“Beneath You” – Rosh Hashanah Morning 2014

The following scene was related by journalist Thomas Friedman writing from Jerusalem in the late 1980’s:

“I once bought a tape recorder— radio in Jerusalem that came with a one-year warranty. After about nine months the radio broke, and I brought it back to the shop for replacement. The shop owner knew me well, as we had done a lot of business together. I put the radio and the warranty on the counter and said to the owner, “I need a replacement.” He checked that the radio was dead, read over the warranty, and then just shook his head.
‘Mr. Thomas,” he said, “if the radio had broken after one month, or maybe three months, okay, we would have replaced it. But nine months? I’m sorry.’
‘No, no, you don’t understand,’ I said. ‘This radio has a warranty of one year. One year means one year. It is not optional. It is not at your discretion.’ He just shook his head again. He did not understand one year. His mind could not see that far, no matter what the Japanese manufacturer had told him.”

Friedman wrote that he understood what the shopkeeper was really saying to him: It wasn’t just about the radio. Israel, too “is a country with a one-year warranty – that no one is sure will be honored.”

So many Israelis, whatever their background, feel that they are living on borrowed time. That just beneath the surface of day-to-day life is another holocaust, another abyss, another dark time in the history of mankind when the earth could, at any moment, open again and swallow them up.

I lived in Israel a decade after Friedman, and I had a similar situation. In my case, I needed to buy a round-trip plane ticket on British Airways in April, for a flight to Israel in early June, and a return the following May. Trouble was, the Brit Air computer system wouldn’t let me buy a ticket with a return date more than 365 days in the future. So I booked the return for the latest day possible, and the booking agent put a note in the computer system allowing me to reschedule my return trip to the correct date, once I got through that deadline.

Don was in Israel with me for the month of August, so one day we took a stroll to the British Air office in downtown Jerusalem to make the fix. This time I was dealing with Israelis, not Brits. And for the life of them, the Israeli agents could not understand why in the world I was concerned in August about a trip that would not take place until the following May. What could I possibly have been thinking?

During that year, I learned to both admire and fear the way that Israelis compartmentalize their lives. How do you get on the Number 18 bus to work today when it was blown up last week? How do you go for coffee or falafel or shop at the shuk when you know there was a shooting there last month? How do you, on one day, mark Yom ha-Zikaron, the day of remembrance, with silent commemoration of Israel’s war dead, then at midnight go out into the streets with noise-makers and silly string and dance for hours in celebration of Yom Haatzmaut, Israel’s Day of Independence. How do you do that?

But they did. They do.

And really, what else can you do? On the one hand, if you don’t compartmentalize, you would be totally consumed by “ha-matzav,” the Hebrew euphemism for the “situation” with the Palestinians. That sense of bravado would be overcome by the sense of pending doom. You would not be able to get through a day. Not one day.

On the other hand, you could just try and ignore the situation. I hear this a lot from the international media: Oh, Israelis are fairly comfortable these days, so they just pretend the Palestinians don’t exist. Well, maybe from the outside, that’s what it looks like – but not from the inside. The borders are too close, and the wounds are too fresh, and the memories are too strong.

Fast forward another 20 years, and it turns out the Israelis we knew were right all along.

From beneath you it devours. There’s no way to compartmentalize “hamatzav” from the rest of your life when the earth literally does open up again and swallow you up.

This time, it was not some Biblical cataclysm, like the rebellious Korach and his followers being consumed in a fit of Divine anger. This time it was man-made. Slow and methodical, deliberate and deadly. This time it was the incredibly elaborate and expensive labyrinth of tunnels dug by the terrorists of Hamas deep beneath the border between Gaza and Israel.

The plan was supposed to be triggered today. Today, on Rosh Hashanah, one of Israel’s holiest days of the year, Hamas had planned for two hundred men to wind their way through the tunnels, emerge near a half-dozen communities in Israel, and wreak death and destruction. Today, Hamas was determined to slaughter Jews and kidnap others, to hold them as ransom bait for their mass murderers to be released from Israeli prisons. Today, Hamas had hoped to so terrify Israelis that they would be willing to give Hamas anything it demanded.

