Temple Sinai Congregation of Toronto

Message from the Rabbi

May 20, 2021

Israel and Gaza

These last ten days and more have been incredibly difficult for our brothers and sisters in the Jewish, democratic state of Israel and for many of us here as well. The violence against Israel from Hamas and within Israel between Jewish and Arab sectors of the population has been shocking and painful.

Here in Toronto, I have heard of young professionals unable to speak up at work because of social media pressure and disinformation. I’m aware that one of our high school-age students was harassed in the street with comments about Israel and Jews. Media personalities have been taking up public space issuing misguided, uninformed, or malicious attacks on Israel. Inhabiting a publicly Jewish, Zionist, progressive space is even more challenging than usual. Those labels aside, I feel we need to look at the basics at times like this, so here they are:

  1. Each day of the current, heated conflict, between 280 and 800 missiles have been launched against Israeli civilians and cities. Israel’s four largest cities (Greater Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Be’er Sheva, including four missiles against Haifa from Lebanon) and more than half of her population have been attacked. These barrages are not any kind of response to Israeli government misdeeds or mistakes, though like every country she makes her share. They are an attempt by the terrorist organizations Hamas and Islamic Jihad to make political gains through violence.

  2. Hamas has been proven many times over to use Palestinian civilians and international aid organizations as human shields. Seeing that Israel was making progress in building relationships in the Arab world, Hamas took advantage of the coincidence of Ramadan, cancelled Palestinian elections and Israeli political instability to change the international narrative by forcing an Israeli military response against Gaza. Re-read paragraph 1. What would you expect your country to do?

  3. The challenges between Israeli citizens of Jewish and Palestinian backgrounds are real. The tensions that erupted in riots and the burning of synagogues in Israel must be dealt with. However, the media ignores the joint demonstrations of Jewish and Arab Israelis together in support of peaceful co-existence. Israel has always found a way forward and will continue to grapple with the balancing act of being the world’s only Jewish state and a democracy with rights for all her citizens.

  4. Again, as I write, a friend in Be’er Sheva responded that he couldn’t get back to me when I checked in because the sirens went off again. We need to continue to connect with our friends and family in Israel. Our past shinshinim (young emissaries) are thinking of us and we of them at this time. Many currently wear the uniform. Let’s stay close and be in touch with them.

  5. Attacks on Jews and Jewish self-determination are not to be tolerated. If you are experiencing verbal, electronic, or other kind of confrontation as a result of this conflict, please be in touch, and we will support you and direct you to other community resources.

Wishing each of us and all of us a time of quiet and calm and steps toward truth and peace.