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April 25, 2015 / 6 Iyar, 5775
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Living on the Edge of War

What right does Assad have to shoot missiles at Israel if Obama strikes his country?
Edge of War

How many times over the last seven years have I written that my country is on the edge of war? That the clouds are threatening, the winds blowing in days of worry?

Amira asked me if I think it will happen this time. I asked Elie almost the same thing. I thought the gas masks were on the lower shelf of the small coffee table in the living room…but we moved them in December to the bomb shelter…my husband’s tool-room…and I had forgotten that. I was helping Elie (not much help, really) look for a tool to fix his car when I saw one of the boxes…only one.

With my one good arm, I began looking for the others. Elie told me to stop – they would find them later in seconds and I was going to hurt myself. Everyone keeps telling me to stop moving…my left hand itches to move up a couple of inches and take over the left side of the keyboard…this one-handed typing is frustrating for someone who types whole pages in less time than it is now takes me to type a small paragraph.

The one gas mask I pulled out was Aliza’s. I found such comfort in having hers at hand. My mind reminds me that we need to buy more bottled water…batteries…crackers.

Will it happen – there’s this silly part of me that plays a game with God, as if the world cares what I do; if nations plan troop movements based on my purchases, but as silly as I know it is, I become superstitious. If I don’t buy, there will be a war…if I buy, Murphy will laugh and maybe we’ll sneak through.

I’m a mature, relatively intelligent adult…and with my right hand I have scribbled my shopping list. I will buy the dumb water because then, maybe…this will be one of those times we all held our breaths for nothing.

What right does Assad have to shoot missiles at Israel if Obama strikes his country? Whatever Obama does, it will be so much less than what Assad himself has done to the Syrian people, to the landscape that was once Syria, to historical sites, now gone, and mosques and churches equally decimated. What does any of this have to do with Israel? When Germany invaded Poland, did Poland threaten Portugal? When the US went to war against North Korea, did North Korea threaten Australia – why the heck did Iraq bomb Israel when the US invaded? Why is Syria threatening us now?

If there is one great truth in the Arab world…it is that you do not back down, not in the interests of peace, not in the interests of your people, not even in the best interests of yourself. You must make it appear that others backed down. You don’t have to shoot ALL your missiles, but you darn well better shoot some…you actually don’t have to even hit your target. You just need to be able to show your enemy running.

And, by contrast, at the first missile fired at us, air raid sirens will wail and people will run because in Israel, unlike in Lebanon, Gaza, and Syria, we put our people in bomb shelters and not our leaders in bunkers.

Two weeks ago, I had this huge mountain in front of me. It was terrifying…and I couldn’t imagine anything beyond Monday…the day of my surgery. I couldn’t think about weeks with one arm, days and days of painkillers, etc. All there was, was this huge all-consuming mountain in the window that was my future as I went to light the Shabbat candles on the Friday night before the surgery. I realized I couldn’t “see” the next Friday night in my mind. I was so close to the mountain, I couldn’t see the blue of the sky or the shape or height of it. Its size and the impact it could have on my life blocked everything.

Then, last Friday night, with one arm immobilized and a steady stream of painkillers often taken around the clock, I realized that I had gotten over the mountain, or at least near the top. I’ve got weeks and months to go, but I can manage it – each hour, each day, week, month, whatever. It’s no longer a mountain ahead of me – just life…day in and day out. A bit different than normal, but life.

This Syria thing is a bit like that mountain…unknown, out of “my” control. Israel can not control this situation. We have treated dozens of wounded Syrians; ignored many mortars and gunfire fired into Israel. But the path the Middle East will take in the coming days and weeks will be decided by two men – Obama and Assad, and neither particularly cares about Israel; both care more for themselves, their futures, than they do about their own countries, never mind Israel and the Jews.

In Hebrew, there is the concept of a stubborn child who gets himself up a tree and can’t get himself down. In real life, we have two leaders who have drawn red lines…and the lines endanger Israel. They are up there in those trees, but the land so close to the branches where they sit…is Israel.

This is not 1973, in the days before or after the Yom Kippur War. There is no danger of Syria’s army overrunning the Golan and threatening Israel’s north. In 1973, lulled into the stupid belief that no nation, not even the Arab countries would dare attack on Yom Kippur, we came perilously close to disaster.

We will be on alert this coming Shabbat, this Yom Kippur, and we will live once again, for a few days or weeks, on the edge of war. But there is this sense of strength, of faith. We might be on the edge, but the mountain is not insurmountable – our satellites and air force fly above it, our sons patrol it. God watches from above, always.

I don’t know what the winds will bring, but I have such faith in my country’s ability to overcome it all  – the ego of Assad, the naivete of Obama, the missiles of Hezbollah. The mountain before my operation was kind of scary because I went in asleep and alone…to this future coming our way, we are united, awake, aware, determined.

We are the land and people of Israel and we have the protection, the love, and the strength of our sons, our leaders, our forefathers (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob),  and four mothers (Sarah, Rebecca, Leah and Rachel) and most of all, the Protector of Israel.

May God bless us and inscribe us in the Book of Life through all the winds, all the battles, all the days to come.

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2 Responses to “Living on the Edge of War”

  1. I have been awaiting this statement. Senator Harry Reid has just compared the situation in Syria with that of the Holocaust. There is no comparison since this is a civil war and no one can definitely state which side is using chemical warfare, if not both. Syria is a quagmire. We will get into it and not have an exit strategy. If we are going to war it should be against Iran; declaring war on Syria is basically fighting Iran. I predict this war will end up like Iraq, which I was also against, with boots on the ground and many young American lives lost. I do not know President Obama personally nor have I ever met him. My position regarding his leadership abilities and policies has never changed. He does not have the ability to be a commander in chief and has lost credibility throughout the world. The TV pictures showing the massacre of women and children have not been verified as originating from one side of this civil war. The only way out of this is the position that Secretary of State made at a press conference, whether he meant it or not, that there should be an international committee to verify the source of chemical warfare. Putin immediately came up with the same suggestion and offered it to Syria. This is the way out for our president, and if it can be worked out, a way to resolve this crisis. Hillary Clinton had also suggested this solution. RABBI DR. BERNHARD ROSENBERG

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