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Sermon for Friday Night (May 14, 2021): "Israel Under Attack"

As I sat down to write this week’s sermon, I am confused with turmoil. This week’s sedrah is Bamidbar. The English title is “Numbers” because a census is taken of Israelites over the age of 20. We count our people individually because each Israelite counts.

Not so in Israel. As we sit here in the comfort of the most powerful country in the world, the United States, we worship in relative safety. Certainly, there has been threats to our people, as there always is, but we can rest assured that throughout the course of our service, we will not hear any sirens warning us we have twenty seconds to get to a bomb shelter.

Our brothers and sisters in the Holy Land do not have that peace of mind. For yet another time (I’ve lost count), Israel is under attack. Not just from missiles fired by a terrorist organization, their neighbor, mind you, but also global public opinion. But where is the outrage of human rights attacks by other countries whose actions are far worse?

Meanwhile, President Rivlin of Israel has reminded the world that no other country would tolerate what Israel does. Any other country, under attack by missiles, would have retaliated hard and with absolute certainty. Yet Israel is demeaned by other countries for injuring innocent civilians by their efforts to protect their citizens. Again, no other country would tolerate these abuses. Their response would swift, severe, and complete.

Many of you may be surprised that I am addressing this issue in a sermon. Typically, I stay away from political issues and I do that out of respect for all of you. All of you have your own opinions and you are all certainly entitled to respect to believe as you will. That is freedom. And certainly as your religious leader, I see my role as a paragon of comfort and spiritual inspiration, and I will state unequivocally that I do indeed respect all of your opinions because I know all of you to be intelligent, caring and sensitive people.

But as Jews we need to be concerned. This is our ancestral land. These are our people. They are fighting our fight. We have to stand united with our fellow Hebrews to support their efforts. They are entitled to live a life of comfort and fulfillment without the constant threat of death.

How do we react to this outrage? We continue to be Jews; it’s that simple. We do not back down and apologize for existing. We don’t stop observing our religion.

And we stand up for ourselves. There were multiple demonstrations around the country earlier this week and I had the privilege and honor to attend one in Irvine. It was organized and sponsored by StandWithUs, a group that advocates for ourselves.

There were many other Jews there, parading around with both American and Israeli flags. Israeli and Jewish music was playing in the background. The crowd was dancing and waving signs that We Stand With Israel and that Hamas is a terrorist group.

Of course, there were detractors. Palestinians joined the group. While people crowded around them singing “Am Yisrael Chai”, they were safe. And it wasn’t just because police were looking on. We Jews do not engage in unwarranted violence.

Some people passed by making obscene gestures and shouting epithets. Some of the demonstrators got upset. At this point, why? We all know the truth. Israel, like every other country in the world, is not a perfect place. But to have violent riots, over 1600 missiles launched at anyone who’s living in Israel? That’s a solution? And some people support that? Hamas, as we all know, has been designated as a terrorist organization by most major civilized countries.

Yet while people demean and vilify both Israel and Jews, they ignore other worse situations. Where is the outcry about far worse abuse in other parts of the world?

But that’s OK because we will survive.

We are strong. We have existed as a people for thousands of years and we will continue to prevail. We will mourn our losses, but we will go on with the same courage that has stayed us for almost 2000 years of oppression by the rest of the world.

So let us remember this week’s portion and keep these people in our hearts. Every Israelite is counted because every Jew counts. Am Yisrael Chai!

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