The last few weeks have been a dark time for Israel and the Jewish Diaspora. As we closely monitor the situation in Israel and Gaza, glued to our computers, smartphones and TVs for the latest developments, the questions keep mounting.
How much longer will Israelis be subjected to the incessant horror of Hamas’ rocket attacks? How long will it take the Israel Defence Forces to neutralize the threat in Gaza? Is it enough to destroy Hamas’ network of tunnels, from which the rocket attacks are emanating and where terrorists are hiding, or will Israel be required to maintain a more lasting presence in Gaza? How many more lives will be lost? Will the international community stand by Israel, or will the PR war take a nasty turn? When will this all be over?
Unfortunately, the answers are not immediately forthcoming. The brave soldiers of the IDF entered Gaza to root out terrorists and their infrastructure, both above and below ground. But the cost of that operation has already proven devastating – the deaths of Israeli soldiers amid heavy fighting in the Gaza City neighbourhood of Shejaiya is a stark reminder of the sacrifices made by ordinary Israelis to ensure the security of the Jewish state. Jews around the world honour their bravery, even as we mourn their tragic passing.
Israel is under siege. The constant prospect of rocket attacks tortures the Israeli psyche, and everyday life has been overtaken by a simple calculation: when the sirens sound, where will we take cover? Children who should be enjoying their summer vacation are instead cowering in bunkers. And as everyone scrambles for safety, business owners are suffering. The sad fact is that in many areas of the country, it’s unsafe to venture outside. And while the Iron Dome missile defence system has been a marvel, it can’t stop every rocket from hurtling to the ground.
The tragedy is also evident in Gaza, where many innocent civilians have been trapped in the crossfire. Israel has gone to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties, as it does every time it faces a delicate mission of this sort. Hamas has done the opposite, cynically demanding that Gazans stay in their homes to act as civilian shields for the terrorists who hide among them – in homes, schools and mosques. Hamas’ blatant disregard for the safety of Palestinians is not surprising, but that doesn’t make the deaths in Gaza less tragic, only more so.
A second front in this war is quickly developing in Europe. In some countries, Jews are being subjected to hateful rhetoric and even violence. Many prominent European politicians have denounced these provocations, but European Jewry is rightly anxious. Meanwhile, in the United States, Jewish communities wonder whether their government is capable of acting as an honest broker between Israel and the Palestinians.
Fortunately, the story is different in our part of the world. Canadian Jews must remain vigilant in these tense times, but we are comforted in the knowledge that our government, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, stands firmly with Israel. In these times of uncertainty and fear for Jews around the world, their unequivocal support brings much-needed hope that better days are ahead