At the Heart of the Matter -- Here in Jerusalem

Smoke trails are seen after ordnance were fired by Palestinian militants from Gaza City towards southern Israel, Monday, Nov.
Smoke trails are seen after ordnance were fired by Palestinian militants from Gaza City towards southern Israel, Monday, Nov. 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

I arrived Saturday night in Jerusalem and today, Monday, I will journey south to the 7 kilometer-long Israeli corridor that parallels the Gaza border. While I am not sanguine about the meaning of a journey to an area that must be close to a living nightmare for so many and what is clearly dangerous for me as well, I remain honored to be on this mission of solidarity with my sisters and brothers who live in Israel, and honored that Jerry Silverman and the Jewish Federations of North America invited me to come and witness this sadness along with 15 other Jewish leaders from around America.

We will likely be in S'derot, which I have been to before, and also to Ibim with its Ethiopian immigrants; and perhaps another community or two which I have not yet visited. I know this is a dangerous trip, but my heart says "Go -- see your people and be there with them."

I cannot imagine what it must be like to live under the threat of rocket fire day in and day out. When I visited S'derot a few years ago, the residents there were surviving through that impossible, frightening attack at that time. I was nervous for the few hours there. If I were older and infirm, a child, someone living with a disability, or a poor person with few options, it would be worse than prison. I would fear to venture forth, even for a New York minute, knowing that the danger I might confront could be death or critical injury. The JFNA, the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), and the Jewish Agency do wondrous work, including taking children and others out of permanent shelters just so they can feel the sun or know the blessing of freedom -- even for a moment. Some have been in shelters for 10 days.

Why is this war happening? From my take, no government could or should watch as its citizens live under such a barrage of missiles and in an atmosphere of fear and vulnerability. Governments should not permit that. I surely hope that if Americans were forced to live like that, our nation would stop the terror -- in fact, would have stopped it much sooner. I appreciated President Obama's quick support for Israel's right to do what she is doing.

Are there different strategies that could be employed for dealing with Gaza long term? I am sure there are. At this moment the task is bringing peace to this region. It is not running through endless 'might have done it this way or that way' scenarios. In my limited ability to understand right and wrong and my tortured need to winnow through every possible course of action, every shade of gray, I believe that Israel is doing exactly what she must do and is doing it in as just a manner as she can. Once this has ended, I know she will search for lessons from this experience. But for now, Israel is doing what it must -- protecting human life.

I feel sad for the innocent sufferers on both sides of this battle. I want this to end and want the Gazan Palestinians and the Israelis to know calm and security, even if the region is not yet ready for total peace. Traveling into the heart of this conflict may or may not be rational. Still, I am honored to do so. I will leave the story like this for now.