First, as a general rule, we are obliged to defend any community that is in danger, to the extent of our ability. If Israel needs defending, then we should defend it no less than any other community in danger.
Whatever we can do, for example, to assure that those who have sworn to destroy Israel will not attain the means to carry out this threat, we must do. This includes lobbying our representatives.
Then there is the matter of defending Israel from those who hurl vile accusations at Israel. Verbal assault needs to be repelled, and we must defend Israel if for no other reason than that vilification of Israel may be a preamble and preparatory for abandoning Israel and placing it in grave jeopardy.
In the present climate, we are well advised to think carefully about criticising Israel in publicy, as such criticism is likely to be twisted and distorted way beyond the intent of the critique
Another aspect of our defending Israel relates to Israel having opened its borders to every Jew who is in danger. Israel is a universal safe haven. It stands to reason that out of simple acknowledgement of the good bestowed on us, we owe Israel big time,
When Israel is attacked by lies and distortions, to stand by idly and say nothing, which is what "not defending" means, is to be guilty of not coming to the defense of our brethren, and of remaining silent in the face of character assasination. That is unacceptable.
Jewish tradition and law provide several Mitzvot that would encourage a person to volunteer to serve in the Israeli Army, if they choose to. First of all, it is a Mitzvah to make Aliyah to Israel- to become a permanent resident. In fact, many authorities believe it to be a Mitzvah that supersedes all others. In the course of making Aliyah, any male under the age of 26 and female under 24 is required to serve in the Israeli Army, with some exceptions.
Additionally, another commandment states 'לא תעמוד על דם רעך' - ‘Do not stand idly by the blood of one’s fellow’, (Leviticus 19:16) i.e. one must aid and protect your neighbor in times of threat or danger. The commandment at its simplest requires that we not ignore a potentially life-threatening situation that is immediately before us, like a person suffering a heart-attack on the sidewalk. However, one could extend the principle out for the person that wants to be more pro-active in protecting and defending their fellow Jew. In that sense, it would certainly be the fulfillment of a positive commandment to serve in the Israeli Army, whether one chooses to live there permanently or not.
The laws of when it is necessary for Israel to make war also include some guidelines for who should fight and who is exempt. Those who have been recently engaged, or just built a house may also be exempt (Deuteronomy 20:6-9).
Finally, one does not even need to move to Israel, sign up for a full three year commitment, or even fire a weapon to help the Israeli Army. ‘Volunteers for Israel’ allows someone committed to a safe and secure but with responsibilities in the world to help with simple tasks; cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc.; on a military base. It frees up a non-combat task for a combat trained member of the Army. You can learn more at http://www.vfi-usa.org/. Their tagline? ‘Do a Mitzvah’.
The Talmud relates that at Mount Sinai, we Jews bound ourselves to the covenant that includes being responsible one for the other (Shevuot/Oaths 39b). Both Theodor Herzl and Menachem Begin responded to this b’rit. Irrespective of the calendar’s date or the expanse of miles, we relate to each other. Does this demand an uncritical view of Israel, due to our covenant of unity? As Americans, we respond to the words of Carl Shurz, a Wisconsin Senator, who in 1872 challenged, “My country right or wrong; if right, to keep it right; if wrong, to make it right.” Our Sinaitic covenant bound us to honest and critical discernment as well as the unity of the people Israel. As we respond to the nations in which we reside in mature attitudes, can we do any less in critiquing Israel, a land we love and cherish? It is true that we, in the Diaspora, do not live in Israel nor do we serve in its military defense. But we support and defend it in our home countries. We have the responsibility not only to stand with Israel but to also vouchsafe its continued welfare as a democratic and Jewish state. In covenanting with our people and our homeland, we did not give up the right to critical thinking and personal opinion. But we need also be aware that each of our opinions and statements will be parsed by both Israel’s supporters as well as her detractors. So our responsibility is to “be careful of your words” (Avot 1:11)
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