An Apology to My Brothers and Sisters in Israel

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On Thursday and Friday I was dealing with my emotions regarding war. The reason these latent emotions surfaced is because of the very real war that is happening right now in Israel.

I explained my emotions in a post that challenged the utility of war.

My American readers were either ambivalent, appreciative, or upset by the post, but their response to the post were nothing out of the ordinary for a post that I expected to be seen as controversial. However, my Israeli readers were mostly incensed. I was attacked in private messages in ways that made the public comments look like glowing praise. The public comments questioned my sanity, dedication to my brothers and sisters in Israel, among several other harsh judgments. To the Israeli readers, the post was seen as insensitive at best, idiotic at worst.

I could try to rebut or explain what I meant to those who left comments. Shtika is not always hoda’ah. But I feel that it is not useful to carry on the debate at this point. I accept your criticisms and hope you can accept this:

I apologize.

Obviously not all people think the same way. The beauty of humanity is apparent in our differences. I understand how what I said could be perceived as callous and indifferent. It was not how I meant it at all. I understand that some people don’t like to discuss theoretical matters such as these during times of crisis. Personally, I feel that is the best time to have these discussions. But I recognize your right to disagree.

I absolutely do not equate the actions of the two sides in this current conflict. I continue to support my brothers and sisters in Israel. The pain and suffering of our brethren in Israel keeps me up at night and I am extremely concerned for their wellbeing. I admire the strength and courage of the soldiers and their families. Let us pray for a quick resolution to this war.

Please accept my apology and forgive me for being an unwelcome distraction in this time of need.

Maybe in a few months we can talk about what I meant in my post. But for now, I am sorry.

  • makeforyourself

    You a big man and a great rabbi

  • Thank you. Apology accepted. I think you hit the nail on the head re: how an Israeli might read your post when you wrote: “the post was seen as insensitive at best, idiotic at worst.”. To be frank, many of us are used to it – usually from non-Orthodox quarters. But….we are family and well….we all get on each others nerves at times. And there is always the cousin that says “x” or the aunt that says “y”. While my experience is that US Jews care a ton about Israel, at times there are big gaps between the experience Israelis have and the experiences you have. War is well….war. It impacts everything. Our safety, the safety of those we love and those who our neighbors love. It impacts our hopes and fears for the future and it impacts our stocks, our economy and at times even what we can buy in the store. So when American Jewish thinkers start writing about their innermost feelings & reflections when over a million Israelis are running for cover from rockets & tens of thousands of our boys are getting called up for army reserves….it seems a bit….self referential. self absorbed. I think it is proper for there to be just a little humility. A little restraint. Not every thought and emotion needs to be expressed at times like this. Shhhh……there is a war going on. So I respect your apology a lot, because it may actually be one of the first I have ever seen by an American Jewish community leader (and I follow these things). Your apology (to me) doesn’t mean you are somehow less than Israelis or anything close to that. Nor does it mean you have changed your opinion or that we all agree on everything. It does, however, mean that you “get it”….and that is huge. It is really huge.

  • Meir Weingarten

    Kol HaKavod. It is not easy to publicly admit an error and apologize.
    מודה ועוזב, ירוחם

  • No.

    I read your post. It was one of the most sensitive things I’ve ever read. And I saw you say time and again that you weren’t attacking anyone.

    I don’t know how someone could misconstrue that post as as attack on them, or insensitive in the least. But I worry about people like that. And the response is not to apologize for something that should never require an apology. The right response is to respond, to enlighten, to help.

    If sensitivity requires an apology then we are in a truly bad place.

  • Abraham

    The final line of your post makes a mockery of your apology and shows your true colors. “Maybe in a few months we can talk about what I meant in my post. But for now, I am sorry”. What kind of apology is that? It is the apology of an immature person who still thinks he is right but doesn’t want to pick a fight because he wasn’t ready for the very real responses that made a mockery of his naive, utopian, and utterly distorted view of a situation on which every Jew should have clear moral clarity.

    You. Were. Wrong.

    We don’t want you to apologize “for now” we want you to amend your previous post and write that you are completely wrong and weren’t thinking clearly.

    Be a man Rabbi. Really own up to your mistakes.

  • Holy Hyrax

    >I absolutely do not equate the actions of the two sides in this current conflict.

