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You are here: about - Rabbi Wittenberg's Weekly Message - 4th June 2010 / 22 Sivan 5770

Rabbi Wittenberg's Weekly Message

Erev Shabbat 4th June 2010 / 22 Sivan 5770
Dear Community,
This has been an awful week with the terrible incident of the Gaza flotilla, followed by the appalling Cumbria murders. Once again there are many more people weeping their dead and anguished over their wounded, and our hearts go out to them all.
Amidst the tumult of responses to what happened in international waters off Gaza I have heard two voices which, as a Diaspora Jew, I find especially important.
(My own reactions are compounded of anguish and sorrow. The deaths are terrible. Israel’s reaction seems to have been diplomatically and militarily mistaken and is based on wider policies towards Gaza which can’t fully be justified morally. But the claim that the ships were simply a convoy bearing humanitarian aid with no other aims is either ignorant or disturbingly disingenuous, depending on who’s making it. But most of all I feel deeply sad, and wish that Israel, which I love, and its neighbours would be on a journey towards peace.)
On Wednesday morning I listened to John Ging, head of United Nations relief in Gaza, a person with immense courage and integrity. His aims are to promote security, the rule of law, welfare and the provision of an education which teaches the dignity of all human beings. He is responsible for over ten thousand UN staff in Gaza. He made it clear that the Israeli, and Egyptian, blockade is counterproductive. Hamas can bring whatever it wants into Gaza: ‘You can drive a four-by-four through those tunnels’, he explained. They have cement for building in plenty. But the UN can’t construct more schools because it won’t buy smuggled materials, and legal supplies are subject to the blockade. Therefore they cannot offer an education to those many Gazan parents who seek it because they don’t want their children to receive only those messages of hate so rife on the local streets. Humanitarian supplies should be searched for arms, because Hamas’ violence is utterly wrong, but the blockade should end, he said. David Grossman and Amos Oz have given similar messages.
Israel’s enemies are all too real. The rhetoric against Israel and the attacks on it are provocations no nation could tolerate. Israel has repeatedly had to act in self defence. But as a Jew I experience so much of what the blockade, and the occupation in general, entails for the lives of so many ordinary human beings as a blot on the long and largely exemplary record of Jewish ethics through the ages. They contradict the heart of the Jewish moral vision and weaken Israel and the Jewish people. If only we could find a two state solution.
The second voice is that of Anshel Pfeffer in Haaretz today. His words are addressed to us: ‘If only we had some real friends, friends we could trust implicitly, who could point out the error of our ways. This could be the shining moment of the Jewish Diaspora. They love us, but they also see things from another perspective. We need a strong, unified voice from the Jewish leadership in the United States and Europe telling Israelis enough is enough, you are hurtling down the slippery slope of pariahdom and causing untold damage to yourselves and us. Lift your heads above the ramparts and see that the world has moved on… Instead, we find the establishment of the Jewish world crouching with us in the bunker.’
This is a challenging call for a more courageous engagement on our part. We need to find a way of loving Israel, and loving peace, and acting on both loves.
Jonathan Wittenberg