Dear Friend of Israel,
Seven years ago this week, on October 18, 2011, Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit was released after being imprisoned for five years by Hamas terrorists. As Israelis celebrated Shalit’s return, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza gathered to celebrate the return of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners released in exchange for Shalit.
Among the men and women Palestinians celebrated that day was Ahlam Tamimi, one of the perpetrators of the 2001 Sbarro restaurant massacre in Jerusalem that killed 15 people. And Nasser Yatiya, involved in the horrendous 2002 Park Hotel bombing that killed 30. And Walid Abdel-Hadi, serving 36 life terms for his role in terrorist attacks. These terrorists with blood on their hands expressed no remorse for their actions, and in fact pledged to continue their “resistance” against Israel.
We have seen it many times before and since: celebrations in the streets of Gaza after terror attacks on Israel. Terrorist “martyrs” glorified and their relatives given stipends by the Palestinian government. Palestinian schools named in honor of terrorists. Demonstrations of hatred toward Israel and her people have, sadly, become a part of Palestinian culture.
As discouraging as this is, I recall that the Bible lays out for us a blueprint for a different way of living, a blueprint for all of us to follow: “I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).
This is the choice Israel has made. She has created a system of government that works to secure democracy and liberty for all. She has embraced creativity and innovation. She respects the humanity of her enemies, even in times of war. Israeli society is imperfect, as all societies are. But it is built on a foundation that reflects a fundamental belief in the sanctity of life, rather than the glorification of death.
Dear friends, even as our enemies choose death, let us choose life. Let us pray for the day when the virulent anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel that is so common among Israel’s neighbors is a thing of the past. And let us continue to pray for the day when God will bless Israel, and the entire world, with His most precious gift of shalom, peace.
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President