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Thursday, January 1, 2009

Israeli rabbis call for peace with Hamas

Israeli rabbis call for peace with Hamas

Rabbis for Human Rights called for an end to Israeli bombing of Gaza, and also Hamas' rocket attacks on Israel.

The Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR) group has called for an end to the Israeli bombing of Gaza, and also to Hamas rocket attacks, citing Jewish teaching on mercy and proportionality in self-defence.

The call comes as Israel itensified its bombing campaign, which has led to 360 deaths and up to 2,000 injuries in Gaza. Hamas bomb attacks during the same period have caused 4 deaths and several dozen injuries.

Rabbis for Human rights describes itself as "the rabbinic voice of conscience in Israel" and takes as its watchword Psalm 106.3, "Happy are those who act justly, who do right at all times." It claims to be the only Israeli rabbinical organization comprised of Reform, Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist and Renewal rabbis and students.

Among its members are rabbis in national leadership positions, as well as educators and congregational rabbis capable of influencing change from the grass roots.

The full statement reads:

The firing on Israeli communities adjacent to Gaza gives the State of Israel the right to defend her citizens, but both the Jewish tradition and international law do not allow the harming of innocent civilians.

Many Israelis will quote from the Talmudic Tractate Sanhedrin, “When somebody is coming to kill you, get up earlier and kill him first.” However, few are aware of how the Talmud continues, teaching us only to use the minimum necessary force and drawing a sharp contrast between defending ourselves against those attacking us, and harming an innocent third party. These are also principles in International Humanitarian Law (IHL).

“Not by might and not by power, but by my spirit says the Lord of Hosts.” Our Talmudic sages determined that these words from the prophet Zechariah would be read as part of the Haftarah (Scriptural reading from the prophets after the reading of the Torah) for the Sabbath of Hanukah, and edited the story of the war of the Macabees out of the Talmud. They understood that, in the long run, sustainable peace and security are not achieved through acts of war.

RHR calls on the leadership of Israel and Hamas to act according to these standards. RHR calls upon Israel not to harm civilians either through firing on them or through the collective punishment of the ongoing closure severely limiting the amount of food, fuel and other basic goods entering Gaza. RHR calls upon Hamas to cease the intentional harming of civilians through firing on the residents of the Western Negev.

Israel has actualized its right of retaliation and the defense of her citizens in the last 36 hours. Both the State of Israel and Hamas must now take a “time out” to determine whether the cease-fire can be reinstated. Otherwise, they will soon be plunged even deeper into a cycle of bloodletting, with neither side knowing how they will get out of it. We hope that, as we reach the end of Hanukah, the “Festival of Lights,” that we will see the fulfillment of the prayer, “May a new light shine upon Zion, and may we all speedily merit its light.” (Prayerbook)

There are those who say that the Talmudic sages ruled that we do not recite the full Hallel (Festive psalms recited on holidays.) on the 7th day of Passover because that is the day that the Egyptians drowned in the Reed Sea. RHR asks whether this year it is appropriate to recite the complete Hallel on the 8th day of Hanukah (Monday) when the work of God’s hands are dying on both sides.


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