israel from around the country and beyond it who are learning important skills to tell Israel's side of the story in the battle for public opinion against the Arab/Muslim world. They are talented and their cause is just; the training with which StandWithUs is providing them will serve Israel very well. I was asked to address some of the challenges and opportunities facing the larger endeavor of advocacy for Israel in the United States. My talk aimed to touch on, and to spark continued consideration of, several ideas:

(1) WHY FIGHTING THE BATTLE FOR PUBLIC OPINION IS COUNTER-INTUITIVE FOR JEWS AND WHAT WE CAN DO ABOUT IT: Historically, the great majority of the last 2,000 years of the Jewish experience has been that of a minority community in foreign lands. Quite reasonably, therefore, our tendency has been to engage in backdoor diplomacy with those who control or influence most directly policies or policy-makers that have affected us, including monarchs and their advisors, legislators, and other appointed or elected officials. If one looks at AIPAC, The Washington Institute, The American Jewish Committee, and most other venerable Jewish organizations in North America, one finds that they are born of, and centered on, this very approach. However, our adversaries in the Arab and Muslim worlds today have gained over the last 1,500 years of their historical experience great expertise in managing and manipulating mass-public-opinion, as a means both to obtain and sustain tyrannical rule, more often than not as majority rulers rather than minority subjects.
The worldwide Muslim population alone is approximately 100 times the size of the Jewish population and, given that we live today in an age of mass-media communications, the Arab and Muslim communities enjoy not only the distinct advantages of deeply ingrained leadership cultures and tendencies toward influencing public opinion and expertise in executing this mission, but also the advantage of a greater frequency of opportunity to do so, given the imbalance in our respective worldwide populations. Furthermore, as instantaneous polling indicates evermore to policy-makers in Western democracies the preferences of their constituents, influencing public-opinion becomes evermore a necessity in the endeavor to ensure that those who determine and implement public-policy - the very people that we are accustomed to lobby and rely upon - feel the freedom and strength to vote and implement their conscience. The increasing tendency on the part of elected officials to "vote the polls" not only makes it difficult to conduct more discreet or backdoor diplomacy, but, makes its apparent success difficult to rely upon, given that a policy-maker may well change his or her position at any time, depending upon the polls' indication of their constituents' preferences.
As such, our Israel-advocacy related endeavors, in our era, must include the following: (a) We must complement backdoor-diplomacy and educational approaches to elected and appointed officials with a strategic approach to influencing mass-public-opinion toward Israel’s and the Jewish People’s favor; (b) We must not do so alone. We must build coalitions with anyone and everyone, from the more liberal elements of Western society to those whose leanings are more conservative - and from the most secular to the most religiously inclined, so that we address the imbalance in opportunity to influence public opinion now very much favoring the Arab and Muslim worlds.
To this end, we must develop, articulate, implement, and sustain a carefully crafted message that can highlight a range of compelling reasons why the public must support the Israeli position. However, it is vital that the different reasons work together to form one consistent narrative in Israel's favor, so that what we say to the Right doesn't contradict what we say to the Left. Such self-contradiction risks obscuring the greater truth that, as a freedom-loving and freedom-granting society, Israel is consistently victimized and slandered by tyrants, dictators, and those whom they dominate and influence with their assaults on plain truths; we mustn't be, or seems to be, duplicitous.
(2) THE NECESSITY FOR A CLEAR MESSAGE FOR ISRAEL'S PUBLIC RELATIONS EFFORTS: Unlike the Arab world, whose general aims for its public relations efforts are clear – to help bring about Israel’s destruction – Israel’s aims are not as clear. In large measure, this is because of two factors that work together: (a) Israeli officials are answerable to the Israeli electorate - therefore the audience for their messages is generally that of the Israeli electorate rather than the world outside of Israel; (2) As Israel's democratic and free electorate is diverse in opinion, Israel's elected officials reflect and respond to this diversity with similarly diverse messages and opinions.
If you are uncertain as to the extent of the confusion regarding Israel's external public-relations aims and messages, consider the following: Is the aim of Israel's externally directed public-relations efforts to portray Israel in narrative and with images that move "beyond the conflict," encouraging multiple perceptions of Israel as a technological marvel, a contributor to the fight against hunger in Africa, and a free society, etc.? Is the aim to respond to charges leveled against Israel by its detractors, point by point or issue by issue? Is the aim to build bridges to other minorities in the region? Is the aim to ensure, in particular, the continuity of American diplomatic support? Is the aim to discredit neighboring Arab and Muslim regimes and unmask their horrific Human Rights abuses? Is the aim to deliberately ignore these abuses in order to ensure that Israel has some viable partner for peace, less awful than the other neighboring alternatives?
To ensure that Israel's message is understandable and that its representatives are working as little as possible at cross-purposes, it is vital that a clear meta-aim for all public relations be developed, articulated, implemented, and sustained and that most, if not all, subordinate goals for Israel's public-relations fit reasonably under the umbrella of this meta-aim internally - within Israeli society, externally - among the organized Jewish communities outside of Israel and within their institutions, and outwardly to the entire world - via the media. This is a difficult undertaking in a free society, but, it is in this time of media-related siege a very necessary one for Israel's survival;

