Beth Tfiloh Congregation was supposed to host a virtual talk with Israeli journalist Sivan Rahav Meir on May 12. But because of the conflict in Israel, Meir was unable to participate at the last minute, as she was called away to cover the unfolding crisis.
Instead, Beth Tfiloh staff quickly put together an online discussion on the crisis in Israel. Those who registered in advance received an email inviting them to attend the event, despite Meir’s cancellation, to hear from Beth Tfiloh Rabbi Chai Posner and Haggai Lavie, a former Beth Tfiloh shaliach.
“It’s a good thing that we should also feel a little bit of what it feels like to scramble at the last minute,” Posner said at the event. “Our scrambling in the last minute is deciding that we have to click on a different link and go to a different program.
“Our brothers and our sisters and moms and dads and grandparents and grandchildren in Israel are scrambling in a very different type of way these days,” Posner noted.
While Beth Tfiloh had the option to simply cancel the event, the synagogue decided within a few minutes of the scheduled start time to go ahead with the program. Posner messaged Lavie, asking if he was awake and available for the Zoom discussion.
After giving a brief discussion of a Torah portion focused on togetherness and a reading of a Tehillim, Posner turned to Lavie to lead much of the remainder of the event.
Lavie shared his perspective of the conflict.
One new development in the current round of violence is that there are more rockets hitting Israel at once, Lavie explained. In the past, rocket attacks tended to take place sporadically throughout the day.
“Now it became dozens of rockets at the same time on many different targets, trying to somehow at least have some of the rockets pass the Iron Dome, which is still very successful, but we do have more casualties than last time,” Lavie said.
Nearly 1,000 rockets had been fired at Israel by that point, some reaching the Galilee in northern Israel for the first time, Lavie said.
As concerned as he was over the rocket attacks, Lavie said he was more worried about what he called the “second front” of the conflict: namely, riots taking place in cities with Jewish and Arab populations living in close proximity.
“As we see in Lod, Jews were stranded in their homes, unable to come out,” Lavie said. “The police didn’t manage to control it. Cars burnt, stores burned. Stories we usually hear from Europe, suddenly happening in our own cities.”
Rioters have also included groups of young Jews in places like Bat Yam, where they look for Arabs to attack, Lavie noted.
“Tomorrow or next week or in a month we still have to somehow live side by side,” he said. “In some of these places, there were beautiful projects and prospects of coexistence, really living together, Jews and Arabs, peacefully, a lot of friendships and partnerships.
“And, I don’t know, neighbors suddenly turned on each other,” Lavie continued. “Arab neighbors trying to break into Jewish neighbors’ homes … all kinds of stories like that will make it very hard to coexist in the future.”