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October 10, 2015 | 27th Tishrei 5776


  Galilee Diary #298, August 13, 2006

Marc J. Rosenstein


As dawn broke, the angels urged Lot on, saying, “Up, take your wife and your two remaining daughters, lest you be swept away because of the iniquity of the city.”  Still he delayed.  So the men seized his hand, and the hands of his wife and his two daughters – in the Lord’s mercy on him – and brought him out and left him outside the city.   When they had brought them outside, one said, “Flee for your life!  Do not look behind you, nor stop anywhere in the plain; flee to the hills, lest you be swept away.”…  Lot’s wife looked back, and she thereupon turned into a pillar of salt.

            -Genesis 19:15-17, 26


The recent experience of living under Katyusha fire in the Galilee brings into sharp relief the eternal tension between attachment to home and the pull of other values such as life, family, and faith.  Most of the residents of the Galilee, we are told, left home and for temporary quarters in the center and south; indeed, the government actively encouraged people to leave endangered communities, and provided some (minimal) help in doing so.  There were tent cities, and people sleeping in schools, and many families who took in relatives, friends, or even complete strangers.  The instinct to get out of harm’s way is obvious and healthy.  On the other hand, a large minority stayed in their homes, even though they had to run to the shelter ten times a day (if they even had one), even though life in the community was half-paralyzed, even though the risk was real, palpable, and immediate.  The scorched fields and bomb craters and smashed houses are clearly visible to even a casual visitor.  One could say, paraphrasing God’s instructions to Lot: “Are you crazy or something?  Get out of here!”


But it turns out that the decision is not simple, and everyone has a different calculus of risks and benefits and thus a different red line.  Some examples of responses to the possibility of leaving:

·  We have no one to stay with, and can’t afford a hotel, and aren’t prepared to subject ourselves to living in a mass shelter.

·  We can’t afford it.

·  It is easier on us and the kids psychologically to stay in our familiar surroundings and let that sense of at-home-ness help us cope with the trauma – better than the trauma of living like a refugee.

·  This is my house, this is my place, and no terrorist is going to dislodge me.  Zionism is about putting down roots in the soil, refusing to wander any more.

·  What’s the big deal?  There are dangers everywhere.  What, really, is the probability of our being harmed?  Anyway, when your number’s up, it’s up.

·  Nothing will happen to me.

·  God will provide.


Obviously, there is a correlation between the likelihood of harm and the motivation to leave: there is an escalation of danger, for example, from occasional random suicide bombings to 150 random Katyusha hits a day to (God forbid) carpet bombing.  We’ll ignore for now the fact that the Galilee is an earthquake zone.


And as I watched my coworkers and neighbors wrestling with the decision, it was hard not to be reminded of the dilemmas that must have been faced by…

·  Lot: “Oh no, my Lord…I cannot flee to the hills…” (Gen. 19:18); i.e., the prospect of the journey is too daunting – I cannot face it.

·  Jews in 15th century Spain: convert and stay - or flee, maybe forever.

·  Jews in Germany in the 1930’s: this is our place; we have faith that its underlying values will prevail.

·  Arabs in Israel in 1948: this is our land, this is our place, what will be will be.

·  Settlers in Gaza in 2005

·  Residents of New Orleans in 2005


Sodom was a horrible place, a human and moral disaster before it became a geological one.  But to Lot’s wife it was home, and I’m sure that when she looked back it was beautiful in her eyes.



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