Israeli family seeks shelter in parking garage as rocket sirens blare. / Getty Images
(JTA) — “In Tel Aviv, we expect the skies clear with a temperature of 32 degrees,” our pilot said upon taking off from Milan’s airport Wednesday, with no discernible hint of irony.
The thermometer in Tel Aviv did fill up — 32 degrees Celsius, 90 Fahrenheit — but the skies have, sadly, been far from clear. As the Israel Defense Forces’ Operation Protective Edge in Gaza finishes its second day, Israel’s coastal metropolis has experienced an unprecedented rain of rocket fire.
Enduring rocket attacks used to be the province of Israel’s north and south; Tel Aviv, by contrast, has derisively been called “the bubble,” a central-Israeli city of relaxed beach-goers removed from security threats to Israel.
Hamas aimed its first few rockets at Tel Aviv during its last conflict with Israel in 2012. On Tuesday, Tel Aviv endured several more volleys — all shot down by Iron Dome, Israel’s missile defense shield.
On the morning of our flight, two rockets headed for Ben-Gurion Airport, also intercepted by Iron Dome. When we descended onto Israel, our plane swooped in a semicircle north of Tel Aviv rather than flying directly over the city, a flight path altered to avoid potential rockets. When we entered the airport, just after the sign bidding us “Welcome to Israel,” another one pointed us to a bomb shelter.
Like many Jewish leaders, I have devoted the majority of my professional life to advocating on behalf of my denomination. Sometimes the need is concrete, other times ideological. From supporting the worldwide network of the 600-plus Conservative kehillot to agitating on behalf of a Judaism that is pluralistic, intellectually compelling and rooted in tradition, my religious identity is often inextricable from my personal Jewish “brand.”
Much of this is unavoidable. Not a month goes by without an invitation to speak about a topic of endless fascination to the Jewish public: the current state of Conservative Judaism. Whether joining together with the heads of my sister organizations to construct a wide lens view or honing on a particular geography — I will be moderating a panel discussion on the renaissance of Conservative Judaism on Manhattan’s East Side in December — I declare myself, time and again, a spokesperson for Conservative Judaism.
But I was reminded of the limits of denominationalism this past week in the course of my hastily arranged Solidarity Tour to Israel on Day 7 of Operation Pillar of Defense. Organized by the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, I joined with a group of North American Jewish leaders from United Synagogue to the Union for Reform Judaism to the Orthodox Union to the Jewish Federations of North America and other Zionist groups.
Together, we visited the mayors of the cities most affected by Hamas missiles, the injured civilians and soldiers, the damaged property, the brave Israeli citizens under threat of extinction every single day. Together we met with Israeli president Shimon Peres. Together we boarded buses from Ashkelon to Beer Sheva to Jerusalem, united as Jews, representatives of our denominations, yes, but stripped of the agendas that occupy us back in our offices in North America.
After an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire kicked in last night, the Israel-Gaza border has been calm today. The residents of Southern Israel can once again go about their business without running for cover, and residents of Gaza no longer have Israeli planes overhead, striking terrorist targets but also scaring and sometimes killing or harming civilians.
However, it seems that most Israelis are against the ceasefire, or at least they were before it went in to force.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had a good idea that this was the case when he confirmed the ceasefire. “Now, I realize that there are citizens who expect a harsher military action and we may very well need to do that,” he said. “But at present, the right thing for the State of Israel is to exhaust this possibility of reaching a long-term cease-fire.”
Now, pollsters are presenting evidence for this feeling. According to Shiluv Millward Brown surveys for Israel’s Channel 2, some 70% of respondents were against a ceasefire a few hours it went in to effect.