Soon after the second intifada broke out in September 2000, a 12-year-old Palestinian boy in Gaza, crouching in fear against a wall with his father, was reportedly killed during gunfire exchange between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants. A French news video of the incident was seen around the world, and Israel was accused widely of the killing.
After more than a decade of war overseas in Afghanistan and Iraq, with limited results at best, Americans are deeply wary of additional military encounters. The Middle East is a mess. Hamas has attacked Israel, Syria has imploded, Egypt’s attempt at democracy is a failure, ISIS seeks to conquer wide swaths of the region, killing anyone and everyone in their way, and the list goes on.
Leonard (Leibel) Fein, who died Aug. 14 at the age of 80, was a passionate and articulate voice for social justice in American Jewish life for decades. In his prolific writing, his lectures and his organizational creativity, he preached an ancient and contemporary message: “To be a Jew,” he wrote, “is to know that you are bound somehow, to help repair this world.” (See Appreciation on page 12.)
‘I don’t worry about Israel’s survival,” President Obama told New York Times columnist Tom Friedman the other day.
Maybe that’s part of why we do worry about the future of the Jewish state’s existence in an increasingly bloody, hostile and chaotic region — especially at a time when the administration is trying mightily to avoid getting caught up in military conflicts overseas.
Reading from the Book of Lamentations on Tisha b’Av, Monday night, we were confronted with vivid and painful descriptions of the ravages of war and devastation. “Behold and see if there is any pain like my pain, which has been dealt out to me,” writes the Prophet Jeremiah. He is describing the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem centuries ago, but the words and emotions are as timely as today’s headlines. “My children are desolate for the enemy has prevailed.”
U.S. and Israeli officials have been working hard in recent days to ease the deeply bruised feelings on both sides after Secretary of State John Kerry’s proposed cease-fire conditions appeared more sympathetic to the cause of Hamas, a declared terrorist organization, than to Israel, America’s greatest ally.