DOREEN WACHMANN COLUMN
There are ways we can all help Israel

FIGHT or flight are classical instinctive responses to perceived danger. Both reactions have been in plentiful display since the brutal kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers last month and the simultaneous stepping up of rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza.

The fight response resulted in a dramatic escalation of the conflict with Hamas with Israeli citizens as far north as Nahariya miraculously remaining mainly physically intact but psychologically scarred cowering in bomb shelters and a mounting death toll of Gaza citizens cynically used as human shields by an Islamist terrorist organisation which glories in death and victimhood.

The flight mentality has been exhibited by Diaspora summer visitors hastily cancelling their travel arrangements to fly out to the Holy Land.

But psychologists advise slowing down rather than revving up when faced with perceived danger so that we can react with calm and flexibility rather than panic.

This message was endorsed in last week's haftorah in which God told the prophet Elijah, who had just slain the false prophets of Baal, that He was not in the wind, earthquake and fire but in the still, small voice.

Not that Elijah or Pinchas, whose sedra story mirrors that of the haftorah, were wrong to kill zealously in the name of God, but that transcendent calm, combined with quiet assertiveness are much more effective in the long run.

But it is nigh impossible to remain calm in a Middle East currently ravaged by Islamic fundamentalists butchering each other for religious supremacy.

For many years, ignorant and bigoted analysts blamed all the problems of the Middle East on Israel. Even though as soon as Israel kills some human shield civilians, that old chestnut comes back to roost, any serious analyst interested in anything more than second-long soundbites, must realise now that the reality is much more complex.

Rather than resulting in the stable democracies naively predicted by the Western world, the Arab Spring has unleashed a deadly mix of militant Shiites and Sunnis intent not only on killing each other in places like Syria and Iraq, but also on spreading their terror to the West.

In the middle of all this carnage lies little democratic, westernised Israel, besieged on all sides by raving jihadists as well as by western media and statesmen all too eager to point the finger at the Jewish state.

The latest flare-up in Gaza began not with the murder of the yeshiva students but with the West's softening of its stance towards Iran, Gaza's weapon supplier. The emboldened Gaza terror organisation was then finally able to pull off a unity deal with the Palestinian Authority which gave it further confidence to rain down rockets indiscriminately on Israel.

So how can one react calmly in such a situation?

The Israeli government certainly needs all the divine help it can get to make sure that the miracle preventing Israeli casualties keeps on coming and also that a solution is found which will bring greater stability to the region and help to reverse the world's negative image of Israel.

But we, who are living in the Diaspora, who do not even have a vote on Israel's political leadership, should not feel powerless. There is so much each one of us can do in this, Israel's and the world's, time of need.

This week began the three weeks of mourning leading up to Tisha b'Av which commemorates the destruction of the Temple. We are told that the second Temple was destroyed because of causeless hatred, with the Zealots often killing their fellow Jews, rather than uniting against their Roman enemy.

The way Islamists are killing each other in Syria and Iraq should be a lesson to us Jews on how not to behave. It has been said that God has mercy on Islamists because they pray five times a day and we only pray three times. But their current in-fighting could be their fatal flaw.

During these coming difficult weeks, we must have Jewish unity. Where there is unity there is strength. We should all unite behind our support for Israel and the Jewish people worldwide, putting aside all differences among us.

We must all try to refrain from criticising another Jew, whether it be an Israeli politician or the gabbai of your shul because he did not give you an aliya.

The historical tragedy of Tisha b'Av can only be reversed when we start to indulge in causeless love and respect rather than hatred.

As your Israeli relatives continue to cower in bomb shelters, don't feel helpless.

Continue to support Israel either by using your holiday ticket and supporting its tourist trade which suffered terribly during the Intifada, by backing the Jewish state in the media, by regular prayer and Torah study, or just by making every day a mitzva day after which you can put your head on the pillow knowing that you have helped someone and made a difference.

If we are united we will prevail. Am Yisrael chai!

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