Rabbi Miriam Berger

Rabbi Miriam Berger

By Rabbi Miriam Berger 

A voice was heard reverberating around the Jewish community last week, a voice which attracted attention and much agreement, a voice of which we should be deeply ashamed.

That voice was the one that condemned the running of an advert for the DEC’s Gaza appeal in a Jewish newspaper.

That voice turned this conflict from self-defence to vitriol. In Midrash pesikta De-Rav Khanah, the Israelites look back after crossing the Sea of Reeds and see the Egyptians drowning, the Israelites begin to rejoice at their freedom, but when the Angels join in, God rebukes them saying: ‘My creations are drowning and you are singing before me?’

I am proud of Israel’s amazing Iron Dome, I am proud of Israel protecting its citizens and defending the right of the Jewish State to exist.

But I am ashamed that, deep down, somewhere in that voice that condemned the DEC’s Gaza appeal advert, there were people singing and rejoicing in Gaza’s destruction.

There isn’t a tension in feeling both pride for Israel and grief over the deaths and destruction in Gaza. If we expect the world to understand the difference between being Jewish and being Israeli, surely it is not so much to ask to ensure we always see the distinction between the innocent people of Gaza and the terrorists who live among them?

The Jewish community of the diaspora needs to learn an important lesson from this shameful episode. We have to be able to love and support Israel, yet while we aren’t dealing with the fear first-hand, we have to be Israel’s moral compass.

We have to be the ones that explain. The grief of loss, the pain of physical wounds and psychological trauma will simply breed the next generation of suicide bombers and rocket launchers.

We should be putting our hands in our pockets and saying: ‘We want to be part of the rebuilding, the healing and the bridge building because it is the only possible step towards peace’.

• Miriam Berger is principal rabbi at Finchley Reform Synagogue