As summer begins to heat up, it seems as if the choler of the world is heating up as well. This past week, in different parts of the world, we have experienced senseless, baseless, inexcusable, and horribly damaging acts of violence – to persons, property, and psyche.
Here in Israel, I have been hearing bits and pieces of news as they trickle in from the U.S. We’ve been kept abreast of the Baltimore riots as well as other divisiveness and racial unrest in various states. How horribly sad. Our country seemed to be doing fairly well in the area of race relations for quite a while – much better than when I was a young girl growing up in the completely segregated South of the 60’s. Our hearts and prayers go out to the families and friends of the innocent victims of this past week’s heinous Charleston assassinations. These victims were peaceful people simply gathered for study and prayer in the most non-violent of settings. How can things have gotten so bad so quickly?
We’ve had quite a week here as well. Within the last few days, Israel had eased their travel restrictions for Muslims who wish to make pilgrimage from the West Bank to Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock for Ramadan. Friday, a Hamas-linked Palestinian terrorist left his home; entered into Israel proper; waved down a car to speak with its occupants; then opened fire – for no reason other than they were Israeli Jews. Moments later, 25 year old Danny Gonen was dead, his girlfriend hospitalized. The last few weeks have seen rocket launches again from Palestinian Gaza into Israel – Beersheba, Ashdod, Shderot, and Ashkelon.
In Karmi’el, this Thursday, we had a bit of excitement as well, with IDF jets strafing the skies much louder, lower, and more frequently than is usual (their presence is a regular part of daily life here – and we love it. We know we’re safe). We woke up to smoke over the local mountains to the East. I was very concerned, as an American school group we know was traveling in the area. I had been hearing from a couple close friends, one in the lower Golan, and one in the upper Galilee of recent Hezbollah and ISIS skirmishes. They regularly hear the gunfire and explosions as the war grows ever closer to home. There are also quite a few Druze settlements in the North of Israel as well as in Northeastern Syria and Southern Lebanon. The Druze are descendants of an ancient people. They are very peaceful – and are at the point of ISIS extermination (as of today, Israel has granted them refugee status to come over the borders and settle in Israel – and all seem to be in favor of this). Jason said he’d been hearing gunfire over the border for the last few days, and on Wednesday, there was an alarm for the residents of the area to take cover. Thank goodness for Iron Dome, and the protection of HaShem, the stray Grad missile landed in a field and there was no harm done.
We continued to see smoke rising early Thursday morning in the direction of the Sea of Galilee, and in the afternoon, got word that there was a terrible act of arson committed by some Ultra-religious Jewish thugs from the “Price Tag” group. They had deliberately and senselessly set fire to the beautiful Benedictine monastery and church on the site of the loaves and fishes miracle by Jesus in the New Testament. I had just visited there two weeks ago with my friend, Soph. It was one of the most serene places, right on the Western side of the Galilee, with lovely, shady and breezy courtyards, and mosaic floors dating from the First Century.
By mid Thursday morning, it was rubble. On a wall, still standing, was grafitteed in red Hebrew letters, “Thou shalt not worship idols.” Rather ironic, as there was not a statue- or crucifix even- in the place. It was a sanctuary of peace open to all faiths. Sixteen youth were taken in, questioned, and released, and the police are still searching for the perpetrators. Thank goodness, no one in the monastery or convent was injured.
Our family plans on going with members of local synagogues and churches together to help in the clean-up and rebuilding process. We should be bridges of peace and understanding, respectful of all peace-loving faiths.
The most recent event affected us more directly. It pales in comparison to the other acts of hatred rampant in the world today, but was damaging to the psyche, nonetheless. I was sitting at our kitchen table last night studying Hebrew with my teenage son, Max, when he received a Skype video call from a group of his American “friends” from one of our school groups. The joking and mockery at his expense was shocking to me. The call lasted only a few minutes, but the damage had been done. Why? What is going on in our world to make people commit such senseless acts???
Ever since we’ve arrived, there has been talk about imminent war this summer. Several weeks ago, myriad underground Hezbollah tunnels from Lebanon into Northern Israel (only 25 miles away) were discovered. In the upper Golan, a huge ammunitions store was found in a Muslim home and destroyed. All known suspects have been arrested. We knew what we were in for before we came. The Israelis do not wish to colonize other lands or expand their territories. We just want a small, safe land in which to live and raise our children; to work; to farm; to contribute to society – in peace! How much longer will it take, and will it ever end? Many songs and prayers here are about our desire for peace – to be able to live in harmony with one another. For G-d to “bring peace down” upon Israel and all the peoples of the world. Will these senseless acts ever come to an end?
Until then, our family continues with daily life, including stocking our Mamad (bomb shelter) with emergency supplies. We pray for an end to wars and violence. We continue to try to be that very narrow bridge of respect, understanding, and peace between cultures and religions. It must start in our own lives first – in our families, our synagogues and churches – and then bit by bit, spread outward like ripples on the lake…..