Arthur Nemitoff: An open letter to Hamas

07/27/2014 10:00 AM

07/27/2014 6:27 PM

Dear Khaled Meshaal and Hamas,

As-salamu alaykum. Peace be to you.

I have been pained seeing the anguish experienced in Gaza. My heart breaks as stories and images emerge of children and innocent bystanders injured and killed, as personal possessions and homes are destroyed in the battle raging in Gaza.

I write because I pray for your people. I pray that they not know war and terror and missiles that decimate their homes and lives. I write because your people’s anguish is almost unbearable to see.

I write because — with humility and love — I know how your people’s suffering can end immediately. Sometimes when we are in the midst of turmoil and racked with pain, it is not easy to see solutions.

It’s actually quite simple: Stop sending missiles into Israel.

That’s it. If, upon reading this, you were to call on your soldiers and citizens to cease sending rockets eastward, into Israel, I can (almost) guarantee the Israeli response. There will be a ceasefire. And your people will immediately know physical safety for themselves, their loved ones and their homes.

Would I like you to acknowledge Israel as a legitimate political entity, even a legitimate Jewish expression of an eternal yearning to return to Zion? Of course.

Would I like you to end the practice of teaching your children in schools to hate Jews and Israelis? Of course. Would I like you to disavow terrorism and armed conflict for peaceful negotiations to achieve an independent Palestinian state? Of course.

I could spill oceans of ink defending Israel’s right to defend its citizenry from rockets being rained down upon innocent populations, explaining how no country in the world would tolerate even a dozen rockets, let alone hundreds, falling within its borders.

I could reflect on my own fear, as I experienced three Code Red sirens two weeks ago, each giving me 90 seconds to seek shelter...and the relief I felt when I heard the “thud” of the Iron Dome missiles destroying your rockets in mid-air.

I could marvel at how the “pain of the Gazans inflicted by Israel” has world attention, yet it seems nary a word is raised as Arabs destroy Arabs in Syria and Iraq at the same time. While every life is sacred, I could wonder why tens of thousands of Syrian and Iraqi deaths are less important than the Gazans who have died in the last two weeks.

And I could write a treatise on the right of the Jewish people to live free of fear in a homeland, claimed by them to be such for over 4,000 years. I could also offer a lesson on anti-Semitism and how it continues — even in this conflict — to raise its hoary head.

However, I write not to solve the “Middle East” situation, nor to lecture. I write only because I am so distraught at what I witness from afar...which I am sure is but a drop of the flood of tears shed by your people in the last two weeks of Operation Protective Edge. I write simply because I want your people to stop dying and begin again to live.

And so, I implore you, leaders of Hamas, let your people find peace and shelter from life’s storms. And all you have to do to solve the pain of your people? Just stop sending missiles into Israel. Let your people live.

As-salamu alaykum. Peace be to you.

Arthur Nemitoff of Leawood is the senior rabbi of The Temple, Congregation B’nai Jehudah.

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