This bulletin should be arriving on your doorsteps just over a week after Israel went to the polls to elect a new Government. Israeli politics are unpredictable at best, and as I am writing this over a month before the elections (time gets very confusing when writing articles in advance) I am not going to make any predictions for what the result will be.
That said, as I sit to write this article, it is only a few weeks since I have returned from a CCAR (Central Conference of American Rabbis) solidarity mission to Israel. As well as time in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Tsfat, the Golan Heights and other important stops on any Israel trip, we also went to the south to visit communities on the border with the Gaza Strip.
At Netiv HaAsara, one of the communities we visited, we drove outside the walls of the community and stood on a small hill looking over the security wall on the northern side of the Gaza Strip. We were close enough to see a man wandering around on the other side, in a place where a week and a half earlier it would have been unsafe for either of us to stand. At Kibbutz Kfar Aza we walked down to the very edge of the Kibbutz and looked across at the lights of the various communities in the Gaza Strip. We followed a pathway which has had rockets raining down on it over the last few years.
We understand that Israel borders the Gaza Strip, but seeing it up close and personal brought a deeper insight into the proximity of the two communities.
Regardless of who wins the Israeli elections (and with the way that politics over there go it is unlikely there will be an outright winner, with many claiming victory) we need to deepen our bond and connection with the State of Israel. Not simply on a political level, but because we as a community have always understood the message: kol Yisrael aravim zeh bazeh – all the people of Israel are responsible one for another. We have a responsibility and connection to these people as members of our global Jewish family.
One of the thoughts I had, as I visited these communities, was the fact that during the recent Operation Pillar of Defense, many of these families were forced to leave their homes to stay with friends and family elsewhere in the country. Earlier that same month, many of our members were forced to leave their homes as a result of the lack of power and heat as we felt the impact of Hurricane Sandy. They left under a barrage of terrorist rockets and we left under the force of a hurricane.
Both of us are now back in our homes. But while we can probably sleep soundly in our beds, with little concern (at least for now) about another hurricane; in Israel although they are sleeping in their own beds, I am sure that for these southern communities there is still a fear over what will happen next in Gaza.
We cannot fully empathize with what it is like to live in a community on the front line of a conflict such as the one between the terrorist of Gaza and the State of Israel. But we have experienced the need to leave our homes, we have a shared history with these people, and together we need to ensure that we have a shared future. These people are our family, and we must consider what we can do to support our family both near and far; because after all kol Yisrael aravim zeh bazeh.