    I don’t think anyone thought you were equating the two sides. I think what got people most incensed was your comment”

    “It seems to me that the people fighting the war, as in the soldiers, are fighting a war for their parents. I don’t think 18 year old kids are old enough to appreciate the gravity of war. I don’t think many of them would choose to fight the war……”

    • People on Facebook said there was “moral equivalence” in the post. Whatever.

      • Holy Hyrax


  • Then you would agree that there is a real disconnect between Israeli and American Jewry in their thinking and perceptions?

  • Menachem Lipkin

    Though somewhat equivocal, I accept and appreciate your apology.

  • olesker

    It’s good that you apologize for the insensitivity of your message, but what I think you should do t’shuvah for is your hastiness in publishing such a wooly minded post that fails to do justice to your considerable talents. There was doubtless a worthwhile idea buried under all that ill considered guff, and probably one worth discussing. Now we can’t hear it until months from now when the dust has settled.

    My Rosh Yeshivah says, “not everything that’s thought should be said, not everything that’s said should be written and not everything that’s written should be published”. I’d add, “without showing it to someone else first”. May I make a practical suggestion? Be m’kable on yourself to show posts like this to a couple of people before publishing them.

    You have a lot to contribute to thoughtful discourse and you need to find a way of reliably making sure that you express yourself properly. (And that’s from someone who disagrees with you most of the time.)

  • As an Israeli-American, I thought your initial post was plenty thoughtful. I am at a loss as to why you cannot critique war in general at a time that a war is going on (which involves your brothers and sisters) whose goals are unclear, and whose ability to achieve those goals is even less. We need more dissent, not less. Don’t back down if you believe in what you wrote.

  • Yes, we should all listen to your sensitive posts. We should look for other solutions. Oops, sorry, gottogo, another rocket alarm overhead.

  • I sincerely hope you and your readers can hear these words well, as is my intention to connect. Sorry to have to teach you Jewish law, Rabbi, but your apology is not acceptable. For a true apology you must acknowledge the original mistake, accept the responsibility for any damages caused by that mistake, and express desire to not make the same mistake ever again. Let’s look at the original mistake first: your “War Baffles Me” post that denies the necessity for war, holding yourself and your ideas of youth and human capacity above the Torah which describes two different categories of war. In the Torah we are given the right to go to war “milchemet reshut” and even divinely commanded to go to war “milchemet mitzvah” to defend our lives. Your article may have been offering an opinion on the optional type of war, but the divinely commanded war is just that – a mitzvah upon the nation. Second, let’s look at your apology to see if there was any acceptance of responsibility on your part for damages caused. I can’t find any acknowledgment in the entire apology that there were any real damages by your post. Although your simple statement in bold type may seem to you to be in essence “taking responsibility” your insensitive arrogance was hurtful. Third, let’s take a look at your apology for an expression towards never repeating the mistake again. Sorry, but your last line actually shows your intent to “educate” those who you have hurt again with the exact same point in the future! I sincerely hope these words were heard well, as intended to reconnect all of Israel, the Land and the people, for we are truly one nation, like one body with parts that seem completely disconnected from each other.

  • Deborah

    Your apology is light and inconsequential as you would like to talk about your original message in a few months time when things have settled here. I live in Jerusalem, the holiest city for 3 religions, but one of them aimed a missile at it on Friday night. Every Hamas official/terrorist/supporter maintains that they will not stop their struggle till every Jew has been removed from this part of the world. After that they might target California, who knows. When there is such resolve, intransigence, you cannot write about younger thinkers guiding the way to peace. They don’t want peace. They want control and all Jews eradicated/killed. Use whatever gentle words and thoughts you can for this FACT. Go onto their own websites, watch them kill “informers”, watch their propaganda and you’ll learn the truth. Israelis on the other hand have spent 64 years building a thriving agricultural and technological society, and get this, we sent 104 trucks of food to Gazaz yesterday! Hamas has huge amounts of money but they spend it all on hatred, weaponry and destruction. Take a look at and you’ll see a pinpoint strike by the IDF on a missile launcher placed in the front yard of a mosque! Take a look at Google maps and you’ll see te wide open areas they could shoot from, but no, they shoot from populated areas, so CNN can film injured. The IDF dropped leaflets in Arabic before this campaign began warning people to get away from missile launching sites and Hamas operatives. But Hamas wants them close, so they will be killed and injured, for the press to photograph. You have NO idea of the barbarity and lack of humanity we are facing. Please don’t write in such a simplistic way when you should be reading wallanews or other news sites to let you know the truth. The barrage of missiles from gaza has been going on since we pulled out of Gaza – so much for giving what they wanted and they’d be happy. No, they have been pounding the south on a daily basis for 7 years, but last week it intensified. My 2 soldiers believe their job is to defend the civilian population so we can live in peacec. Go live in Sderot for a few months and then write a piece for your community. As a leader of a community, you OWE them more reality and sense.

