A Fast of Consolation

tisha b’av

The high-intensity fighting seems to have abated at last.  Millions of people in Israel and in Gaza will continue mourning their dead and taking stock of what remains. Much of Gaza lies in ruins. One of the mightiest armies in the world has relentlessly hammered a population of children used as human shields and child soldiers and suicide bombers by one of the most cynical, hateful and vicious regimes in modern history. 
I for one have been vocal and unrelenting in my support for the destruction of the tunnel network Hamas has built with goods stolen from the people of Gaza. Goods meant to build the Palestine so many dream of, used to build tunnels by which thousands of Israelis were to be attacked, murdered, kidnapped and terrorized on the eve of Rosh HaShana.  The extent of the tunnels and the preparations for this attack caught everyone by surprise.  It is either luck, a miracle or a combination of both that this latest escalation revealed the structures and the plan for what they were. 
This evening begins the Jewish fast day of Tisha B’Av. (the ninth day of the Hebrew/Babylonian month of “Av”).   This day marks the destruction of both of the great Jewish Temples that stood in Jerusalem.  The first fell in 586 b.c.e. at the hand of the Babylonians. The second was destroyed by the Romans in 70 c.e.   Apparently this time of year is a popular one for destroying things and killing lots of people in the Holy Land.  
Along with those catastrophic events, Jewish history notes several other bad things that have happened on this date.  Very bad things.  And so it is traditional practice to spend this day fasting and mourning for our dead and tortured.  It is the saddest and bleakest day of the Jewish year.  
This year, Jews are under attack again, in the restored commonwealth in our historic land, in France, in England, in Belgium and even in Miami.  And it is sickening.  
More so, we have had to participate,  or witness with our support, or in spite of our condemnation, massive destruction and traumatization of nearly two million Gazans.  
I have said, and will repeat, that the blame for this escalation and for this round of destruction lies completely on the shoulders of Hamas and its supporters, including those who do so out of ignorance, naiveté or good intentions.  The world is a brutal, scary and violent place.  Sometimes people are forced to decide whether their children will live or someone else’s will.  God spare those of us who do not have to make that choice from ever having to do so. 
I have also said, and will repeat, that just as Israel is the responsibility of all Jews, so too is the obligation to pursue peace and justice.  And nobody with an ounce of insight, historical awareness or moral honesty can deny that Gaza is not just “our” problem.  It is also “our” responsibility.  
In the scope of history, we Jews (and it isn’t Israelis the world hates, it is Jews) were forced into this situation.  Yet for three generations now, Gazans have been born, lived and died under OUR control, or lack thereof. If you want religious talk, perhaps we are the instrument that God has chosen to punish those that rejected our pleas for sanctuary and denied our historic claim as the indigenous people of that land.  We are the instruments of God’s Justice upon the Al-Huseyni tribe (google it) just as we teach that the Babylonians and Romans were punishments sent upon us because of our sins of internecine hatreds.   Whether or not you believe that is not important.  The upshot is that human beings are more than capable of creating Hell without God’s involvement.  
Dead children are dead children.  I don’t care whose fault it is.  And neither should anyone else.   And when entire families are wiped out as a result of a fight for your own families survival, it requires reflection.  The only justification for what has happened is the only one that ultimately holds; it was them or us. 
Now, first things first, that better be true.  Because if you are going to use that as exculpation you best be sure of it.  That will only hold up so many times when you are bombing captive civilian populations.  I happen to know it is true in this case.  
Those that don’t understand that are of no consequence.  For had the plans Hamas made ben put into play, in the wake of thousands of dead Israelis, the same people condemning Israel now would have possibly written a very sternly worded letter to the editor expressing their outrage. Or tweeted something very deep and meaningful.   Many of them would have said Israel had it coming.  So, even though some of those people are people I otherwise respect, admire and love, they don’t get it.  
But you and I do get it.  And so we must respond in keeping with our prophetic tradition and ancient values.  After the whips and scorpions, after the bombs and bulldozers must come consolation.  There are breaches that cannot be repaired, lives that can never be made whole again.  We Jews have never focused on individual salvation anyway; we work as a team.  We speak of collective redemption, of shared responsibility, of a people made up of individuals becoming One in their people and in God.  
In that spirit, with that charge heavy upon my heart, I intend to set aside the value of what I would otherwise consume on this ninth day of Av and set it aside for the rebuilding of Gaza.  I invite and implore all of you to join me.  
Whatever you would spend on food, drink, cosmetics, clothing, entertainment, personal goods, gas–whatever it costs you to “live” tomorrow, figure it out.  Write out a check.  And set it aside.  Once we know who we can trust to see it gets where it needs to truly go–to those broken and hurting in Gaza, to schools and hospitals and homes, we will send it as an offering born of broken hearts and dreams of true peace.  We know what it is to be hurt so badly, what it is to be caught as pawns in the Devil’s Game.  We know that the children of Gaza deserve much better, and so do our own.  Mostly we want them to know that we mourn with them this day, not only for our historic defeats and degradations, but also for theirs.  
Am Yisrael Chai.  Rebuild a Free Gaza.  Two States.  One future.