Lets not forget our family in Israel

Did you hear that 19 people died Saturday while eating lunch at a Haifa restaurant?

Occurring on Shabbat, just a day before Yom Kippur began, that horrific event created a dilemma for rabbis. Many felt they lacked the time to revamp their sermons to incorporate one more tragedy in an ongoing series of catastrophes that have afflicted Israel since the renewal of the intifada three years ago. Some didn’t even mention it at all during Yom Kippur.

We did an unscientific poll in our office asking staff members and friends if their rabbis talked about the tragedy at all.

It seemed few did. But our hope is that many rabbis did so and we just haven’t heard about it.

We were told of rabbis who gave sermons on Israel during Rosh Hashanah, but we could find only a small number who focused on the bombing during Yom Kippur.

At least one rabbi, we are told, called for a moment of silence while others alluded to the bombing without directly mentioning it. Another rabbi read off the names of those who died in Haifa. And some talked about the tragedy during the Yom Kippur discussion break. But some didn’t mention it at all.

One rabbi we talked to explained that attacks have become too commonplace to discuss each one. “People have tuned out,” he said.

But if people have “tuned out” on terrorism, perhaps our rabbis are partly to blame. If some rabbis view suicide bombings as an everyday occurrence, they are then sending out a message that the Mideast is no different from Northern Ireland.

We refuse to accept such analogies.

There are names and faces of the people who died in Haifa. Some might be friends or relatives, but none are strangers. Most are Jews. Those who aren’t are Arabs, the neighbors who lived in peace with Haifa Jews for years.

The moment Israeli deaths become just another statistic is the moment we cast aside the fact that Israel was established after World War II as the eternal homeland of all Jewish people.

If we call ourselves friends and supporters of the Jewish state, we can’t ignore the bombings. The people of Israel are frightened, angry and mournful. Shouldn’t we share those same feelings with them?

And what about the 50 or so who were wounded in Saturday’s attack? At the very least, our rabbis should have said a Mishebeirach for them. We haven’t found any rabbis who did, but hopefully some acknowledged those innocents.

A bombing isn’t yesterday’s news for those who have been afflicted, and for many, their lives will never return to business as usual. As in all such bombings, many in Haifa have lost or injured limbs. Their faces may have been permanently scarred. And a good number will suffer from continual pain, both physical and psychological. We’ve heard many stories of the injured being in a hospital bed for a year or more. Post-traumatic stress may plague them for life.

It’s rare that someone hurt in a suicide attack is able to go to work the next day, even if their bodies survived intact. Like any soldier who survives a battle, the wounded go though life wondering why they lived and others who were inches away from them died.

Yes, the dead and injured have become victims of a war on terrorism. But this war is bound to end a lot sooner than the threat of terrorism facing the United States. Our rabbis and their congregants need to pray for peace and not give up on Israel.

The Palestinians can’t keep up the battle indefinitely. We’ve seen many of their top officials talk about how they are losing more than they are gaining as the intifada enters its fourth year. Their people will ultimately tire of the hardships they bear and the loss of life they face every day.

In the meantime, we can’t allow our community to “tune out” to Israel and the devastation its people encounter regularly.

Regardless of our political views, Israelis are our family — and we cannot forget them.