  • Mayer

    Eli, I did not find your original post to be offensive but rather thought provoking. In any event, in this post you’ve made a noble attempt to be sensitive to those who are living through this war (on the israeli side). I admire you for that. It’s more than I would have done.

  • Jeffrey R. Woolf

    I appreciate your clarification and regret. I still feel most strongly that you not only missed the point, but did Israel serious damage. My response to your initial post is here:

    • It would be nice if you would acknowledge my apology on your post. Thank you.

      • Jeffrey R. Woolf

        I did acknowledge, and link to it. It seemed to me to be more a clarification and expression of regret, rather than an apology and I referred to it as such.

      • Brian Cohen

        While I accept your apology, for now, we’ve reached the end of the current hostilities and there is still the issue of things your are wrong about. For example, the comment about 18-year-olds. The fighting in Gaza would have been done by men and women (yes, we have females in combat who unfortunately sometimes are killed and wounded too) ranging in age from 18 to 55 (or more) with the average age probably being (my guesstimate) 30.

        Let me quote what journalist Dan Margalit wrote: “Operation
        Pillar of Defense was crowned a sour success. The public wanted more
        than the government had promised. Reservists, unlike any others in the
        world, were more eager to make sacrifices than the government was eager
        to put them in harm’s way.”

        Those reservists included entire battalions called up and these are NOT 18 years olds. They are married professionals who make the conscious decision to defend their country and their homes. This is a key point you are missing.
        Apology accepted, yes, but you owe it to yourself and to Am Yisrael to learn about the reality of what the existence of Israel means in the 21st century. Just like the century before it, it obligates us to fight on the battlefield while at the same time doing all that we can to avoid going there.
        Like I said above – the best solution is to make aliya and perform your mitzvot here.

  • Brian Cohen

    The only solution, of course, is to move your California-dreaming butt to aretz koidesh and live the life of mitzvot in the land. Maybe take your first year in Sderot and volunteer in a reserve unit, so you’ll understand that your apology really didn’t address the reality of your mistake of being wrong about the IDF, its soldiers, and their motivations – the heart of part of your argument about war.
    Feh. Instead of being a distraction get on a plane and come over and be part of the solution. As it is, being a clued-out American Jew with a soapbox to voice your questionable philosophies about war while we’re fighting one shows us that yes, American Jews have lost touch with the reality of what is happening in the Middle East. Stop living your life vicariously through the internet and the narrow-bandwidth of news you read.
    Tonight is the first in the last five days that my kids are sleeping in their beds and not on mattresses in the living room by the front door so we save 10 seconds running for the %&*@!! bomb shelter. Why? Because the IDF is indeed protecting us – both the 35 year old fighter pilots and the 18 years olds manning the Iron Dome batteries and their buddies locked and loaded and ready to go into harm’s way tonight if need be.

  • The last line of this post was a bigger slap in the face than your entire previous post. Shame on you.

  • Shoshana

    I appreciate the apology. While I understood your premise that war is futile- I thought your discussion of the topic while people are living under fire was extremely insensitive. I also just don’t understand your points- that war just establishes who is stronger- so what do you propose Israel does- allow continued rocket attacks on its citizens and not fight back? I don’t get it! that 18 year olds don’t know the gravity of war- maybe in America- but here-my 3 sons went into the army after being at too many funerals and witnessing more than one pigua- with body parts flying through the air- that groups should be able to resolve their difficulties without killing one another- maybe in the virtual world- but in the real world- how would you resolve anything with this woman for example:

    “As for an end to the rocket fire at civilians
    in southern Israel, Salibi said “we believe this is not called terror
    attacks. [Palestinians in Gaza] believe these are not terror attacks,
    they are our right, it is guaranteed by international law.”

    “As long as Israel is committing crimes
    against Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Hamas will not
    stop, of course.”

  • cratylus

    Rav, your post was terrific; it was gentle, thoughtful, timely and full of humility. I’m sad that you apologized for it.