For the past few weeks, I’ve been collecting my thoughts in order to write about why Israel is such a magical place. I was trying to capture a sense of the serendipitous way things happen in Israel.
Then the missiles started landing in northern Israel. Reservists are being called up and, in the north, people are being advised to stay close to their miklatim (bomb shelters). It is worthwhile to remember that the extraordinary former residents of Gush Katif endured this kind of missile fire for years and years, all the while building their beautiful, now destroyed, communities.
We Jews have been living with our enemies for a very long time. Three thousand years ago, King David wrote: Long has my soul dwelt with those who hate peace. I am peace, but when I speak, they are for war. (Tehillim 120:6-7)
There's always something dramatic, even theatrical, going on here, so it takes more than what’s happened so far to unmoor the whole country. Our American friends, assuming from the media that Israel has turned into a war zone, started asking us if we’re okay.
We’re okay. We’re home in Ma’ale Adumim, very close to Jerusalem, out of missile range, at least for now. Life in Jerusalem mostly goes on as usual. We take day trips, visit family and friends, eat dinner in lovely little restaurants and prepare for Shabbat. We’re saying more chapters of Tehillim and trying to stay focused on the big picture.
In Israel, it is easier to see the big picture, to not get distracted by details of news reports and to see that the destiny of the Jewish people, and progress toward our final Redemption, being played out, just as our Rabbis told us it would.
We are in the fifth, final and most difficult exile, the so-called Ishmaelite exile. Read The Ishmaelite Exile by Rabbi Yechiel Weitzman for more on this idea. The difficulty of this exile is the powerlessness felt by the whole world. How does one protect oneself from millions of people who believe that murdering Jews, even if it results in suicide, is their highest religious obligation?
There are so many absurd aspects to life in Israel. Three hundred million enemies surround us and the world demands our restraint. We evicted 9,000 Jews from their homes in Gush Katif and the Northern Shomron last summer and destroyed their communities. At the same time, we allow 10,000 illegal Arab dwellings to stand on Jewish-owned land in east Jerusalem. Absurd!
And yet, 300 million enemies surround us and we are still here. Life has a different texture in Israel. Gd is a real factor in the lives of ordinary people who pepper their conversation with awareness of Gd’s Hand in events, large and small. We recognize the newest battles here as part of Gd’s plan to move Jewish history forward toward the Messianic Era and we try not to obsess about the details of each news report. At the same time, with all of our humanity, we mourn and grieve for the soldiers and civilians we are losing and gnash our teeth at the frustration of being under attack, incomprehensibly, yet again.
At this point, only Gd knows whether this will end up being a couple of tense days that will quickly be put down or whether this will escalate into a full-scale, long-term war, Gd-forbid. In the meantime, the Jewish people fight, pray and continue waiting for a time when Gd vanquishes our enemies in response to our prayer:
Pursue them with Your tempest and terrify them with Your storm. Fill their faces with shame and then they will seek Your Name, Hashem. Let them be shamed and terrified forever and then they will be disgraced and they will be doomed. Then they will know that You, Whose Name is Hashem, are alone, Most High over all the earth. (Tehillim 83:16-19)