By Rabbi Berel Wein
In my many decades as a public speaker I have encountered many reactions to my words. Though most people love me and are enthralled by what I have to say, still many times people have somehow vehemently disagreed with what I said and informed me of their negative opinions after I had spoken. Sometimes people have even walked out while I was still speaking to express their displeasure at what was being said.
Once or twice I remember being heckled by members of the audience who somehow were unable to appreciate the greatness of my character and the wisdom of my words. But last Shabbat afternoon, while teaching my weekly class/lecture on Pirkei Avot, the air raid siren in Jerusalem sounded and all of us attending this class in our synagogue repaired to the bomb shelter and stairwell in the building. Those rockets headed for Jerusalem were intercepted by the Iron Dome defensive system or fell in open fields outside of the city.
This was the first time in my career that anyone shot at me while I was speaking. I imagine there is a first time for everything and I am somewhat flattered that Hamas somehow has taken notice of my oratorical skills and has attempted to silence them.
But in all seriousness, the terrible truth of the ongoing conflict is that unreasoning and ideological hatred overrules all logic, strategy, human concerns and reasonable behavior.
The terrible truth is that all of the casualties suffered by the civilian population living in Gaza are directly attributable to Hamas. It started the conflict, it kidnapped and killed innocent children, and it has fired over 700 rockets against purely civilian targets in Israel and is frustrated beyond belief at its failure to obtain any tactical or strategic advantage with its violent and vicious behavior.
It therefore just continues to shoot rockets, knowing that it only guarantees that its own population in Gaza will pay the price for its doctrinal hatred of Israel and the Jewish people. That is the terrible truth that the world knows to be true but will not accommodate itself to accepting that truth and acting upon it.
Another aspect of the terrible truth was acted out on the streets of Tel Aviv on Saturday night. A small group of diehard Leftists and peace loving humanitarians attempted to conduct a rally – mostly for the benefit of the television and print media of the world – demanding that Israel end its Gaza campaign. Spontaneously, and in reaction, a small group of other Israeli citizens gathered and vociferously denounced and opposed those attempting to conduct that rally.
The police immediately came to interpose themselves between the two opposing groups, both of which were now vehemently shouting at each other and coming close to blows.
Hamas intervened by shooting six rockets at Tel Aviv at that moment. Some were intercepted again by the Iron Dome system and the others fell harmlessly in open areas or in the sea. Both groups of demonstrators ran to the same shelter when the air raid siren sounded. In the shelter their argument continued and the police who also were in the shelter still had to maintain separation and order.
The absurdity of the situation apparently did not register upon the peace loving humanitarians. They somehow still failed to realize that Hamas and its rockets meant them as well and not just those “aggressive, war-mongering, right-wing extremists” who control the government and defense forces of Israel.
Hamas rockets also fell in Arab Hevron and Bethlehem, cities controlled by and located in the areas of the Palestinian Authority. But since Hamas does not care about its own civilians in Gaza, why should it care about Arabs living on the ‘West Bank’? Hamas does not care about any human life and therefore it only keeps on firing rockets, to no avail or advantage except as a release point for its hatreds and perverted ideology.
The media of the world – especially such biased anti-Israel organs as the New York Times, Haaretz and the Guardian, etc. – headline the destruction of mosques and the deaths of civilians in Gaza. Parenthetically they note that the mosques were used to store and shoot rockets aimed at Israeli citizens.
The world looks for symmetry in human casualties in this conflict. The fact that symmetry is lacking in this area is used to condemn Israel instead of admiring it for its ability to defend itself and its citizens.
The symmetry that is lacking is in the media coverage and reporting of events. There is no country in the world that would sit idly by while hundreds of rockets rained down on its civilian population and cities. Israel has tried for many decades to reach a peaceful accommodation with its Arab neighbors.
For religious, cynical, greedy and ideological reasons, it has been rebuffed time and again in these efforts.
The terrible truth therefore is that in spite of the clucking of the do-gooders, the formula of quiet will be met by quiet and force will be met by force is still the only reasonable option left to us in our most dangerous area of the world.