Praying for Peace Amid the Strife


Search for peaceful thoughts and human emotions as the Middle East conflict spirals out of control.

Ours is the peace of a broken vav,* the shalom of this week’s parsha, promised to Pinhas, but not truly whole. We mourn four of our boys and continue to nurse our wounded.  The deaths of Naftali, Muhammed, Gilad and Eyal, tragic and senseless, the work of blinded extremists not the only,  just the latest, of our tragedies.

Israel must be strong and Israel must defend her citizens.  Israel must take all reasonable and sometimes even aggressive militaristic actions to stop rocket fire, kidnappings and blood shed on our soil.  Israel must also, through its strength, have the ability and the wisdom to work for peace.

We have all seen that both sides have the willingness and ability to cause suffering and death, to maim and to kill, to destroy.  Each side certainly has the ability, and hopefully the willingness, to build and to progress, to plant and to hope and to bring peace.

Ours is indeed a true conflict.  Both of our peoples lay claim to the same land, both bring narratives to bolster their feelings and gain a sense of righteous indignation as to why all of Israel/Palestine is “ours.”  Yet, this will only lead to more bloodshed and more bloodshed.  I am sad, I am angered, I am ashamed by what we have seen, perpetuated in the name of the love of our people and our land in an adherence to the will of the one God. 

Surely both sides are needed to come forward for a negotiated peace; but one side can unilaterally decide it is time to end the killings.  It is time to relook at our approach to finding a solution.  Let people of conscience and wisdom care enough to pull together and silence the voices and the actions of the radicals among us.  The blessings of peace and cooperation are so legion and so obvious that only blind hatred and ignorance stand in our way. 

I do not apologize for Israel’s strength; in fact I applaud Israel’s phenomenal technological developments that enable a futuristic anti-missile system, the Iron Dome, backed by the United States, to be employed. And I applaud Israel’s readiness to confront aggression. But Israel’s strength has only brought us that shalom of the broken vav.

Perhaps this time will be different. Different because perhaps, just perhaps, the Palestinians and our neighbors will see that Israel is not out for conquest or for ruling others or for teaching intolerance or stereotypes. Israel’s policy is one of justice for all, of bringing Jewish terrorists to trial, of attempting to create economic conditions that will benefit certainly the region and more broadly, the world.  Israel does not negate the existence of a Palestinian people or at this point of a settlement that will establish a Palestinian state.

Perhaps, just perhaps, this time a more realistic, rational leadership will say: “Yes, we can recognize a Jewish state with which we will share a border of our own Palestinian state.”

Perhaps Israel can say: “We feel confident in our strength, we feel confident in our future, and can therefore deal with two unilateral moves toward loosening aspects of our governance of the West Bank and also taking reasoned withdrawals and concessions leading to an ultimate settlement.”

May our common humanity come to the fore.  May the loss of Eyal, Gilad, Muhammed and Naftali and the bloodshed and destruction swirling around us bring us to shout “ENOUGH” and mean it.

As we say in Psalm 29:11: “May God grant strength to His people, may God bless Israel (and all of mankind) with peace." As the Midrash says: "God’s name is Peace and His greatest blessing is Peace."

* In every Torah scroll, the letter vav in God’s promise to Pinhas of shalom is written with a broken vertical stroke.

Rabbi Gary Charlestein, long active in the Philadelphia Jewish community, is the CEO of a dental products company. 


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