The news out of Israel hasn’t been the best lately:
- A Reform synagogue in Ra’anana was vandalized Thursday, Nov. 24, by those who think the best way to defend Torah values is to threaten and attack fellow Jews whose observances are different.
- Wildfires, at least some of them started and even more of them cheered by those who want Israel erased from the map, scorched parts of northern Israel, especially around Haifa, and drove tens of thousands of people from their homes over our Thanksgiving holiday.
- Islamic State, which has long hovered near Israel in Syria and has made no secret of its desire to see Israel removed from its resurrected caliphate, seized an opportunity to open fire on Israeli soldiers early Sunday, Nov. 27.
It’s all enough to ruin the contented feeling that settles in after a Thanksgiving feast.
After the Ra’anana disgrace — the kind of internal hatred that has long brought woe to the Jewish people — both the Israeli government and the biggest American Orthodox organization joined the chorus of condemnation.
“Such acts have no place in our free society,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose government depends on the support of religious political parties.
The Orthodox Union, not needing to worry about the niceties of Israeli politics, was even stronger in its response: “The perpetrators appear to assert in their messages that their behavior is a reflection of traditional Torah values. The Orthodox Union vehemently rejects this assertion, and does not condone such behavior. We support the condemnation of this attack by the prime minister of Israel and his commitment to bring the perpetrators to justice.”
The OU added a message American political activists should take to heart: “The Torah’s ways are ways of pleasantness. Disagreements within the Jewish community — over fundamental issues and challenges to authentic Torah theology — must be conducted with civility. There is no justification for resorting to vandalism, violence or even the threat of violence.”
Meanwhile, the fires, while causing extensive damage and risking inflaming Jewish-Arab relations, have cost no lives and have again shown the resolve of Israelis to defend their land.
More important, the blazes brought an international show of support for Israel, a country that is so often in the vanguard when other nations are struck by disaster. About a dozen nations, including Turkey, with which Israel so recently restored full relations, sent firefighting equipment, supplies or manpower.
Not least among the responders was the Palestinian Authority, which did not join the fires’ cheerleaders but instead sent men to help extinguish the flames and protect areas that are among Israel’s most diverse.
Northern Israel not only is diverse; it’s also the region closest to Syria and the threat of Islamic State. And its residents should feel a bit safer after Israel’s air force killed four terrorists who made the mistake of shooting at Israeli soldiers in Israel.
As reserve Brig. Gen. Nitzan Nuriel said, the message to Islamic State was strong and simple: “Don’t mess with us.”
It’s never hard to find reasons for doom and gloom regarding Israel, from internal pseudo-scandals such as Netanyahu’s much-criticized purchase of German submarines to external fears about the latest boycott or next threat of a pro-Palestinian or anti-Israel resolution from the United Nations. But as recent news has shown, it’s usually just as easy to spot the rays of light poking through the clouds.