We saw Hamas try this several times before and during the Gaza incursion last month. We have aerial footage of bands of terrorists sneaking out of tunnels near kibbutzim that sit a few short miles from the Gaza border. But now we know these were not isolated incidents. Now, we know that they were trial runs for what was supposed to take place today.

Hamas terrorists who were captured in Gaza apparently made no secret of the plans. They bragged that they had spent years creating these tunnels 25 meters deep, where they could not be detected.

They were proud of the way they had diverted tens of millions of dollars of building materials and concrete – which the European Union insisted Israel allow into Gaza, but which the EU then failed to account for.

Hamas was easily able to use it, not to create an infrastructure of roads and homes and hospitals and schools to bring prosperity to the people of Gaza – but to create a warren of dens from which terrorists launched their attacks in the midst of those homes and hospitals and schools. And because of which the people of Gaza have endured untold suffering.

From beneath you it devours. Israelis knew this in 1948, and in 1967, and in 1973, and all the years in between. Here is what we have learned from Operation Protective Edge: That in this generation, like all the preceding generations, Israel is no closer to a state of normalcy, to a state of peace. There are only periods of calm, during which one can and must compartmentalize the terror in order to survive. But there has been no end to the fight against genocidal forces that refuse to acknowledge Israel’s existence and threaten her very being.

Hamas may, however, have misread the Israeli psyche just a little bit. Far from terrorizing Israelis, or sending them scattered in all directions, their relentless rocket fire had the opposite effect. It brought Israelis together.

It united them politically – with even the far left supporting the government’s powerful incursion into Gaza.

It united them physically – with Israelis of all ages and backgrounds crouched in shelters and stairwells, helping the elderly and disabled to get to safety.

It united them emotionally – with young Israelis supporting their brothers and sisters and friends and colleagues who were called up for reserve duty in the tens of thousands.

There was no compartmentalizing the situation. There was no ignoring it. And there was no surrender to it. Not this time. Not when the existential threat was so real that the earth really was opening up.

From beneath us it devours. Not just in Israel, as it turns out. In these past weeks, the hellmouth has opened in Berlin and in Paris and in Antwerp and in Sydney, Australia, and in New York City, and in Boston, and in Calgary, Canada. And what emerged from the darkness was not the terror of Hamas but the terror of virulent, ugly anti-semitism.

Demonstrators carrying signs and chanting slogans that all Jews must die, that Hitler should have finished the job, that Jews must be gassed. These were not people protesting the political decisions of the current Israeli government. Nor were they marching in support of the civilians in Gaza. This was pure, unadulterated Jew-hatred, cowardly faces hidden behind wrapped layers of kefffiahs and Palestinian flags, terrorizing Jews at prayer, and Jews rallying to support brothers and sisters in Israel, and Jews simply walking in public places.

And yet not all Jew-hatred is this obvious. Some of it is subtle. Some of it is wrapped in the arrogant condemnation by Western nations of Israel’s actions in Gaza, as though they would not have done exactly the same thing to protect their people from rockets and bombs and bands of cut-throats. Some of it is wrapped in the speech of “proportional damage,” as though Israel is to blame for building an Iron Dome to protect its people, while Hamas erects human shields to protect its rockets. Some of it is wrapped in the diplomatic language of Israel-Palestine, as though the two are not only morally but practically equivalent.

