Planting a tree in Israel

Planting a tree in Israel
Bringing life to Israel with my own hands by planting a tree!(summer 2010)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

September 11,2011

We recently shared Labor Day weekend, a holiday weekend. Holidays are typically happy occasions.  For children they are time off from school and for adults they are an opportunity to refrain from work.  For all of us, holidays are a time of celebration; replete with food, family and friends. 

            However, this Labor Day for many thousands of people was a reminder that we are approaching the anniversary of September 11th’s terror attacks.  Some might say that every day is a time of remembrance.  For the families of victims and responders no hour is free of torment.   Some will say that ten years have passed and it is time to continue to move forward.

            As a Jew I am one of a remembering people.  Indeed, one way of understanding Jewish life is to see oneself as simultaneously standing with one foot in the past, one foot in the present with an eye to the future.  For Jewish people the days of Abraham, King David and Maimonides are as alive as this very day.

            Joyous times (Rosh Hashanah, Passover and Sabbath) are intermixed with commemorative days of loss, such as the 9th of Av and Holocaust Day.  As a Jew my ancient traditions provide me support as I, a wounded American, remember those astonishingly dark days ten years ago.

            Against our will we are drawn into a worldwide program of violence and fear.  Our nation was attacked and all of us have been placed in a position of grave threat.  A new reality was thrust upon us ordinary folk. 

            Similarly, ordinary Israeli folk have been put in positions of threat and disaster for years by Hamas in Gaza, by Hezbollah in Lebanon and by opportunistic terror thugs from Egypt.  Just as we Americans are left to wonder about our vulnerability and the potential for future attacks, so, too, are common Israelis left to wonder in the very same manner.  The sole difference between our two conditions is location of the threat.  Unlike we Americans bordered by the peaceful nations of Canada and Mexico and surrounded by thousands of miles of ocean, our Israeli counterparts have no such luxury. 

            Gaza is adjacent to Israel.  The Egyptian frontier abuts the southern border and Hezbollah’s power base in Lebanon is atop Israel’s northern border.  Syria is next door and Iran is only a missiles’ distance away.  The only current non-hostile neighbor in the entire region is Jordan. 

            Not reported in the news are the nearly daily rocket attacks from Gaza, the occasional forays by Hezbollah and the routine attempts by terrorists entering from Egypt.  Just two weeks ago Israeli tourists were attacked while vacationing in their own version of Gulf Shores known as Eilat. Not mentioned by our media is Hamas which holds Gaza in an iron grip with terrorists astride Israel and the inability of the diverse factions of Palestinian leadership to come together in order to negotiate in common voice with Israel.

            Imagine our attempting to work out a peace agreement with a foreign threat only to learn that other tribes of that foreign power are still prepared to blow up skyscrapers, fly aircraft into our homes and murder as many of our children as possible.  Would we be able to live under those conditions?

            And still Israel, a country that is one fifth the size of Alabama with a population of seven million people does its very best to awaken each day and to provide a present and a future for its Jewish, Christian and Muslim citizens – just as America does. 

            You will hear reports that the Palestinians are taking their case to the United Nations to unilaterally declare a state.  President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority has announced the intention to bring this cause to the U.N. later this month.  Imagine a region where many people agree only on killing one’s neighbors with no other common voice.  Now imagine such a community becoming a nation without any regard for living side by side with a democracy. 

            We Americans draw strength from our shared heritage we also call to mind the great work ethic which contributed to our beloved nation.  We appreciate the value of hard work and of providing for our children and securing freedom and safety for all of our neighbors.  We remember the loved ones who have been taken from all of us by acts of terror and we pledge to remember them always and to continue bringing honor to their memories through maintaining democratic ideals.

            Let us also appreciate the only democracy in a very unstable Middle East, a democracy which upholds the principles of law and order, representation in government an independent judiciary and an unfettered press.  Should you learn of anti-Israel sentiment I request that you bear in mind the commonalities between Israel and America and the dedication to freedom which both nations hold dear.  As the date of the Palestinian unilateral declaration potentially draws closer I ask you to share your support of beleaguered Israel with family, friends and your elected officials.  May the months ahead see greater peace and security for both nations.

Rabbi Steven Silberman

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