Home » Blog » Gaza Flotilla and Israel #2: Choose Life

Gaza Flotilla and Israel #2: Choose Life

Our Torah teaches that placed before each of us at every moment is a choice. Life or death, blessing or curse. At every moment, with every step we take, we must choose. And those choices determine, literally, whether we, our children, our people and our values will live on.
U’vacharta bachaim – choose life (Deuteronomy 30:19). Each of us, listening to our intellect and our conscience, determines what we do when we face each choice. Whether we go left or go right; whether we seek blessing or face curses. So it is with people. So it is with nations.

But what if you are a nation that whenever you think you are choosing life, all you seem to ever receive back are curses?  Such is the situation of Israel today.

Israel has a right, guaranteed by international law, to blockade an enemy sworn to its destruction. Routine checks may legally be made of boats coming toward the land of it’s enemy.  They are checking for missiles and weapons and goods that could be used to build bunkers and fortifications. Remember, Israel withdrew from Gaza only to face eight years of constant missile attacks on civilian populations. Now Israel expects only what every other nation at war demands: that it gets to choose life. 

Thus Israel boarded five “peace activist” ships in a supposed humanitarian flotilla, brought them to Israel’s port, checked out the goods and people, and delivered the goods to non-Hamas-controlled Gazans. Remember that Israel daily sends into Gaza huge amounts of goods, food
and water into Gaza. 

But on the sixth ship, Israel faced organized mob of people who were filmed on Al Jezeera, a day earlier, calling for martyrdom. This mob was committed to beating and harming, anything but life. This ship’s humanitarian mission – a guise really for an attempt to undermine the blockade – was taken over by individuals committed to cursing and harming Israelis at every turn. And the result was mayhem. Soldiers were injured and people were killed. We mourn every death.
U’vacharta bachaim – choose life.

There is a concerted effort to shackle Israel’s ability to make choices, to defend itself.  It’s hypocritical.

  • When North Korea sinks a South Korean ship, bringing a very tense region close to war footing, there is narry a blip in the world’s attention.
  • When Egypt imposes the same blockade on Gaza, fearful of an Iranian style theocracy on it’s borders, few raise concern.
  • But when Israel expects the right to ensure life for it’s people in the face of enemy enmity, Israel faces only curses from every direction.
It is so exhausting to listen to these curses again and again.  How does one respond?

When Spanish politician/journalist of the far left Pilar Rahola heard
the curses of Israel, she responded with incredulity. Read this.

When US Vice President Joe Biden was asked about the critique of Israel, he responded with forthrightness. “So what’s the big deal here? What’s the big deal of insisting it not go straight to Gaza? Well, it’s legitimate for Israel to say, ‘I don’t know what’s on that ship. These guys are dropping… 3,000 rockets on my people…. You can argue whether Israel should have dropped people onto that ship or not — but the truth of the matter is, Israel has a right to know — they’re at war with Hamas — has a right to know whether or not arms are being smuggled in.” Watch this from 33:09 forward (Or read this).

When you are asked about your reaction to the flotilla, what will you say?

  • Perhaps you will explain Israel’s right to defend itself by boarding ships. Read this
  • Perhaps you will remember the video that shows a crowd violently attacking those seeking to inspect the ship, proving that this was anything but a ship of peace. Watch this.
  • Perhaps you will think about the message of American-born Israeli Rabbi Daniel Gordis who said “Israel’s geographic vulnerability means that we do not have the luxury of caving in to the world’s condemnation. We will have to gird ourselves for the long, dangerous and lonely road ahead, buoyed by hope that what ultimately prevails will be not what is momentarily popular, but rather what is just.” Read more
  • Perhaps you will attend a rally this Sunday at 2:00 pm outside the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles. Info here.

There is much to criticize about Israel. Criticize the way that the army should have better prepared its troops for a more violent response. Criticize the way that Israel should have more quickly released videos and information in the post-operation diplomacy to more quickly to counter the easily anticipated onslaught of curses and criticism. Surely these bear critique. Israelis on the streets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and Ramat Eshkol will argue privately and publicly about this more than you and I will ever imagine.

But don’t accept the world’s cry for an international tribunal to review it. Because those only curse Israel no matter what she does.

And don’t accept the critique of the UN Human Rights Council which never fails to ignore its member states’ actions (Iran, Syria, Libya) yet equally never fails to find the opportunity to single out Israel for condemnation.  

And don’t accept the discomfort, embarrassment, or self-loathing  that overtakes some of us – Jews, Americans, Israelis – whenever Israel’s decisions are met with world disdain, complaint and critique.

Israel is far from perfect. You may love its current government or disdain it. (This government is far from my favorite.) You may find much to criticize about its settlements, the coercive power of ultra-orthodox groups, the way this government drags its feet sometimes at solving the conflict with the Palestinians. (I criticize Israel regularly on all these issues!)

Yet existing in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the world, Israel makes choices few of us can imagine. Often those choices lead to results that make us squeamish.

But choices had to be made. Those ships had to be turned aside. Israel felt it had to act. Why?
U’vacharta bachaim. For life. For security. For safety. To uphold the blockade against hidden missiles and weapons.

But for now choose quickly to educate yourself. So that when you are asked what you think, you won’t fall into the trap of self-loathing.  Instead, head held high, demand that like every other nation, Israel gets the right u’vacharta bachaim, to choose life.

One comment

  1. Bruce Sallan says:

    Wow, Rabbi Paul, I'd almost think you were getting more conservative. Lol. Both of these posts are so well written and thoughtful. Much appreciated. I

    It is so clear the bias that the msm, worldwide, has towards Israel. Listen to the vitriol from long-time White House correspondent Helen Thomas. The level of anti-semitism in the world is astounding. Israel, as Golda Meir sagely said, "Let me tell you something that we Israelis have against Moses. He took us 40 years through the desert in order to bring us to the one spot in the Middle East that has no oil!"

    Yet Israel creates more and does more for the world than all its enemies combined. Does the world appreciate it? No! They continue to hate us.

    As for the U.N. – they're a total joke.

    Hey, Congregants, you should listen to the Rabbi and I on my "radio show" archives on my web-site (brucesallan.com). We didn't talk politics, but engaged in a great dialogue about our parents and their roles in our lives!

    Again, thank you Rabbi Paul for guesting on my new Radio Show – it was fun and I look forward to the next time!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *