חַסְדֵי יְהוָה כִּי לֹא-תָמְנוּ, כִּי לֹא-כָלוּ רַחֲמָיו.
The kindness of the Lord has not ended; God’s mercies are not spent
We are overwhelmed with grief by the extreme and ongoing loss of life, and severe trauma that Israelis and Palestinians are facing as a result of the continuing war. We fear for the lives of family, friends, and colleagues in Israel, including the young soldiers who are risking their lives for their country. We mourn the Israeli soldiers and civilians who have already lost their lives to this war.
Our core belief in the creation of every single human being b’tselem elohim does not permit us to mourn only the losses among our own people. We are horrified and pained by the staggering number of deaths and casualties among Palestinian civilians, including children. Protecting civilians is at the core of human rights. We implore the Israeli government and army to take every measure possible to avoid harm to Palestinian civilians, especially children, and to allow access to humanitarian relief, including medical supplies. We condemn Hamas’s practice of shooting rockets from civilian centers, thereby putting the Palestinian population at risk.
Beyond the direct loss of life, we mourn the loss of innocence for a generation of children, on both sides, who have learned too early of the deep pain and terror of the world they will inherit. כָּלוּ בַדְּמָעוֹת עֵינַי, חֳמַרְמְרוּ מֵעַי. . .בֵּעָטֵף עוֹלֵל וְיוֹנֵק, בִּרְחֹבוֹת קִרְיָה.“My eyes fail with tears, my innards burn. . .because the young children and the sucklings swoon in the broad places of the city.” (Lamentations 2:11) We pray that these children grow up to be students of peace and builders of peace. “‘All of your children are students of God; great is the peace of your children.’ (Isaiah 54:13). Do not read banayikh ‘your children’ but rather bonayikh ‘your builders.” (Talmud Brakhot 64a)
We deplore the continued targeting of Israeli civilians by Hamas. There is no justification for endangering and traumatizing an entire civilian population by firing rockets at civilian centers, or employing tunnels to attempt kidnapping and terror attacks. We give thanks for the Iron Dome, as well as for Israel’s security preparations, both of which have prevented even greater loss of life among the Israeli population. We implore Israel to provide appropriate shelter for all who live there, including Bedouin communities and Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem.
In times of war, it can be difficult to look beyond the immediate pain and fear. We must not, however, lose sight of our greater vision of creating a secure and peaceful solution for both Israelis and Palestinians. Lasting peace will come only with an end to the occupation of the Palestinian territories, investment in the infrastructure of peace and not the machinery of war, and a two-state solution that allows the two peoples to flourish in their own sovereign states.
We call on both sides to achieve a ceasefire that not only supports a cessation of violence and bombing, but that moves toward a long term solution.
The Jewish community is currently observing the three week mourning period between the seventeenth of Tammuz and Tisha B’av, the day that commemorates the destruction of the ancient Temple and the expulsion of the Jewish people from Jerusalem.
But destruction is never the end of the story. From within our pain, we hear the words of Isaiah in the first Haftarah of consolation read after Tisha B’av
קוֹל קוֹרֵא בַּמִּדְבָּר, פַּנּוּ דֶּרֶךְ יְהוָה; יַשְּׁרוּ, בָּעֲרָבָה, מְסִלָּה, לֵאלֹהֵינוּ
A voice calls: In the wilderness, clear a path for God; in the desert, make plain a path for God.
Even in our darkest moments, when we feel trapped in the wilderness, we pave the way for divinity to shine through. And just as our tradition teaches that the messianic redemption will begin on Tisha B’av, we pray that this horrific war will inspire a lasting peace.