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A Terrifying Applause

Today, my Facebook newsfeed is awash with news from Israel. Rockets, retaliations, airstrikes. My screen is cluttered with homemade videos of the paralyzed city of Ashkelon, camera shots from Israeli Air Force jets targeting Gaza, and professional films from the soldiers manning the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) Iron Dome missile system.


But in between the articles and pictures are photos of my friends who recently finished their final training course in the IDF. They are graduating flight school, paratrooper, and Navy special warfare school. Their uniforms are a size too big, their berets a size too small. Their hair is cropped short, and an oversized rifle is slung over their shoulders. They look happy but uncertain. They are proud of their accomplishments, but apprehensive about what lies ahead.


A week ago, my Facebook was flooded with very different messages. Friends attending the AIPAC conference posted videos of Obama and Netanyahu, Santorum and Romney. The speakers in these video snippets all discussed the possibility of military action against Iran, and each, with his own level of triumphalism, kept “all options on the table.” Each remark promising a military strike on Iran was met with a round of applause and, more often than not, a standing ovation.


Yet I wonder how many people in the AIPAC conference crowd of 14,000 fully understood the magnitude of the words they so eagerly applauded. I wonder who among those 14,000 would stand up and cheer if they knew that their best friends or sons would be on the front lines of Israel’s next war – the inevitable consequence of a strike on Iran.


Another war would mean tens of thousands of rockets. It would mean a shell-shocked Galilee, and a South under a constant barrage of fire from Gaza and Lebanon. It would mean thousands of injured soldiers, tens if not hundreds of dead soldiers, and possible abductions. It would mean hundreds of civilian or unintended casualties on both sides.


It would mean a country forced to fight on multiple fronts and a country that would be forced to grieve.


Is this not reason enough to save what appears to be an insatiable appetite for war until after all diplomatic means are exhausted? The hawkishness with which politicians approach Iran and the eagerness with which American Jewish crowds swallowed up their words is distressing. War should never be given a round of applause.


No one would be cheering if all other options were exhausted and Israel were forced to attack Iran’s nuclear reactors. We would be keeping our televisions on over Shabbat and gathering in Synagogues in prayer. How so many people could continue to unabashedly applaud a military option with so many potentially horrific outcomes baffles my Israeli friends and should baffle all of us as well.


As I sift through the online pictures of my friends’ graduation ceremonies, I can’t help but sense a pit in my stomach. I think about Kyle, my old chavruta (study partner), manning the Israel-Lebanon fence, as he inevitably will in the next three years with the paratroopers. I re-watch the videos of Grad rockets falling into Ashkelon and Beer-Shevah. No country is ever ready for a war, especially not a country as small and as interconnected as Israel. We should pray for peace, not cheer for war.