(3) POSITING TWO META-AIMS FOR ISRAEL'S PUBLIC RELATIONS ENDEAVORS: Two possible meta-aims might be articulated as follows (and I would advocate for the adoption of both simultaneously):
(a) To encourage the world to understand and identify with Israel as the only free-society in the region. Under this umbrella, the various audiences noted above would be educated regularly, in word and in image, to understand Israel as a democratic entity who elects its representatives and conducts its affairs in a most admirable, humanitarian manner, despite being surrounded and terrorized by those who seek its destruction. Furthermore, the message might be expanded to then suggest that Israel therefore has every right to determine solely whether to engage in diplomacy with its adversaries, to disengage from such diplomacy, to adjust its diplomatic aims or approaches, or to utilize or suspend armed defensive initiatives to protect its citizens and further its aims to achieve peace with security; (b) To ensure that the world and its media understand that the uniform voice emanating from Arab and Muslim states is a consequence not of uniform agreement among the populations of these states or territories, but, rather of the intolerance of any dissent in these societies. To this end, a relentless unmasking of the human rights abuses in the Arab and Muslim world must be placed before the world's eyes, using the established media, blogging, YouTube, viral-marketing techniques and any other means to communicate this perspective. In this regard, it is high-time that the Arab and Muslim worlds, from the Palestinians to the Iranian, be placed on the defensive in their interactions with the media.
Once these or other aims are adopted and articulated as broad-umbrella-aims under which all public relations might be understood and against the backdrop of which all public relations is articulated and, later, measured, then the strategies and methods to achieve these aims can be considered, developed, agreed upon, implemented broadly, and sustained over a lengthy period of time, adjusted only as necessary to maximize Israel's public-relations efforts.

(4) ADDRESSING THE PROBLEM OF THE GROWING, ANTI-ISRAEL-BIASED MUSLIM MEDIA BASED IN ARAB AND MUSLIM COUNTRIES AND SIMILARLY MORE COMMON AND OFTEN EQUALLY BIASED MUSLIM REPORTERS AMONG THE WESTERN MEDIA: It is vital that strategies are developed to ensure that Muslims throughout the world are not mistaken for objective third parties in their analyses of the mid-east conflict and in their advocacy for particular approaches to its resolution. It is vital that the conflict itself be reframed from "The Palestinian/Israeli Conflict" toward its greater truth as both the evolving conflict of “Radical Islam against the West” and the longstanding “Arab / Israeli Conflict,” with a sophisticated approach to determining the applicability of either message to specific circumstances and specific audiences. Additionally, such reframing of the conflict will serve Israel’s and the Jewish People’s interests in a number of other ways.

