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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