Comfort, oh comfort, my people

Comfort, oh comfort, my people

This has been a terrible, terrible summer.

As we listened to the words of Eicha on Tisha B’Av on Monday, those words of pain and grief and abandonment, they seemed terrifyingly real, even prescient, in ways that they have not before, at least to anyone born after the end of World War II.

It seems, as of this writing, that the war might be coming to an end, that death might stop raining down from and on Gaza. If it does, if the 72-hour ceasefire holds, and even more if there is another, longer-term halt to the fighting, then there will be something powerful about the timing. It is this Saturday that we read the first haftarah of consolation, from Isaiah, which begins “Comfort, oh comfort, my people.”

It will not be particularly easy to find comfort. This summer also has exposed festering strains of anti-Semitism around the world. It appears to be strongest in Europe, where it seems to have been lying fallow, just waiting for the self-righteous anti-Zionism that cloaked it to be blown away by the gale winds coming out of Gaza. And the tunnels burrowing from Gaza to Israel, underground pathways for murderers, are the stuff of nightmare. Bogeymen coming up from holes in the ground are a primal childhood fear; there will be a generation of Israeli children who will know that the fear is not groundless but based in reality.

And then, of course the fact that Hamas remains in place, and that it is just one of many Islamist terror groups pledged to destroy Israel, and that the larger Middle East is dangerously unstable, makes it hard to feel that the cease-fire is anything but water-treading.

Bringing comfort was the point of the group mission to Israel headed by Rabbi Shmuel Goldin – a trip we cover beginning on page 18. What is striking about that trip is how much of an effect it seems to have had on the Israelis the group met.

Israelis, we are learning, are feeling isolated. Trips are being canceled – understandably, to be sure. It takes courage to bring yourself to a place where rockets are flying. It also takes both disposable income and easily freed time. Although many members of this community have both, neither is easy to come by. But the more that we Americans can show Israelis that we care, that we stand with them not just with words, not even just with money, but with our bodies, the better both for them and for us.

One good thing that has come out of the situation, we are told, is the solidarity in Israel. There is a great deal of unanimity about the response to the missiles coming from Gaza. Israelis have been brought together by tragedy and grief all summer. Surely there is an easier, better way to do it – but this is what we have now.

Comfort, oh comfort, my people. There has to be hope. There has to be light. And there will be.

Or, to jump ahead a millennia or so, there is Leonard Cohen’s take on it:

“There is a crack, a crack in everything/That’s how the light gets in.”