As I write this on Thanksgiving morning, there are many things to be thankful for: health, peace, family, community. I am, as one might expect, also a bit nostalgic, thinking about the Thanksgivings I remember from my childhood (there is nothing like Thanksgiving in New England) and a yearning for simpler days.
These last few days have been anything but simple as we have watched the conflict in Gaza unfold and now we have another thing to be thankful for this morning: a cease fire that has restored, at least temporarily, some calm to people on both sides of the border. No one knows how long this cease fire will last but we can hope that it is long enough for more lasting steps to be taken to make, if not peace, at least some form of tense calm take hold.
But, as I look back on this week, I still have some nagging questions. There are so many that can be asked but these are the ones that come to mind.
Why have we, as lovers and supporters of Israel, found it necessary to flood social media like Facebook and Twitter with constant statements of support for Israel? It is truly heartening to see so much support but what need is it fulfilling and what role is it playing as war moves from the battlefield to the Internet?
Why is it, as some have argued, inappropriate for those who love Israel to mourn the deaths of children in Gaza? Why do we not include the numbers of children killed by Israeli bombs as fatalities when we talk about the war? Especially if Israel, and I believe this is the case, took great effort to avoid such tragedies, why do some people react so negatively when those who support Israel show sympathy for these innocent victims?
Why, almost 20 years after the peace treaty signing on the White House Lawn are we still, it seems, no closer to a two state solution which would end the occupation and give Palestinians a state of their own? Why are settlements still being built and why has Israel shown reluctance to do more to foster relationships with more moderate Palestinians?
And,of course, if there are questions for Israel and its supporters to answer, there are also questions for others:
Why is there still the need to argue “Israel’s right and responsibility to defend itself”? Why isn’t this just a given and why would anyone contest this point?
Why, seven years after Israel “disengaged” from Gaza, has Hamas and other factions constantly fired life threatening rockets into Israel instead of building their own society and working peacefully with Israel to allow for more access and less restrictions?
Why do parents and leaders still raise their children to believe that the most important mission in life is to destroy their neighbor?
And, for both sides and their supporters, why do we keep going back and back in history to find the roots of this conflict? 2008?, 2005? 2000? 1967? 1948? 1918? We can go all the way back to this week’s Torah portion and the conflict between Jacob and Esau if we want to but, while context is important in addressing conflict, why can’t people start with today and look ahead?
Let us all take this Thanksgiving to cherish what we have and hope that others around the world will have those same blessings of peace and comfort. Happy Thanksgiving!