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Clarity, Courage, Compassion, Calm 

It’s hard to imagine that only a fortnight has passed since this awful war erupted. It feels like an eternity of pain and confusion, angst, anxiety, fear and chaos. Never in my lifetime have those prophetic words of the Irish poet, WB Yeats, rung out with such an acute clarity:

“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.”

And the words that precede the flood story of Noah, that we read this week, have never echoed with such an awful prescience for me:

“And God saw that man’s wickedness on Earth was increasing, and every thought which came from his heart was purely evil… God saw the Earth, and how awfully corrupt it was… And God said to Noah, this is the end of all flesh for the Earth is filled with corruption.” (Genesis 6:5 -11). Eerily, the Hebrew word that is used for corruption or violent crime is Hamas; the famous Aramaic translation (called the Targum) translates the word as ‘chatufin’, which means snatched or kidnapped. Violent hostage taking?

And this past week, new and unimaginable stories of the brutality and inhumane acts of Hamas have emerged. Just last night, my heart shattered at the story of the teenage Kibbutz autistic girl and her grandmother, and their sad and horrible death. My FB page is flooded with young families and the faces of vibrant young people lost and deliberately incinerated. I  can’t get the Holocaust associations out of my head. 

And my heart aches for all the innocent Palestinian citizens in Gaza who Hamas has almost gleefully drawn into the web of pain and suffering that it spins.

The tale of Noah begins with God in agony:

“And God regretted that he had made human beings on the Earth, and He grieved in his heart”. (Genesis 6:6)

The sages of the Talmud tell us that God is with us in our suffering. Today I feel His pain as I know he feels our pain.

And how painful it must be for a God of truth to witness the distortion and dismembering of truth at this time.

Mark Twain put it: ”The truth has no defence against a fool, determined to believe a lie.”

The explosion at the hospital in Gaza last week is a perfect example of this. Before the smoke and bodies had even been cleared, Hamas put out the word that this was a terrible atrocity committed by Israel. An act which the media, including so called responsible like BBC, failed to check, reported widely and then, understandably, inflamed the Muslim world. They failed the first test of journalism and forgot that one of the first casualties of war is the truth. They were rash and impetuous in their determination to believe a lie. They caused more hatred in a Muslim world (especially in the Middle East) already saturated from years of anti-Israel and antisemitic rhetoric.

There are only 4 C words I want to say to address the trauma and horror:

1. Clarity 

2. Courage 

3. Compassion

4. Calm 

We need to find the clarity to call out the sheer evil of Hamas and its distortion of truth and the value of human life. Don’t believe the words of brutal murderers; the same people who continue to claim they didn’t kill any civilians on October 7th. Hamas is surely not Islam but its enemy as it is the enemy of our free world. Let this clarity not be lost as the world attention deflects from the ongoing rockets being directed at Israel’s civilian cities, the traumatised nation that has lost at least ten fold more of its people proportionately than in 9/11, that still has no word of its kidnapped citizens. Let’s not let the truth be lost that this is not a war between the Palestinians and Israelis, or Jews and Muslims, but a war against the barbarians of the contemporary world. How I wish the Greens, the Islamic leaders in Australia, and those protesting on the streets of Europe with the Palestinians would just acknowledge they don’t stand with Hamas. How I wish all the leftist young campaigners against Israel would recognise that this is a battle between the free world and the toxic nihilists of Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran and their associates. The argument that Israel is practising an unjust collective punishment needs to be offset against the principle of collective responsibility of the leadership of Hamas for this reprisal, as well as the reminder that many of the ‘innocent ‘civilians openly support Hamas and rejoiced (handing out lollies) at the slaughter of the Jews on October 7th.

Despite this we must hold onto our compassion, our chesed, which defines us as Jews. We should not call Hamas animals – they are evil human beings who are accountable for their actions. We should strengthen our compassion for the genuine hapless Palestinian families caught in the vortex; even as we know in war the innocent cannot all be protected… We are a people of love and kindness; we are not Chamas.

I am crying with my God for my Jewish family in Israel and across the world. I ache for all the innocents – Jews and Palestinians – caught in the Hamas web.

Find the courage to fight the lies and have the bravery to believe that this too shall pass and “tis not too late my friends to create a better world.” Hatikva/The Hope isn’t just Israel’s anthem. It is the anthem of all good and principled people of all faiths across the world. I have not given up on humanity nor my belief in multifaith relations, including Jews and Muslims, that one day they will approach each other face-to-face, heart-to-heart. I stand by God in His covenant or contract to Noah – that fabulous rainbow, a bow of colour, variety and creativity. A promise for the healing and harmony of humanity. Stretched out across the seamless sky, edging into a peaceful heaven, but an arc anchored as it were on this base earth of ours.

We are all reeling and there are so many horrible images, awful voices and violent, hateful thoughts and actions we are witnessing. We need to take a deep breath on this acutely beautiful Melbourne day and create a corner of calm in the chaos. Pause.

Welcome to you oh Bride of the Shabbat and Shalom to your angelic messengers of peace…

Shabbat Shalom 

Rabbi Ralph 

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