Today is Tisha B’av, the fast of the 9th of Av, the saddest day on the Jewish Calendar. It is the anniversary of the destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem and recognized as the anniversary of several other sad events in our history.
This year, as we do every year, we read the book of Lamentations, Eichah, during the evening and the morning and read kinot, dirges, mourning the loss of the Temples and the destruction of Jerusalem.
The book of Eichah is heartbreaking. Its descriptions of death and destruction, pain and suffering are so powerful and the language so intense that one can not help but be moved by the words and the mournful tune. One can imagine Jerusalem lying in ruins with its people suffering in such deep pain.
But, as I read Eichah this year, I did not think of Jerusalem, I thought of Gaza.
Let me be clear as I have been all along in my blog postings. I am fully aware of Hamas’ desire to destroy Israel and I take them at their word that this is what they seek. I do not doubt that Hamas uses horrible tactics such as using human shields or placing their own civilians in harm’s way. And I certainly do not question Israel’s right to self-defense against those who seek to destroy it.
But, I could not get the pictures of Gaza out of my mind as I read Eichah this year.
While I worry about my friends and family members throughout Israel who have to run to shelters when the siren is heard, this time it is Gaza that in the words of Lamentations is the city that sits solitary and destroyed with its residents seeking in vain for protection.
While I cry for the families of brave Israeli soldiers who answered the call to protect their country, I cry as well for the children of Gaza who have been killed or wounded or left without family to protect them and help them grow. I cry for all of those who were not militants, who did not seek to destroy or hurt others, who had no place to run and no place to hide from the attacks.
I don’t pretend to be a military expert. I have no idea what Israel could or should have done differently, if anything, to prevent the massive death and destruction that Gaza has experienced. But, regardless of the justification of Israel to act in self-defense, the “city” that I thought of when I considered Tisha B’av’s call to picture a destroyed city was, in fact, Gaza.
I understand that war is not pretty and that sometimes it comes down to “us” or “them” and our tradition would tell us never to denigrate the importance of your life and your security in deference to an enemy’s. I get that. But, I still can’t stop thinking of the innocent people in Gaza and wondering whether it could have been different.
Should, God willing, this cease fire hold, I pray that Israel immediately begins to put all of its energy and resources into finding a way to make peace with the Palestinians and give their people a chance at a secure, independent life, the same we hope for our own people in the State of Israel.
And, if that does happen, I pray that Jews throughout the world will stand with Israel as it works for peace with as much solidarity, passion and loyalty as we do during times of war.
This Shabbat is Shabbat Nachamu, the Shabbat of comfort. May God bring comfort to all.