The questions posed informally by those StandWithUs-Israel-Fellows who gathered around at the conclusion of the talk reflected a considerable depth of understanding on their part of the nuances of the difficulties and challenges involved in encouraging a shift in the area of mass-public opinion. However, they also understood intuitively many of the implicit or explicit opportunities that accompanied each of the challenges presented. My time with the StandWithUs-Israel-Fellows was most encouraging; great job, StandWithUs!


Rabbi Isaac Jeret
Spiritual Leader
Congregation Ner Tamid of South Bay
www.nertamid.com

2009/1/4 -- DAY #8a: The Ground-War Begins …

Overnight, as many expected, the ground incursion into Gaza began. With the ground invasion in full force, the stakes are higher now than they have been, whether militarily, politically, diplomatically, or with regard to the possibility of wounded, lost, or even kidnapped IDF boys. The phone rang. It was a post-IDF college IMPACT-Student (on scholarship for his studies, sponsored by FIDF) whom I have gotten to know quite well over the last 18 months. Just several days ago, he and his girlfriend came by to say hello and asked me to marry them next summer; what a privilege! His brother is part of the Golani brigade and was therefore deployed along the Gaza border on Shabbat, awaiting orders to begin the ground incursion. He was very likely fighting in Gaza as we spoke. His father, over 50 years old, volunteered on Sunday morning, together with his entire reserve unit, to head south (reservists can continue voluntarily to make themselves available to the IDF, even after the conclusion of their mandatory reserve duty at 40+ years old). This young man was naturally worried for both his brother and his father, but, very proud of both of them. He wished that he could go, but, someone had to stay home and make sure that things were taken care of; as he had classes to attend, it made sense for him to be the one to do so. Next, I spoke with “Sali”, as so many of those among my Congregation Ner Tamid community know him. Sali visited with our community two years ago for Rosh Hashanah, along with three other soldiers of the IDF. Now, one year after the conclusion of his IDF service, he had just completed last week his mandatory reserve duty for the year. Still, he and his wife were both well aware that he could be called up again on a moment’s notice, if the IDF needed him. Though he knew no specifics, he knows the character and the training of the boys sent to Gaza to put a stop to Hamas. He was confident, and yet, as all of Israel, concerned for those in battle. Throughout the day, wherever I was, news of the fighting was on everyone’s lips. As the day drew to a close, conclusive word of the first day of the ground incursion emerged; the IDF is achieving its early aims, however, over 20 soldiers are wounded, two of them seriously. At day’s end, I spoke with three additional close friends whose children are fighting in Gaza. Two of them live with their spouses and children within what has now come to be within missile and bombing range of Hamas terrorists in Gaza. Their prayers are with their sons, and with all of those fighting alongside them. News is just in: One of the two soldiers seriously wounded last night has died. All of us in Tel Aviv will try to sleep tonight, along with all of Israel; no doubt, Israel’s boys in uniform will remain close to our hearts, along with one family who now grieves as no one should.
Rabbi Isaac Jeret
Spiritual Leader
Congregation Ner Tamid of South Bay
www.nertamid.com

2009/1/3 -- DAY #7: Shabbat In Tel-Aviv As Israel Waits …

As today was Shabbat, I spent the day in my hotel and also took a long walk along the “Tayelet” (a walking and biking pathway) along the beach in Tel Aviv. The day was a beautiful one in Tel Aviv, but, everyone walking about had much on their minds and heavy hearts. In Israel, wartime is a time of remarkable togetherness and unity, for the country is a small one and everyone knows someone whose life is endangered. Tel Aviv and all of Israel are torn about what they hope will come next. On the one hand, there is a belief that a ground incursion will be necessary to stop Hamas’ terrorizing bombing campaign in the south. On the other hand, there is great concern over the cost that such an incursion will exact in terms of wounded and lost soldiers. Concerns about how Israel will be perceived worldwide are also a topic of conversation; Israel doesn’t live on an island, unaffected economically and otherwise by world-opinion. In mid-afternoon, my cousins visited. For the first time, I had opportunity to meet Noam, their 5-month old daughter. She is beautiful. She is worthy of a peaceful life. My cousins, however, now live within range of Hamas’ missiles. Staying out of Gaza might exact too great a cost to bear, as well. Shavuah Tov.
Rabbi Isaac Jeret
Spiritual Leader
Congregation Ner Tamid of South Bay
www.nertamid.com

