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A Time to Fight
Mom with a View

A Time to Fight

When intruders enter your home and threaten your family, there's no choice but to fight.


No one is pro-war. No one is pro-torture. But there is a definite distinction between those who believe that under certain circumstances war is the only possible response and those who say never; between those who sanction torture where lives could legitimately be saved and those who say never.

I'm not talking about strategy here -- whether it puts American or Israeli soldiers at greater risk of being tortured if we employ those tools or not (although I can't stop myself from suggesting that today's enemies, today's terrorists, don't feel themselves bound by any conventions, Geneva or otherwise). I'm talking about what's right, what's moral, and what's at the root of the divide.

At the risk of making enemies (although hopefully not the violent kind), I can't help thinking that the distinction between those who would use force in an attempt to end greater destruction and those who wouldn't has little to do with politics and a lot to do with real caring.

It's easy to be a pacifist when we don't feel particularly threatened.

It's easy to be a pacifist when we don't feel particularly threatened -- if we don't, for example, live in Israel, if we avoid planning trips there, if no one in our family serves in the military. It's a lot harder when it hits closer to home. What if our husbands, wives, children were threatened by an armed intruder? Would we use violence to defend them? To prevent their rape or murder? Of course. It's only because those other Jews aren't as real to us, that their lives don't fully matter to us, that we can be dismissive of their battle.

And I think the damage of pacifism is even deeper. If we have nothing worth putting our lives on the line for, nothing worth dying for, then what is our life about? What does it mean? We gauge our life's purpose by those values we hold inviolate, by the truths and people we would fight for, risk everything for. (I don't think golf makes the list.)

I was once engaged in a heated discussion with an anti-war activist. He suggested that the American soldier who throws himself on his grenade to save his comrades is no different from a suicide (homicide) bomber who blows himself (and innocent others) up in order to...well that part isn't very clear. After I got over my initial outrage (and bit my tongue and kept the conversation polite), I felt sad. It was sad that he couldn't see the difference, sad that he failed to see the former's bravery and the latter's cowardice. I felt sad for him that there was no one for whom he would take a bullet, nothing to him more precious that existence. (And sad for me since this was a close family member!)

No one wants to fight. I am not a warmonger. And I'm certainly neither wise enough nor experienced enough (at all) to argue the legitimacy of torture. But I do believe that the willingness to use force depends on having causes you care about more than life itself -- life alone is not a goal -- and people you care about more than life itself. What parent wouldn't risk their life to save their children's? What parent of a sick child hasn't prayed "take me instead"?

We just don't look at our fellow Jews (even in our city, let alone the rest of the world) as our children, our family. And as the Almighty's children.

And our lives are diminished. Without having people or goals to fight for, our lives have less depth and less permanence, not more. It's an illusion to think there is a safe way to live life. The Almighty's hand is far-reaching. And safe is also empty. And lonely. Without risk, we never grow. Without risk, nothing matters. Without values and people to risk for, what can the safe life mean? We shouldn't look for war; we should pray for peace. But if war threatens our people, our land, our nation, then it's like intruders in our home threatening our family. And there's no choice but to fight.

November 24, 2007

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Visitor Comments: 14

(14) Dvirah, November 29, 2007 2:19 PM

A Quote

Robert Heinlein, a science fiction writer whose work spans some 8 decades, has this to say (thru one of his characters) on pacifism: "Pacifism is a shifty doctrine under which a man (read, person) accepts the benefits of the social group without being willing to pay - and claims a halo for his dishonesty."
As Rabbi Salomon would say, something to think about.

(13) Daniela, November 29, 2007 12:50 PM

Don't forget, terrorists are braggarts !

This is something people in the know keep forgetting and others are ignorant of - when someone in prison is a true terrorist and has committed atrocities, it doesn't take that much to get any information out of them! They love to brag! The ones who go through the most abuse are usually the ones who don't have any information to give. It's often feelings of revenge and morbid power plays on the part of American interrogators that create the most abuse, while the Israelis know when to stop. The most that has to be done in the way of torture is necessary for information on names of others and future plans, and even then it doesn't take that much. If they're fooled into thinking they'll get publicity for it, they'll sing like birds.

