Statement by Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie On recent events in the Middle East October 4, 2000/5 Tishri 5761 By Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, President, Union of American Hebrew Congregations
Even as we rejoice in the New Year, we are gripped with sadness and fear at the recent violence that has been unleashed in the Middle East. We extend our condolences to all those families--Israeli and Palestinian alike--who have lost family members; we mourn the human toll exacted by these events; and we express our concern for the damage this violence does to the cause of peace, a cause of paramount importance.
We are concerned about the failure of the Palestinian authorities to restrain their people from violent action. We call upon them to accept the challenge of leadership and bring this destructive episode to a close. Most of the violence has been initiated by the Palestinians. Of pressing concern are the reports that leaders of Yasser Arafat's party--Fatah--are directing the attacks. This is fuel for the extremists and the critics of the peace process. Where is Chairman Arafat's voice today? If he is to live up to his responsibility, if he is to lead his people toward peace, he must not only forcefully and unequivocally condemn the resort to violence, but also take concrete steps to restore order. Responsible governments can, do, and indeed must, take measures to protect their people and to maintain peace.
This is true notwithstanding the troubling role played by MK Ariel Sharon. At a time when Jews are called to examine their actions and take responsibility for the consequences of their actions, Mr. Sharon disavows any responsibility for the wave of destruction that has followed upon his intentionally provocative visit to the Temple Mount. We cannot keep silent in the face of such irresponsible behavior. We certainly believe that any Jew has a right to visit any place in the land of Israel. Yet we are taught that rights carry concomitant responsibilities. This is true for all individuals, and all the more so for leaders of peoples.
We pray that this period of pain passes quickly and that healing and comfort come to those who have been injured and those who grieve. And we pray that the process of peace and understanding not become a victim of these awful days. We pray that Palestinians will stop the violence, that Israelis will exercise restraint, and that both sides will return to the negotiating table.
What is irrefutably and unquestionably clear is this: the pursuit of peace is the only viable path. The Palestinians will not have their aspirations met in the street, only at the negotiating table. And Israel will not be truly free, truly secure, without peace with her neighbors. We call upon our rabbis, lay leaders, and congregations to voice support for the peace process, the negotiators on both sides, and the U.S. mediation of the delicate talks. We cannot remain silent.
May these violent incidents remind us all just how precious and how imperative true peace and understanding are and may peace be inscribed for this New Year.
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Prayer on behalf of Israel in a time of pain
In the midst of our days of awe, when tradition tells us that the fate of human beings and nations are weighed in the balance, we feel the added burden of the violence, suffering, and death that have been unleashed among the state of Israel and the Palestinian people.
We pray that this time of rage and destruction passes quickly for all of us.
We ask God that healing and comfort come to those who have been injured and who grieve. And we ask the One who makes peace to protect the tender shoot of peace that has just begun to take root in the rocky soil of Israel. May the process of peace and the unfolding of understanding not become victims of these awful days.
We pray above all for wisdom--for ourselves, for all Palestinians and Jews, and especially for the leaders of the state of Israel and the Palestinian people.
May this eruption of blood and tears remind us all just how precious true peace is and how blessed is reconciliation. May these days of rage awaken our better selves and rouse us anew to "seek peace and pursue it."
In this spirit, we read the words of Psalm 122:
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem May those who love you be at peace May there be well being within your ramparts peace in your citadels For the sake of my kin and friends I pray for your well-being For the sake of the house of the Eternal our God I seek your good. (Verses 6-9)