written for a post-Shavuot action with IfNotNow
Israel and the 10 Commandments
As Israel bombs Gaza, and rains death upon the open-air prison they run on that 100-square-mile patch in south western Palestine, they have given their massacre a name. “Shomer ha-ḥomot” or “Guardian of the Walls”. This references a line from the prophet Isaiah, where God says that She will place guardians around Jerusalem’s walls. The IDF often combs through Jewish holy text, to find monikers for their offensives. Not content with damage to life and property, and desperate to legitimize their violence, they rend Torah and tradition in two, to clothe their violence in the scraps left over from their shredding of our prophetic, peace-loving tradition.
So, today, we wanna set the record straight. Only a little over a week ago, our muslim siblings celebrated laylat al-qadr, the night when the Quran was received from the heavens. And just yesterday, we held festival for the day when Moses received the Torah on Mt. Sinai.
In honor of these revelations, we wanna go through the core of our Torah, the 10 commandments, to let it be known how far Israel’s actions have strayed from the path Hashem has laid out.
I am the Lord thy God
If Hashem is the spirit that infuses all the universe, and each human being is made in Her image, how can we say we are serving God while oppressing her children and prematurely stealing the life God planted within them?
Thou shalt have no other gods before me
The Torah makes it clear that this isn’t just about praying to a Greek statue or a wooden idol. In the Psalms, She says “Do not trust in earthly rulers because they are made of dust and cannot save you. Do not trust in military might, in horses or arms or soldiers or armies. It is through me, and only through me, that the lowly are brought high and the powerful are brought low.”
The rightwing power in Israel, when surveyed, says they believe that the most important part of being Jewish is serving as a soldier in the IDF. Above any tradition, concept, practice or creed. The military has replaced torah and divinity as the pillar of our people, for them. They have placed another God before Her.
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image
If military might and demographic control are the Gods of the IDF, then they are doubly sinful in the ways they engrave and etch those idols into the land, erecting false-gods of stone in the form of walls, to lay claim to a land that Hashem makes clear is Hers. In Leviticus and throughout torah, she states: “Ki li ha’aretz”, the land is mine - it is God’s, and does not belong to any army or nation state.
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain
When they claim to fulfill the prophecies of Hashem while they, in express defiance to her commandments, “fill Her land with blood” - any invocation of Hashem on their tongues is in vain.
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy
When the IDF runs bombing campaigns on Shabbat. When it enforces closures on entire palestinian villages so that checkpoint soldiers can go home for Sukkot and Shavuot. When it uses our holy days as excuses to enforce imprisonment on others - are they remembering the day? Are they keeping it holy?
Honour thy father and thy mother
How many Palestinian mothers and fathers have been killed, have had their children ripped from their hands, have been dishonoured, dismembered. We are Jews, and every single one of our fathers and mothers has been a stranger, and has felt the blows from those who prioritized their ethnic borders over our humanity. Our entire people was born of a slave revolt that catapulted us from narrowness to expanse. When we blockade Gaza, when we enforce ethnic cleansing and demographic terror, when we inflict on Gaza the same pain we have known - whose parents are being honored?
Thou shalt not murder
When the IDF rips its operation titles from the same torah which commands this, God wants to laugh, but cries instead.
Thou shalt not commit adultery
If we are wedded to justice, if we are betrothed in covenant to Hashem, and yet we flirt with the path of war, apartheid and massacre; pursue lustful alliance with the wealth of the West; succumb to our hatred, let it guide and overtake us. This is moral and spiritual adultery.
Thou shalt not steal
- life, property, wealth, land, flesh, breath, joy, hope, movement, sovereignty, dignity, freedom, and on and on and on. This occupation, this blockade, these bombardments. This military, in wanton brazen disregard for our Torah and her mitzvot, has racked up quite a tab
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour
How many children are imprisoned without cause, languishing in Israeli prisons? Trumped up charges. Contrived testimony. False witnesses. How many are being tortured into admissions of guilt? Are they not our neighbors? Our brethren? Our siblings? Our kin??
Thou shalt not covet
- what is not yours. If only the IDF coveted mercy, morality and justice as much as it coveted control, might and power. If only our people coveted peace over demography, and diasporic justice over national nothingness. If only we coveted what is already ours - a stake in the divine oneness that unites us all - and cast off all of these other unholy desires. If only we coveted justice instead.
Each Shavuot we make the choice to renew our covenant with Hashem. This is not just a choice of what we shall do. It’s also a choice of what we shall not allow. Our covenant is broken as long as the IDF can claim a part in it. This year, will we pick a side? Will we clarify our shalls and shall-nots? Will we serve the Oneness with every bone and body, voice and heart, and fight like hell against this assault on Her core teachings and essence?
Anything less, I’m afraid, and we won’t be pulling our weight. If our Torah is worth anything, it’s worth everything we’ve got.