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Orthodox Forum Hosts Jerusalem Post Op-Ed Editor on Situation in Israel

The Orthodox Forum of Edison/Highland Park livestreamed David Jablinowitz, Jerusalem Post op-ed editor, from Israel on Nov. 4. Originally planned as an in-person event covering the issue of judicial reform and the havoc it created in Israel, Jablinowitz canceled his trip to the United States due to the current situation in Israel and presented an adapted talk covering the most recent events.

Jablinowitz opened the session by noting that although it was about 2:30 in the morning in Israel, it was not difficult to be awake since not many people were getting much sleep there these days. He shared that he was presenting from the mamad (safe room) in his apartment, and viewers would likely only see his wife on screen if there was a siren alert where she would have to come in.

He took viewers back four weeks to when the Hamas massacre began. Waking up in his town of Beit Shemesh that Yom Tov morning to the sound of booms, he quickly realized the sounds were rocket fire and the Iron Dome in action. Even without access to TV or radio, Jablinowitz noted the date as the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War and made the connection to another Arab attack on a Jewish holiday.

Not knowing how “horrific things were in the South,” the six air raid sirens during the Simchat Torah prayers were difficult enough. Torah reading and hakafot were interrupted multiple times so people could run to shelters. “The Kedusha of Mussaf was interrupted by sirens and we had to run again to the shelter,” he said.

Israel is a small country and word began to get out about what was happening. Congregants began to get a sense of the severity of the situation as younger men were being called out from services to join their army units. The congregation’s rabbi, Rav Meir Lichtenstein, the grandson of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, even announced that anyone who potentially would be called out was required to turn on their phones.

In the four weeks since the start of the war, the presence of American naval carrier groups has been a deterrent, keeping a lid on escalation of military action from surrounding Arab countries, he shared. There hasn’t been a pogrom of this magnitude since the Holocaust and many comparisons have been made comparing the brutality of Hamas and ISIS. Jablinowitz quoted U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin as saying Hamas is even worse than ISIS. Israel has made the videos Hamas had posted of their actions on Oct. 7 available to foreign journalists. Those who viewed them were so sickened by what they saw that they could not watch all the footage.

Jablinowitz noted that Simchat Torah is a national holiday and the beauty of Israel allows for all types of Jews to celebrate the holiday as they wish. Those at the music festival attacked by Hamas came from all over the country and many were horribly killed or are missing. There is a Beit Shemesh connection to the missing; one religious father wanted to know what his less religious daughter got from all the dancing and music. Her answer was that this was her form of prayer. “That’s the beauty of Israel. Some people engage in traditional prayer, while others practice differently,” said Jablinowitz.

Jablinowitz continued to contrast the beauty of Israel with the brutality of Hamas. Sadly, one person taken hostage was definitively identified as having been killed, but there is not enough of her body to provide her with a halachic burial.

On the other hand, this conflict has thrown out the designations of right and left in politics. The unity may only be temporary, he said, but it is an anchor as to what can happen. People on both sides want to know what happened and how this could have happened.

“After it is over, heads will roll. But in the meantime there is a war to fight,” Jablinowitz said.

Blinken has met with leaders of surrounding Arab countries who are pushing for a ceasefire. Blinken acknowledges the U.S. concern for innocent civilians in Gaza but is promoting a “humanitarian pause” instead, stating the distinction involves creation of a safe corridor for civilians to exit Gaza, without the longer time period that might allow Hamas to regroup their forces.

Jablinowitz noted that the U.S. is under ever-increasing pressure and pushback of its support for Israel from the large and increasingly vocal groups supporting Palestinians. He agreed that Palestine should be free — but free from Hamas. “The biggest victim in this conflict is the concept of a two-state solution,” he said. Israel left Gaza completely in 2005, but the overwhelming support for Hamas means there can’t be a state advocating Israel’s destruction right next door.

“There have been 9,000 rockets fired at Israel in just four weeks! Why are countries calling only on Israel to stop what it is doing and not asking the same of Hamas? There is no moral equivalence,” said Jablinowitz.

Concluding, Jablinowitz said, “Israel may not be perfect, but let’s look at reality and look at things in context. There is no excuse for what Hamas did. Specifically targeting civilians is wrong. The international community needs to join together to fight Iran and its proxies of Hamas, Hezbollah, etc. If Hamas is not taken out of Gaza, they will be on the doorstep of the Western world.”

There was an active Q&A in which many of the nearly 100 screens in the Zoom actively participated. The event ran well over the allotted time, with many questions remaining in queue.

Support for this program was provided by the Nelson and Minkoff families to honor the memory of Hilton Nelson, z”l and Muriel Minkoff, z”l.

The Orthodox Forum gladly accepts season sponsorships as well as program sponsorships. Visit orthodoxjewishforum.dreamhosters.com/hpedison for more information.

Deborah Melman is a staff writer at The Jewish Link.

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