Saturday, January 3, 2009

2009/1/2 -- DAY #6: Sederot – A City Under Siege

Today, my heart was simply torn apart. Escorted by the staff of StandWithUs, I spent the better part of the day in Sederot. Once there, I was led by StandWithUs staff on a tour of this shell-shocked city, a city that has been hit with thousands of Palestinian bombs, mortars, and missiles over the last eight years, most of which were fired by Hamas over the last three years of this period. I enjoyed the wonderful surprise of meeting up with my good friend (and a good friend of so many among the leadership of the Los Angeles Jewish Community), Israel’s former Deputy Counsel General in Los Angeles, Yaron Gamberg; we found one another at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ onsite location for foreign journalists. Thereafter, I met with national political leaders visiting the area to assess the situation, local residents, and volunteers who have made themselves available to assist Sederot’s beleaguered residents. The tortured and terrorized residents of Sederot have been battered beyond belief and beyond anything that should ever be tolerated. It is difficult to understand how Israel could have allowed these decent people, citizens of Israel – Jewish brothers and sisters, to suffer as they have until now. Only Israel’s reticence to wage war and its humanitarian concern for Gaza’s own civilians could account for such misjudgment; and, misjudgment it has been. A country’s primary responsibility is to its own citizens, rather than to those who have leaders and governments of their own who bear their responsibility. Neither the right nor the left, nor anything in between, has fulfilled its responsibility to Sederot’s residents; Israel’s Likud, Labor, and Kadimah parties have each led governments during the period of the Palestinian’s bombardment of Sederot and none of them have fulfilled their most basic responsibilities to these fine and loyal citizens of the State of Israel. It is fitting that all three parties, together, are now attempting, in unity, to right their past wrongs. Rather than writing an extensive entry for this day, please follow the video-link below to view an interview with Sari, a mother of four and an Occupational Therapist living in Sederot (if clicking on a link does not work, please copy the link into your web-browser and then click “enter” on your keyboard). Shabbat Shalom.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0c-Rk1bGYKs

Rabbi Isaac Jeret
Spiritual Leader
Congregation Ner Tamid of South Bay
www.nertamid.com

Friday, January 2, 2009

2009/1/1 – DAY #5: The Boys of The IDF

As Chairman of the Friends of the IDF’s Rabbinic Cabinet, I was privileged today with the extraordinary opportunity to visit with combat soldiers and commanders of various IDF units at several locations in the south of the country, as they awaited their go-ahead to invade Gaza to put a complete and final stop the Hamas missiles and bombs raining down on Israeli civilians (and upon them!). As always, each young man of the IDF had a unique and compelling personal story, from the boy born and raised in Manhattan Beach, CA to the young African American man born and raised in Chicago, IL (yes, he and his family converted to Judaism when he was a young boy, he moved to Israel as a young adult, and he married an Israeli woman – and they have a beautiful 2-year-old boy!). Each story was one of a Jewish journey and a personal sense of purpose. Some of these boys reside in Israel’s northern region; they identify personally with the civilians enduring Hamas’ bombings and missile attacks, for they and their families were the targets of Hezbollah’s onslaught two summers ago. Others live in the southern region themselves, and they shared that they are fighting for their own homes and their own communities. The majority live in the country’s center and they are under no illusion that their own homes won’t be targeted as soon as Hamas can reach them with new and more sophisticated weapons supplied by Iran. They are each and all drafted, 18-21 year old boys who would rather be studying and enjoying life like our own children. However, Hamas has left them with no choice but to fight for their homes and protect their families. The look in their eyes was as determined as one could ever imagine. They are one of the finest trained and most highly motivated fighting forces in the world, simply because they cannot be otherwise; the first war that Israel loses is the last one it will ever fight. Their greatest fear is that this war will end without their opportunity to ensure the decisive victory that would enable each of them and their families to live safely and quietly as anyone is entitled to do so. Over the years, I have visited more IDF bases than I can count, spending time with a far greater number of soldiers, however, I have never done so as they prepared for imminent battle. These boys were inspiring beyond belief; never have I felt as proud of our boys of the IDF or as hopeful for the Jewish future as I was when I saw and spoke with these extraordinary young men. I remain so.


