After months of restraint, Israel on Saturday, Dec. 27, launched a full-scale military operation on Gaza. Israeli citizens have been under the threat of daily attack from Gaza for years, and more so since Israel disengaged from the Gaza Strip in 2005. Only this week, hundreds of missiles and mortars shells were fired at Israeli civilian communities, including the firing of 80 missiles on a single day. No country can be expected to absorb continuous and unrelenting violence.
Leonard Barrack, president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, stressed: "Our support for the democratically elected government of Israel is unwavering. As we pray for peace in the region, we strongly condemn the repeated rocket and mortar attacks against Israel, and hold Hamas responsible for breaking the cease-fire and for the renewal of the violence. Furthermore, we applaud the U.S. government for its continued support of Israel during this difficult time."
Israel has taken great lengths to avoid this sort of escalation, but was left with no other way to ensure that its civilians would not have to live in fear of rocket fire. Just a few days ago, outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made an appeal on the Arab television station Al-Arabiya asking Gaza residents to stop the firing of rockets and mortar shells so that a military response could be avoided.
We in the Philadelphia Jewish community are very familiar with the reality above as our partnership city for the past 10 years is adjacent to the Gaza Strip, and we have been receiving daily reports on shelling and the casualties. Ira M. Schwartz, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, commented: "The Greater Philadelphia Jewish community has a long history of financial and moral support for the State of Israel and our partnership community in Netivot-Sedot Negev, and we're committed and ready to assist in any way we can, if needed."
Finally, as we all seek peace, we must realize that the only way to start a peace process in the region is by defeating Hamas. Until this occurs, there will be more loss of innocent lives on both sides of the equation.