Light a Candle for Gaza

by Rabbi Alissa Wise

On the morning of December 27, 2008, the sixth day of Hanukkah, Israel initiated a massive military assault against Gaza it called “Operation Cast Lead.”  The name of the operation was a reference to a popular Hanukkah song written by the venerable Israeli poet Chaim Nachman Bialik:  “My teacher gave a dreidel to me/A dreidel of cast lead.”

When Israel’s military actions ended on January 18, some 1,400 Palestinians had been killed. Among the dead were hundreds of unarmed civilians, including some 300 children.

Today is the sixth day of Hannukah—and we pause today to remember the lives lost three years ago, and the devastating blockade that continues to this day. This Hannukah, we invite you to light a candle for Gaza.

As you gather to light the Hannukah candles with your community and/or family, consider adding some moment of reflection on Gaza. You might include:

Discussing how Hanukkah, the festival that enshrines the ongoing human struggle for freedom, the season that seeks to shed light on the dark places of our world, can be a time for us stand in solidarity with all who are oppressed.

Researching the restrictions that continue to rob the people of Gaza of a life of normalcy and dignity. After all, Israel’s military assault occurred in the midst of a crushing blockade that Israel has imposed upon Gaza since January 2006. Despite Israel’s claims to the contrary, its blockade remains very much in force. You can find the most recent reports issued by Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement for information on the restrictions of movement for Gazans.

Reflecting on the personal testimonies from Gazans who lived through Israel’s military assault indicate tragedy beyond human comprehension. Here is one such account – excerpted from Amnesty International’s 2009 Report, “Operation Cast Lead: 22 Days of Death and Destruction”:

After Sabah’s house was shelled I ran over there. She was on fire and was holding her baby girl Shahed, who was completely burned. Her husband and some of the children were dead and others were burning. Ambulances could not come because the area was surrounded by the Israeli army. We put some of the injured in a wagon tied to the tractor to take them to hospital. My nephew Muhammad (Sabah’s son) picked up his wife, Ghada, who was burning all over her body, and I took her little girl, Farah, who was also on fire. My nephew Muhammad-Hikmat drove the tractor and my son Matar and my nephews ‘Omar and ‘Ali also came with us and took the body of baby Shahed and two other bodies. Sabah and the other wounded were put into a car; other relatives were also leaving. We drove toward the nearest hospital, Kamal ‘Adwan hospital. As we got near the school, on the way to al-‘Atatrah Square we saw Israeli soldiers and stopped, and suddenly, the soldiers shot at us. My son Matar and Muhammad-Hikmat were killed. The soldiers made us get out of the wagon. I ran away with ‘Ali and ‘Omar, who had also been shot and were injured. Muhammad, Ghada and Farah were allowed to go on but only on foot and the soldiers did not allow them to take the dead.

This Hanukkah, please light a candle for Gaza.


2 thoughts on “Light a Candle for Gaza

  1. Dear Rabbi Wise,

    I read your article “Light a Candle for Gaza” (26 December 2011) and with your kind permission, I would like to point out a number of points, concerns and perspective which were not included in your article.

    I cannot foresee your response to my comment, but do hope that we can develop some sort of interaction to discuss issues which are dear to both of us. Despite a civil and amicable approach, many find that my comments provide some “food for thought” which is contrary to their agenda and therefore find it easier to blind their readers and immediately ban my comments. I would be delighted to discuss some of your other activities regarding Israel and the Middle East.

    As a Rabbinical scholar, I am certain that you are aware of verse: “You shall not curse the deaf, and you shall not place a stumbling block before the blind. You shall fear your God; I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:14). Almost all commentaries and interpretations of this verse refer to “blind” as to one lacking certain information or a proper understanding regarding a given situation, and “stumbling block” means misleading counsel given to that individual.

    In regards to the above verse, I would like to examine just one sentence in your article. Pending your positive response, I will elaborate further.

    “Among the dead were hundreds of unarmed civilians, including some 300 children.”

    You state the above as fact. Despite the word “some”, which might give leeway to a slightly different figure, the “blind” reader who is/was not aware of any figures, will perceive your statement as “fact”. I believe that as a Rabbi, community leader, opinion maker, activist and public figure, you are bound to upholding truth and have a moral responsibility to be very cautious in not leading your readers and audience astray.

    Unfortunately, you give no source of these figures. As an activist myself, I have seen your exact statement in all media forms, mostly stated by staunch Anti-Israel, Anti-Semitic, terrorist and strongly biased groups. I am sure that you would not like to be associated with, or regurgitate disinformation spread by some of these hate groups.

    Let’s examine the “facts”. A number of in-depth investigations were carried out after “Operation Cast Lead”. Whichever way you assess the figures from any of the investigative reports, the figures you portray as fact are wrong. I substantiate this with the following accredited links:
    Even Wikipedia, which is not to be perceived as an entirely reliable source, has a lot to say about misrepresented figures on the casualties.
    Feedback and comments are specifically intended as such – to provide feedback, perspectives and comments, and to “right the wrong”. You may have been unaware of your error or stated figures taken from an unreliable source, and I certainly make room for error. I do not however accept not correcting errors once one becomes aware of them, especially as a public figure. This borders, in my humble opinion of adding insult to injury or putting a stumbling block before the blind.

    Your “blind” reader will not ask why “Israel initiated a massive military assault against Gaza…”, any yet you do not inform them. Almost every article in the media continues the sentence with the likes of “to stop rocket fire into Israeli territory” at the very least. I would like to request a clarification why you could not provide your readers with a little more information to enlighten them. In fact, there was no massive military assault against Gaza” – there was a military operation against the terrorist organization called Hamas. I will gladly substantiate “terrorist organization” if need be. Moreover, had the mighty Israeli military “launched a massive military assault against Gaza”, Gaza would not exist today. You also might like to know that civilian casualties or collateral damage in “Operation Cast Lead” is the lowest in any operation ever undertaken in civilian areas worldwide. (See Colonel Kemp’s testimony).

    In conclusion, I suggest we:
    – Discuss: shedding light on all the oppressed – including hundreds of thousands of Israeli civilians who spend nights in bomb shelters due to being intentionally targeted by rockets from Gaza; gay and women’s rights in Gaza….

    – Research: the reasons for movement restrictions on Gazans; the objectives of the rulers in Gaza according to their Charter; our facts before we write opinion polls which may obscure truth; the positive steps taken by Israel to help release the people of Gaza from their plight under rulers who have repeatedly led them astray…

    – Reflect: on the religious hatred instilled in Palestinian children, and the encouragement to aspire to acquiring 72 virgins in heaven through murdering Jews; on the 6 members of the Fogel family, butchered in their beds; on why we prefer to portray Israel in a bad light in ever article…

    Please light a candle to eradicate pure bias and disinformation which blinds readers.

    Laurence Seeff

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