After a relatively quiet night, this morning began with hopes for a cease-fire to end this round of fighting. Israel’s security cabinet accepted the Egyptian cease-fire initiative. Hamas’ armed wing, on the other hand, rejected the offer, saying it represented surrender to Israel.
As soon as Israel accepted the cease-fire, it also stopped aerial and naval attacks on Gaza. Hamas, however, continued launching dozens of rockets from Gaza, targeting civilian areas across Israel, including northern towns.
This could only go on for so long. Hamas’ endless barrage of rockets caused the Israel Defense Force to resume attacks when Prime Minister Netanyahu issued an order to do so. Hamas rejected the cease-fire and basically dragged Israel into conflict again, giving Israel internal and international legitimacy to broaden the military operation to achieve any reprieve.
The land of Israel has been in turmoil for a few weeks now: from mourning together for the loss of Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Fraenkel, to condemning the brutal murder of Mohammad Abu Khdeir; from embracing the three families and their loss, to debating Israel’s politics; from calling for restraint, to crying for payback; from millions of Israelis experiencing daily threats from Gaza’s rockets, to carrying on with our normal summer plans and doing our best to keep going. Because that is what we do.
Today we observe the 17th day of the month of Tammuz, a fast day in our Jewish tradition. We fast from sunup to sundown, and mourn the beginning of the destruction of the second Temple more than 1,900 years ago. We are taught that the Temple was destroyed because of sinat hinam, or baseless hatred, the internal conflicts and disagreements that Jews directed at one another, among themselves.
Israel’s winds are stormy, blowing from different directions and the atmosphere is hazy. When such weather hits and uncertainty strikes, one must find something to hold onto, in order to stay focused and balanced. Our sages say that the Temple was destroyed because we weren’t able to respect one another, cooperate and see in each other the image of ourselves, another human being. Jews weren’t united as one people. These past few weeks we have proved once again our national strength. We had every reason to break, to fall apart, to be selfish and look inward. But we didn’t. We supported our troops, we continued with our lives, we sent a clear message to Hamas – we aren’t breakable.
We also expressed “baseless” love. Israelis opened their homes to host families from the south that looked for shelter, families that until then had been complete strangers. People from across the country volunteered at hospitals and nursing homes. Community centers operating from bomb shelters hosted artists who performed for free. Youth movements sent their counselors to plan activities for children living in areas where leaving a bomb shelter is an unaffordable luxury.
We are experiencing some very difficult days, but we passed the test – we stood up, together, as a nation and shone with strength. This is our power, this is who we are. Perhaps we learned something in nearly two millennia: Baseless hatred doesn’t lead to anywhere. Baseless love does. But this love isn’t baseless; it’s for all the right reasons.
If hatred has the power of destroying the most sacred house, the Temple, one can only imagine the power of love.