Yair Lapid, Israel’s Finance Minister, gave a speech at a Holocaust Memorial Site in Berlin a month ago, in which condemned the Western world’s response as what he called “a fatal blind spot for sheer evil” just as the Nazi extermination of Jews had been. Here’s part of what he said:

“Here in Europe, and elsewhere in the world, people sit in their comfortable homes, watching the evening news, and tell us that we are failing the test. Why? Because in Gaza people suffer more. They don’t understand – or don’t want to understand – that the suffering of Gaza is the main tool of evil. When we explain to them, time after time, that Hamas uses the children of Gaza as human shields, that Hamas intentionally places them in the firing line to ensure that they die, that Hamas sacrifices the lives of the young to win its propaganda war, people refuse to believe it. Why? Because they cannot believe that human beings – human beings who look like them and sound like them – are capable of behaving that way. Because good people always refuse to recognize the totality of evil until it’s too late.”

Lapid warned then what we know now is so true…that Israel may stand at the front of the line facing this evil, but that they will not stop there. Hamas. Al Qaida. ISIS. They will go after Europe. They will go wherever they need to go, to spread their brand of evil. It is not just Israel living on shaky ground. This evil recognizes no borders. The entire world is on notice: From beneath you, it devours.

There is another truth that seems to have eluded much of the Western world – the news media and the politicians alike. And that is, that it didn’t have to be this way between Israel and Gaza. Dennis Ross, who has represented the US in the Middle East in various capacities since the Clinton Administration, wrote recently that he himself laid out the path to Hamas that would have led to peace and prosperity. And they simply chose the alternative.
This meeting took place in the winter of 2005 in Gaza City, just before Israel unilaterally withdrew its troops and settlers and left Gaza in Palestinian hands. Here’s what Ross told an audience of about 200 Gazans, including a number of senior leaders of Hamas:

“This was a moment to promote Palestinian national aspirations,” Ross said. “If they took advantage of the Israel withdrawal to peacefully develop Gaza, the international community and the Israelis would see that what was working in Gaza could also be applied to the West Bank. However, I then asked rhetorically: If Palestinians instead turn Gaza into a platform for attacks against Israel, who is going to favor an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and the creation of a Palestinian state?”

“Much of Palestinians’ history might have been imposed on them by others, I said. But this time they had the power to shape their future. If they made the wrong choice, they could not blame the Arabs, the Europeans, the Americans – or the Israelis. . . . Unfortunately, we know the path Hamas chose . . . For them, Palestinians’ pain and suffering are tools to exploit, not conditions to end.”

Ross suggests a path that many others, including Israelis, have suggested: If the enemy of my enemy is at least my partner, Israel must cultivate partnerships with those who are threatened by the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots: Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates. Hamas must be discredited and eventually disarmed as a requirement for the rebuilding of Gaza. The Palestinian Authority must be supported, so that its rule in the West Bank gives Palestinians a credible alternative to Hamas. Israel and the PA must work on conflict management skills, especially when it comes to land agreements on the West Bank.

And finally, Prime Minister Netanyahu must declare that Israel’s settlement construction will NOT take place on land that it thinks will eventually be part of a Palestinian state. That, says Ross, would allow Israel to offer a credible two-state solution and make it easier for Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the Emirates to work with Israel more openly.

The destruction this summer has been so devastating, and the air-raid sirens so ubiquitous. The issues seem so intractable, and the death-wish of our enemies seems so incomprehensible. Sometimes we forget what it’s like for individual Israelis who have to deal with all of it every day of their lives. Who find themselves compartmentalizing the situation – because if they did not, how could they go on?

This Sunday, our Temple Teen School students had a chance to SKYPE with a young Israeli woman named Shani Raviv, whose aunt and uncle are Nancy and Andy Gurman. She and her fiancé Uri had planned a beautiful wedding in early August on the kibbutz where they live, and the whole family was to come to Israel to celebrate their chuppah.

But then Gaza happened. And Shani and Uri, and all their friends, who all serve in the IDF reserves after they do their full-time service, were called up. Uri was on the Gaza border, because he’s an engineer whose expertise involves blowing up tunnels. Shani, the intelligence specialist, was sent north to the Golan, where the Syrian civil war in all its ugliness was spilling over the border. They wanted to keep her there indefinitely, but Shani said, Look, I just got out after seven years. I have a wedding to plan. In the end, the couple was delayed only two weeks, and Andy was on hand to dance at his niece’s wedding. But can you imagine any young couple in our community facing the same situation?

