By the Rev. Cariño Casas
Last month, Israel endured 11 days of rockets from Hamas-controlled Gaza. Hamas and related terror groups fired 4,369 rockets toward Israel. After nearly two-thirds fell off-target or misfired, the remaining 1,500 approached cities and neighborhoods. Iron Dome, Israel’s missile defense system, destroyed most of those. However, the 150 or so that escaped Iron Dome hit homes and vehicles, killing a dozen Israeli civilians. In Gaza, 243 people – mostly militants – were killed in Israeli airstrikes.
Some people look at those numbers, and because Israeli deaths were few, they decide that Israel must be at fault: Israel is the stronger entity, so Israel must be in the wrong. It’s not that simple. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is complex. While the Israeli government and military are not perfect, neither is Hamas an innocent victim. Their continued goal is to eliminate Israel “from the river to the sea.” Hamas victimizes not just Israelis but the residents of Gaza, among whom they hide their rocket launchers and military headquarters. Here in the U.S., after an election cycle that further damaged civil discourse and frustrations borne of 15 months of the pandemic, few want to make time for details and complexity.
As a result, anti-Semitic incidences – assaults, harassment, vandalism – increased 80 percent in the United States in the month of May. Anti-Semitism was already at an all-time high. Until a few years ago, no Jew in the U.S. had been killed for being a Jew since the lynching of Leo Frank in 1915. Then in October 2018, 11 were murdered in a Pittsburgh synagogue. In 2019 another Jew was murdered in a southern California synagogue, and several more were killed in a New Jersey kosher market. American Jews are worried, asking, “Where are our allies?”
Fellow Christian, even as our hearts burn with compassion for the Palestinians injured when their own government puts them in harm’s way, we must stand up and assure our Jewish neighbors that we are their allies, that we love and care for them. We must show ourselves faithful in loving our Jewish neighbors as ourselves. When they ask why, we must be ready with the answer: because I serve Jesus of Nazareth, the long-awaited Messiah of Israel.