Rabbi Isaac Jeret
Spiritual Leader
Congregation Ner Tamid of South Bay
www.nertamid.com

2008/12/31 – DAY #4: A Student-Rally In Tel Aviv

This morning, I set out to Be’er Sheva, Israel’s largest city in the Negev region, to participate in the ceremony that would have dedicated an IDF synagogue to my father’s memory and the library and study-hall adjacent to the synagogue to his only grandchildren, Jacob and Judah. Unfortunately, this dedication was postponed when I reached the halfway point on the route between Tel-Aviv and Be’er Sheva, due to the missiles fired that hour by Hamas upon the city of Be’er Sheva. As I headed back to Tel Aviv, I received a phone-call inviting me to attend a pro-Israel rally to be held at noon by students at Tel-Aviv University. Michael Dickson, the Israel-Director of StandWithUs, an outstanding Los Angeles based Israel-advocacy organization, invited me to join him in attendance. Between 400-500 students were present, television crews and newspaper reporters and photographers covered the event as though it was highly unusual – and they were right; rarely does one see at Tel Aviv University such strong, pro-establishment, public support expressed by students. Their spirit was high and strong; liberal and conservative, male and female, orthodox and secular they expressed their support for the IDF and their solidarity with the terrorized and shell-chocked Jews living in Israel’s southern cities and towns. This rally was one of 14 rallies at university and college campuses around the country, all scheduled to occur simultaneously and organized by StandWithUs Israel Fellows, each of whom had been trained superbly in the art of grassroots organizing and advocacy. When I addressed the crowd, I was moved nearly to tears by their roar of applause when I spoke the simple words, “You are not alone.”
Rabbi Isaac Jeret
Spiritual Leader
Congregation Ner Tamid of South Bay
www.nertamid.com

2008/12/30 -- DAY #3: Phone-Calls & Text-Messages Tell The Whole Story

Less than a week into Israel’s deterrent and retaliatory operation against Hamas in Gaza, after eight years of Palestinian shelling and bombing of Israel’s southern communities, the world seems strangely confused about who the victimizer is and who the victim is. Oddly but poignantly, phone calls and text messages placed respectively by Israel’s Defense Force, the IDF, and Hamas Terrorists, clarify the matter rather unequivocally. The IDF calls and/or text-messages the residents residing in or near apartment buildings used by Hamas to store bombs and missiles or to hide terrorists, five-minutes prior to destroying these locations, to give civilians ample opportunity to leave the vicinity while ensuring that weaponry remains on location for destruction; Hamas, on the other hand, randomly calls and texts Israeli civilians to tell them that bombs and missiles are headed their way and that certain death awaits them, aiming to terrorize them to the greatest degree, whether they are hit or not (Hamas and their sympathizers and supporters even send such messages to Israelis on Facebook!). Who are the victims and who are the victimizers? The answer is readily apparent in Israel’s and Hamas’ respective phone and text messages, to all who truly seek the answer to this question.