It shouldn’t have to be this way. Young Israelis, who are willing to put their lives on the line for their country, shouldn’t have to delay their weddings because rockets and tunnels are threatening their country’s survival. They shouldn’t have to put on their uniforms year after year, to face an enemy with black hearts and blood on their hands.

It shouldn’t be this way. It didn’t have to be this way. But it is this way. From beneath them it devours. Today, even with the incursion over, it eats away at the lives of our brothers and sisters, in the land where we have longed for peace for so long. Today, as every day, Israelis feel the ground beneath them shaking and shifting.

We must not shrink from this ultimate evil. We must face it, and we must demand that the world face it and name it and destroy it. Israel may be on the front lines, but it must not stand alone. For the sake of the world, whose birth we celebrate today – the world God gave us to tend and protect – for her sake and for the sake of God’s name, it must be so.

The Babylonian Talmud records this petition of Mar, son of Ravina, with which he would conclude his prayers, and with which I will end my remarks this morning:

“My God, keep my tongue from evil and my lips from speaking falsehood. Let me remain silent before those who slander me. Let me be as humble as dust before all. Open my heart to Your Torah, and may my soul pursue Your commandments. Deliver me . . . from all evils that come storming into the world. As for all who plot evil against me – speedily frustrate their designs, make nothing of their schemes! May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable before You, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer!”

Ken yehi ratson. Be this God’s will and our own. As we say together: Amen.

©2014 Audrey R. Korotkin

“Darkness And Light” Erev Rosh Hashanah 2014

Ladies and gentleman, consider if you will, just for a moment, the human eye. ….a remarkable gift from God. Some of us have brown eyes (show of hands), some blue (??), some hazel (???). Some of have better eyesight than others. Some of us are near-sighted, some of us are far-sighted. Some of us need glasses to read the words in our prayer books tonight, and some of you need them to see me. I obviously need them to see you.

But all of our eyes have one thing in common, and it’s something that’s kind of counter-intuitive. Think about it. The eye is white, with a black part in its middle. Now, out of what part would you expect to see? The white part, right? Because white is light. White is bright. But no, we see out of the black part. Everything we view around us, from the great expanse of sky to the smallest particle of dust under the bed – everything is viewed through the dark.
For us, the dark becomes the frame for our universe. It helps us keep our balance. After all, as the great early sage Rabbi Yochanan pointed out, someone who walks only in the light will never adjust to darkness. But someone who has the experience of walking in darkness can always find the light.

There’s no escaping darkness and light. They are primordial elements of the universe, organized by God with the first sweep of the Divine hand and the first Holy utterance. But maybe because of this, they hold tremendous power over us. So we sometimes find them very frightening rather than enlightening. And we sometimes forget we need one to appreciate the other.

Let’s face it: We human beings are very afraid of the dark. We have been, ever since Adam and Eve, who – according to tradition – created fire to dispel the fear of night. Things go bump in the night. Things creak and screech and howl in the night. Things might even be hiding under our bed – only at night. How many of us, as children, left the closet light on, or had a set of nightlights in our bedrooms, the hallway, and the bathroom?

It wasn’t just because we might stumble if we had to get up in the middle of the night. It was also because we believed that the darkness was a fearful place to be.

Some people never grow out of that childhood fear. In her new book, “Learning to Walk in the Dark,” Barbara Brown Taylor – an Episcopal priest and theologian, writes that her family’s particular brand of Christianity taught her to fear the darkness because God is only in the light. These beliefs instilled in her as a child, she refers to as “full solar spirituality,” since, as she writes, “it focuses on staying in the light of God around the clock, both absorbing and reflecting the sunny side of faith.”

