Digging Wells: Contention, Harassment, and Wide Places

by Rabbi Yair Robinson

Most folks are just now ‘discovering’ the conflict going on between Israel and Hamas that has been taking place for the last week. Sadly, people are now only aware that in the last because it’s real finally chose to respond to days and days of rocket and mortar fire by killing Hamas’ “military commander.” Never mind the anti-tank rocket that was shot last week but kicked off the conflict, winding for soldiers. Never mind the fact that something is real has now been subject to multiple barrage attacks now amounting to roughly one rocket every six minutes. Never mind that three Israeli civilians have been killed in last 24 hours. The only thing that makes headlines is Israel’s jet fighters in the sky.

Those of us who have been long supporting Israel are used to this kind of double standard. And to a certain extent, that double standard comes from good intentions. We as Jews expect our Jewish state to live up to our highest values, to be a light to the nations. This is why I have also been brought up Israel’s settlement extremists, its treatment of migrants, of women, and the seeming inability to resolve the issue of integration of the Orthodox population into civil society while maintaining and strengthening secular institutions and religious pluralism. Even today, Rosh Chodesh Kislev, as rockets were being shot at civilian targets in Sderot, Jerusalem police detained members of Women of The Wall – including a member of the Municipal Council – who were trying to pray at the Kotel. Nevertheless, it is possible for two things to be true: Israelis have work to do, but it cannot, should not have to do that work while being threatened by death. And a democracy – with all the faults and scars that come from living in a heterodox society – should not be punished by the media for defending itself from a terrorist ‘failed state’.

This week in our Torah Portion, Isaac tries to dig wells for his herd, but each time is driven away by his enemies. So he names them Esek and Sitnah; contention and harassment. Only the third well, when he is left in peace, does he name Rehovot, wide places, as if to say, “No, really, there is room enough.”

There is room enough-for Palestinians and Israelis, for all flavors of Judaism, for diversity and pluralism, but we can only dig wells when the enemies of peace and humanity cease stopping up the wells with rocket fire.

Rabbi Yair Robinson serves Congregation Beth Emeth in Wilmington, DE.

Originally posted at A Good Question!