Back in April, Rabbi David Wolpe gave a sermon with a title that took one aback: “Can Israel Survive?”
You would not have thought that -- 58 years after
The theme of the sermon was that nothing physical endures. Even empires do not last; entire civilizations come and go. So it would be presumptuous to assume that the modern state of
But the trick of life, Rabbi Wolpe argued, is to value something while you have it the way you will value it when it is gone. So many things in life we appreciate only when we no longer have them -- valuing them retroactively because we took them for granted while they were here. So, the sermon concluded, we need to think about
And then we need to do that, in order to keep it.
Israel is in still another unsought war, against fanatical and well-armed proxies of Iran and Syria, operating from areas Israel gave up for “peace,” backed by a soon-to-be nuclear state with a messianic commitment to genocide, using the most barbaric tactic in human warfare -- intentionally indiscriminate attacks on civilian populations -- while hiding behind human shields, watching as an amoral world debates whether Israel’s defense is “proportional” or taking too long.
What can we do? Well, the least we can do is go there.
On July 22, Rabbi Wolpe gave another, extraordinary sermon, and raised $1 million from the congregation to take to
“Are your brothers to go to war while you sit here?”
That question, asked by Moses of the tribes Reuven, Gad and half of Menasseh, is particularly pointed on this day. That is why I am writing these lines while preparing to board a plane for
. Moses accepts that the tribes may live outside the land, but insists that they must help to liberate the land, for that historical mission is tied to all the people. Israel
So thirty-five [now nearly 50] people from Sinai Temple are going, and we are bringing with us a million dollars to help soldiers, their families, and other urgent causes. The money was raised and the trip organized in two weeks. Because we are not permitted to sit here while our sister and brothers are at war.
In difficult times, some people are cancelling trips to
. They should be planning more trips. We should be pouring money into the land, to help the soldiers, those who are displaced, those who need our help and wish to know that, in an often hostile world, they are not alone. Israel
Each Jew who lives outside the
owes a tax to the land. We owe a tax for not living there. For all the services we receive from the landof Israel , that our people receives, do not come free. . . . landof Israel
We will be visiting soldiers, people who have been injured, children and adults -- our family. . . . Do not sit there while your sisters and brothers are at war.
We arrived this afternoon on a 12-hour El-Al direct flight (the cabin erupted in applause on landing), and traveled from Ben-Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv up through Route 443, through the hills of Samaria, along the security barrier, approaching Jerusalem from the north to view its panoramic outline from Mt. Scopus.
Then over to the Wall to thank God for our good fortune in reaching this day, and to rest our heads against the Wall in prayer, and then back to the modern glass and stone David Citadel Hotel, where Condoleeza Rice stayed this weekend, attempting to create the conditions for a lasting peace that, as the Wall reminds us, has eluded every generation before.
Then dinner with General (Res.) Itzhak Eitan, the International Chairman of the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, joined by the family of Gadi Musayev (killed on July 12, 2006 -- one of eight soldiers murdered that day by Hezballah in the initial act of this latest war), a moving musical tribute by violinist Lior Kaminetsky from the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, and a sobering speech by Rabbi Daniel Gordis, a kind of follow-on to his latest stunning dispatch.
More about that later. For now, I need to get some sleep. We have wake-up calls scheduled for 5:45 a.m. tomorrow. The bus leaves at 7 a.m. for a series of events that will not bring us back to the hotel until 11 p.m. -- visiting a Jewish Agency Summer Camp for children from the North, visiting the Bnai Zion Medical Center, visiting wounded soldiers, having dinner with bereaved families, and more. There is a lot to do.