That may sound attractive, having God connected to concepts like brightness and happiness. But Taylor found that these beliefs also had, so to speak, a dark side:

“If you have ever belonged to such a community,” she writes,” you may have discovered that the trouble starts when darkness falls on your life, which can happen in any number of unsurprising ways: you lose your job, your marriage falls apart, your child acts out in some attention-getting way. If you still do not get the message, sooner or later it will be made explicit for you: the darkness is your own fault, because you do not have enough faith.”
This bifurcation, this choice that was laid out for Taylor – that you can either walk with God in the light or walk alone in the darkness – is a shadow that was cast over her life for many years. It led her to challenge, to question, to struggle – and to doubt herself.

But what she discovered, over time, is what we Jews have known for thousands of years: God made us with both dark and light in us, just as God fashioned the universe with dark and light. Judaism does not relegate people with darkness inside of them to a world without faith, without God. Judaism embraces us, accepts us for what we are, for what God made us. The objective is not to banish the darkness, but to keep it in balance.

Yes, God is in the light and in the dark. Every morning in our prayers, we recite the prophet Isaiah’s praise of God as, “יוֹצֵר אוֹר וּבוֹרֵא חֹשֶׁךְ,” Creator of light and creator of darkness. In fact, when we read Genesis at Simchat Torah, we’ll be reminded that God chose to start the cycle of day and night with evening, then morning, for each day. Learning to walk in the dark is simply part of everyday existence, built into the very fabric of the universe.

And that is step one of what Taylor learned on her journey, which is that we cannot control the journey itself, where it takes us, or how long it takes. Step 1 of learning to walk in the dark is to give up running the show.

I suppose the ancient Israelites had to learn that lesson, and they were probably a lot more scared of the world than we are. It was easy for them to travel in the wilderness during the daytime, but how would they make their way at night? God’s pillar of cloud simply turned into a pillar of fire – providing them a guidepost throughout the night. They just had to trust that God would guide their steps so that they would not walk into harm’s way.

We don’t have a pillar of fire anymore. God leaves us more to our own homing devices. But a lot of what happens to us is still outside our control, however strong our desire may be to control every single choice and situation.

The loss of a job or the loss of a loved one, or the loss of authority over a child. The loss of one of our senses, one of our organs, or even part of our memory. Those are all dark challenges that can stop us right in our tracks, that make us want to turn back the clock to the more comfortable existence of yesterday or last week or last month, when we felt like we had the power to make these decisions . . . just like the ancient Israelites always thought about trying to retrace their steps back to Egypt. If only Moses hadn’t led us into the wilderness, they complained, our lives would be so much better.

But God took them the long way to the Promised Land, full of twists and turns that obscured the path back the other way….just as God seems to put us in situations from which we cannot withdraw. Our children are not going to get any younger, and neither are our parents. Our eyesight won’t improve. And we will be forced to grope around to re-train ourselves to function in the world as it is, not as we might wish it still could be.

But the darkness that challenges us in the world around us is nothing compared to the darkness within us. And that’s where Taylor found step two of learning to walk in the dark:
After you learn to give up running the show, then you sign the waiver that allows you to bump into some things that may frighten you at first.

I take that to mean the darkness within.

And yes, we are frightened by dark inside of us. When we are angry, sometimes we even scare ourselves by how our entire body shakes, or how hard our head pounds, or how much we scare the people around us. When we suffer from depression, we know it can take us to the brink of an abyss from which we might not be able to withdraw. Or we find ourselves giving into the momentary pleasure of the manic high – even knowing that the roller coaster drop will follow.

Sometimes the darkness can be so deep, so all-encompassing, that we have to seek help from therapy or medication. But even that does not banish the darkness. It only keeps it in balance.

In Judaism we describe this as a balance between the yetzer ha-tov and the yetzer ha-rah, the good inclination and the evil inclination. They are not mutually exclusive terms. They are actually harmonious.

Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchek wrote that
“When God engraved and carved out the world, he did not entirely eradicate the chaos and the voice, the deep, the darkness, from the domain of His creation. Rather, he separated the complete, perfect existence from the forces of negation, confusion, and turmoil, and set up cosmic boundaries, eternal laws, to keep them apart.”

That same struggle for equilibrium, wrote Soloveitchek, is within each of us as well:
“Man . . . incorporates within himself the most perfect creation and the most unimaginable chaos and void, light and darkness, the abyss and the law, a coarse, turbid being and a clear, lucid existence, the beast and the image of God. . .[and] The most fundamental principle of Judaism is that man must create himself.”

That is so hard. Because a lot of the time we don’t live in full sunlight or in complete darkness…we exist at the edge, where we are afraid of what we bump into. The Mishnah teaches us that “at night, though it be night, one has the light of the moon, the stars, and the planets. Then when is it really dark? Just before the dawn. After the moon sets and the stars set and the planets vanish, there is no darkness deeper than the hour before the dawn. But it is in that hour that the Holy One answers the world and all that are in it: out of the darkness, God brings forth the dawn and gives light to the world.”

We often use the phrase, “it’s darkest before the dawn” to reassure people that, no matter how bleak things look, the situation will get better because it has to. But I think the Mishnah wants us to learn something a little different: that there can be no brightness without complete darkness. And that it is the nature of the universe that sometimes we have to experience darkness to appreciate light.

The truth is, life is trial and error, and sometimes we miss, and sometimes we slip, and sometimes we regress. That’s in the nature of the way God created us – and if we look at the stories of the Bible, it’s kind of the way God is too. God is passionate, sometimes loving, sometimes angry. God can reach out with a hand to caress or a fist to destroy. We are a physical manifestation of that. We are not angels, who are never challenged by our yetzer ha-ra. We cannot be sweet and good and productive all the time. I’d like to be. And sometimes I resent that I’m not. But in the Midrash, Rabbi Avina reminds us what God teaches: “The orb of the sun is only one of My servants, and when it goes forth into the world, its direct light is so intense that no creature can feast its eyes upon it.” We could never survive in a world made only of light.

And that brings us to Taylor’s third and final step in learning how to walk in the darkness: “Finally you ask darkness to teach you what you need to know.”

At this time of year especially, when we look at the darkness around us, we must consider whether that darkness is, at least partially, emanating from within. Whether it be anger or resentment, pride or stubbornness, inner darkness can never be hidden. It is always visible, whether we like it or not. Other people recognize it, whether we like it or not. So ask the darkness to teach you what you need to know about yourself.

There is so much we can learn from the darkness. One thing is that darkness is not monolithic, and that makes it less scary. As Taylor notes:

“I have been given the gift of lunar spirituality, in which the divine light available to me waxes and wanes with the season. When I go out on my porch at night, the moon never looks the same way twice. Some nights it is as round and bright as a headlight; other nights it is thinner than the sickle hanging in my garage. Some nights it is high in the sky, and other nights low over the mountains. Some nights it is altogether gone, leaving a vast web of stars that are brighter in its absence. All in all, the moon is a truer mirror for my soul than the sun that looks the same way every day. After I stopped thinking that all these fluctuations meant something was wrong with me, a great curiosity opened up: what would my life with God look like if I trusted this rhythm instead of opposing it?”

Think of these fluctuations, this rhythm, as the two urges within us. We cannot completely subdue the yetzer ha-rah. We must face it, acknowledge it, engage with it, and bring it back into balance with the yetzer ha-tov. But understand this: No matter what the nature of the inner darkness may be – no matter how deep-seated it may be, or how discomforting – we can never, ever, get back into balance all by ourselves. We must reach out for help, and accept the help that is offered, be it spiritual or therapeutic or personal or familial — even if it means groping around a while with the things that frighten us.