Rabbi Isaac Jeret
Spiritual Leader
Congregation Ner Tamid of South Bay
www.nertamid.com

2008/12/29 – DAY #2: Israel Trip – Growing Problems For A Shrinking Israel

Upon my arrival in Israel, checking into the hotel, it became clear rather immediately that Israel, a country no larger than the tiny state of Rhode Island, had shrunk in size, yet again. Over two years ago, Israel relinquished entirely the Gaza Strip to their neighboring Palestinians, hoping and praying that this move might lead to the organic evolution of a responsible Palestinian government and a peaceful Palestinian State. To the horror of Israel’s citizens and its leaders, nothing could have been farther from the case, as the Palestinian population of the Gaza Strip voted into power overwhelmingly the Hamas terrorists whose very charter slanders and libels Jews worldwide and calls for Israel’s complete obliteration. Israel grew smaller, but its problems grew larger and deeper. And, it was growing smaller, yet again, right before my own eyes: The desk-clerk at the hotel in Tel Aviv, in the center of the country, received a frantic phone-call from his wife while checking me in at 4:00 am. His neighbor had just been bombed by a Hamas-launched Grad-type missile from Gaza. Ashdod hadn’t been hit before. Ashdod is located closer to Tel Aviv than it is to Israel’s southern border with Gaza! The desk-clerk now had one more family to check into the hotel for the night – his own, including himself, his wife, their three-year-old, and their 6-month-old. One only wonders what other men and women in Ashdod will do tonight to protect their children tonight, and beyond. With Hamas’ increased range of fire, and its willingness to target indiscriminately innocent civilians, Israel’s livable space continues to shrink, while its problems continue to grow.
Rabbi Isaac Jeret
Spiritual Leader
Congregation Ner Tamid of South Bay
www.nertamid.com

2008/12/28 -- DAY #1: Israel Trip – A Journey For Reasons Unintended

Sitting in the airport here in Paris, France, with over six hours until my connecting flight to Israel, I have a more than a few minutes to pen my first entry into my blog-journal for this very unique trip to Israel. The inaugural Mission to Israel that I was to lead on behalf of The Friends of the Israel Defense Forces’ Rabbinic Cabinet was postponed. However, with a non-refundable ticket, I chose to travel to Israel, nonetheless, intending to attend and participate in one particular item on the Mission’s itinerary that carries a deep personal meaning. This coming Wednesday, an IDF synagogue in Be’er Sheva will be dedicated in my father’s memory and the library and study-hall adjacent to it will be dedicated in celebration of his only grandchildren, my sons, Jacob and Judah. It is always a privilege to travel to Israel. However, this trip would have been special beyond words, given these dedications. Of course, as the readers of this blog will note, just yesterday, Israel’s Defense Force (the IDF) began an operation to stop, once and for all, the Hamas terrorist’s constant bombardment of Israel’s southern cities and towns with bombs and missiles. My trip will, no doubt, take on a different character than I had imagined. I hope to visit with residents in Israel’s southern region, with IDF soldiers, and with any others who might offer perspective and nuance regarding the experience of the civilians that the IDF is seeking to protect and the operation that it is undertaking to fulfill its important aims. In a moment, with my portable electric chanukiyah, I will kindle the final flames of this year’s Festival of Chanukah. From my father and those who preceded him to my children and those who will succeed them, our People’s flame will surely burn brightly, with God’s blessings. Our flame will continue to glow, in large measure, because we still do kindle Chanukah’s lights, reminding ourselves of the Jewish self-worth for which they stand and the self-sacrifice in the name of human liberty and dignity that they recall and inspire. And, they will glow with courage and strength, in large measure, because there is an IDF to ensure that never again will those who might seek to extinguish our Jewish flame by bringing harm to us succeed in doing so. Am Yisrael Chai! – The People of Israel lives!

Rabbi Isaac Jeret
Spiritual Leader
Congregation Ner Tamid of South Bay
www.nertamid.com