April 20, 2024
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I feel terrible for the people of Gaza. They live under the rule of a violent oppressor. But their oppressor is not Israel, it is Hamas, a terrorist entity whose very name means an­ger and whose actions seem to so revolve around war and hatred, that they cannot spend adequate money, time, or effort on the welfare of the people over whom they rule.

Hamas has made it a regular practice to use the children of Gaza as human shields and to place rocket launchers and missiles in the peo­ple’s hospitals, schools, and mosques and has spent the billions of dollars of aid from Iran, the U.S., and other countries on missiles, bunkers, and offensive military tunnels instead of on schools, food, and medical care. Hamas even destroyed the rich farming areas and green­houses left behind by Israeli farmers when Is­rael withdrew from the area in 2009, as a step toward peace.

I care deeply about the innocent people in Gaza, made in the image of God, and who, go­ing back to Abraham, are my brothers and sis­ters. I pray for the people of Gaza.

Over the past few years Israel has regularly treated the people of Gaza in Israeli hospitals. A close friend, a Washington University Medi­cal School trained surgeon who moved from St. Louis to Israel 10 years ago, periodically op­erates at a hospital in Herzliya on Palestinians who need the type of surgery in which he spe­cializes. And Israel is now fighting Hamas in a way to minimize collateral damage to the civil­ians of Gaza to the extent possible. This comes at a great cost of self-harm to Israel and to its citizens. When Israel warns civilians in Gaza of an intended attack so that they can leave the area, Israel puts itself at peril as Hamas opera­tives are also warned.

Last week, Israel put down its defens­es to allow tons of goods into Gaza. Dur­ing the past weeks, Israel has agreed to two humanitarian cease-fires. In the first hours of each of those cease-fires, Hamas rained down over 70 missiles onto Israeli civilian areas.

A few weeks ago when three Jewish teens were kidnapped and murdered by Arab terror­ists, Hamas celebrated by distributing sweets to children. When an Arab teen was murdered by Jewish terrorists, the Jewish world and Isra­el’s government condemned the terrible act.

I hope Israel’s defensive war on Hamas will end soon and that Israel can join other coun­tries in helping the people of Gaza rebuild their lives by providing them with farm equip­ment, water, electricity, medical care, and food and ultimately empower them to lead fulfilling lives when, with Hamas out of the way, there will be nothing stopping them from sitting at the negotiating table.

But for now all I can do is pray and hope for a time of peace and security for all the people in the region and mourn for the loss of life on both sides.

By Rabbi Hyim Shafner (Reprinted with permission from the author, who is a member of the RCA and is the rabbi at Bais Abraham in University City, MO.)

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