And remember this, too: It is this turning to face the inner darkness that drives us, during these days of awe, toward repentance … awareness of our shortcomings, regret for the past, and determination to change the future.

So don’t fear looking at the darkness. Take a good look at it. And consider all the times when the darkness has been so rich with promise.

Barbara Taylor reminds us of Abraham, childless still, scanning the night-time heavens, being told by God, “And I will make your seed multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give to your seed all these countries; and in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” There was Jacob, with his night-time dream of holy messengers up and down the ladder leading to God; and his night-long wrestling that brought him physical injury but emotional healing. There was Jacob’s son Joseph and his dreams, that brought him out of prison and to the palace of Pharaoh. The exodus from Egypt took place under cover of God’s Divine darkness, and so did the revelation at Sinai. And none of this – none of this – could ever have happened in the light of day.

So, finally, remember this: Even in darkness we are never alone. Since that first sweep of the Divine hand, since that first Holy utterance, darkness is never a void. יוֹצֵר אוֹר וּבוֹרֵא חֹשֶׁךְ, In darkness as well as light, there is always God, and there is always God’s congregation.
Ken yehi ratson. Be this God’s will and our own. As we say together: Amen.
######
©2014 Audrey R. Korotkin

Tell Me, Mr. President: What Would You Do?

Let’s ponder this situation: The Sinaloa Cartel, the largest and most powerful drug cartel in Mexico, has decided to launch a war on the United States. They can afford it; the net worth of their leader, Joaquin Guzman, has been estimated by Forbes at a billion dollars, making him the 63rd most powerful man in the world.

For months he has been stockpiling more and more powerful weapons through rogue states such as Venezuela. They are arrayed in major population areas, in churches and schoolyards and hospitals, in areas where the people are terrified to resist. And, unbeknownst to US border agents, his minions have been digging deep and elaborate labyrinths of tunnels that lead miles into US territory. The tunnels are ostensibly to smuggle drugs – Sinaloa distributes drugs all over the US – but they also serve a second insidious purpose. Despite the fact that the US is his biggest collective client, Guzman loathes the US for putting a multi-million dollar bounty on his head; he has designed a terrorist attack in which hundreds of his minions will come out of the tunnels at once, set siege to a half-dozen US border towns, slaughter hundreds of their citizens and kidnap others to use as ransom bait to get his mules released from US prisons.

As a preliminary show of his power, Guzman – whose cartel is largely responsible for 10,000 deaths in Ciudad Juarez in the last four years – orders the kidnapping and murder of three teenage boys in El Paso, Texas, leaving their bodies buried in a shallow grave. The rockets follow – volleys of hundreds and hundreds of rockets directed at a dozen US cities and towns, some of which sit miles from the Mexican border. The purpose is terror and death.

What would you do, Mr. President? What would you do?

The White House has castigated Israel for its use of force in Gaza in similar circumstances. The President has emboldened Hamas by laying the blame at Israel for attacking UN schools and hospitals that double as terrorist hangouts and rocket launchers. But what would our own government do if El Paso started to look like S’derot, a ghost town abandoned due to fear of constant rocket attacks from across the border? What would our own government do if the rockets became powerful enough to hit not just Nogales and Juarez but Tuscon and Phoenix and San Diego?

What would you do?

The American people would rise up as one, even those safely away from the border, and demand that the attacks stop by all means possible. They would demand the American military cross into Mexico, lay waste to the Cartel’s arsenal, blow up the tunnels, and accept civilian casualties in Mexico as the cost of keeping our country safe.

It is time for the US, but not just the US, to acknowledge that Israel is uniquely and perpetually at risk for its very existence because Hamas has been given free reign by the international community to build a network of terror instead of an infrastructure of prosperity. It is time to stop blaming the victims for standing up to a violent and bloody bully – one that the US itself acknowledges as a terrorist organization. It is time for our leaders to acknowledge that they would, given circumstances like this, do exactly what Israel has done. It is time.

©2014 Audrey R. Korotkin