(12) Elissa Grunwald, November 28, 2007 7:14 PM

In the New York Post August 2007 there was a 3" by 6" article called PETA and the Jihadist Bee. The article stated that after "Farfour" an adorable Mickey Mouse like character was murdered on Hamas-owned Al Aqsa TV in the Gaza strip by a "Israeli official" after refusing to sell his land to the Jews television. Now a new favorite children's character has emerged on children's television called Nahoul. This giant sized bee called Nahoul when asked by a child-co-host asked how the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem can be liberated from the Jews, the Big Bee replies: By means of prayer, blood, sacrifice and pain, by way of Martyrs and with endurance. This is the Key!"
Nahoul is then described as going to the Gaza Zoo to "Torment the animals". As Nahoul the Jihadist Bee grabs a cat by its tail, laughter is heard loud in the studio audience filled with little Palestinian children in the studio audience. PETA People for the Ethical Teaching of Animal made a complaint with the article quoting the PETA spokesperson saying "Teaching people to respect the most defenseless of animals helps people to respect each other." Well, respect for our fellow human beings, children and other world inhabitants these countries in the Middle East have along way to go! Sudan is now going to give 40 lashes 2 a kind looking elderly woman because the kids named a teddy bear Mohammad? I am curious to know how PETA plans on educating proponents horror, who encourage the deaths of sons and daughters and begin this terrorist mentality at the earliest age. When you say no one is pro war or pro torture I beg to differ. Did you see the Hamas demonstrations during the Annapolis convention? Looks scary to me and totally pro death doesnt matter whose. Teaching children to hate, murder, torture maim and dismember at such a peaceful age.
To push blowing up their children and brainwashing the kids in pre-school.
We sit teaching V'ahavta Lyrayach hacamocha, good middos and we pray for peace. We dip our hand in honey and teach the Aleph-beis and dream about the good our ancestors filled the world with and beg to remain around their burial sites! Well the world is renouncing prayer and who will defend us if not us. How can we rationalize with irrationals and now we are having field trips in the Public schools to Mosques in hopes to sensitize us to the plight of others?
Altruism is different and in some it is instinct like when a mother will jump in front of a car to protect the infant who ran in the street. We are Humane humans. As mother's we protect teach and love our children. Create for them a life that is meaningful and hope that they will live and teach and give to all the world and fulfill their G-d given mission to be fruitful and give to the world as a whole....All mankind....we teach creation and not to destroy. We have to tip toe aroung pathological liars and their supporters who do not care to look at fact and history. The world is scared and are looking to appease the unappeasable. I hope we fight to exist and to help others achieve, live and love and protect your our family. Kol Yisrael Aveirim Zeh la Zeh. I do not believe in Torture but in counseling a mother whose child was found blown to smithereens while eating lunch with her friends the family is tortured and we mourn while the suicide bombers parents party. This is reality! Killing is evil and torture wrong but what would you do if your house was surrounded and your wife and children were in there petrified do you act ? Or watch them be tortured and murdered while their killers smile. Never again! EG

(11) jacqueline Mamoni, November 28, 2007 11:45 AM

Its Jewish Law

I also grew up with this kind of guilt about violence , my conservative parents wouldnt dream of fighting back,,But self defense is Jewish Law. After i had children i knew and understood this.Learn self defense,learn to shoot and own a firearm, be prepared.. Go to and type in Jackie Mason..

(10) Helen Stanbro, November 28, 2007 4:11 AM

another difference

You point out the difference between sacrificing one's life to save one's comrades vs. suicide bombing. There is also a difference between feeling something is worth dying for, vs worth killing for. Or torturing for. Many pacifists would be willing to die for their beliefs, but not kill for them. And there are gradations in between. I would have no problem killing people who were attacking my family, but I hope I would not be willing to torture them. I hope, but I don't know, and I also hope I am never presented with that choice. Until we are, let's not be too quick to pass judgement on those who have had to make that decision.

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