The core of the issue

“Whoever destroys a Jewish life is considered to have destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a Jewish life is considered to have saved an entire world.” In Jewish thought, this construct does not serve as merely a theoretical and ethical truth, but as a practical directive. Our heritage is rich in treasured laws and values, but when their application threatens human life, their practice is temporarily suspended. This concept has resounded within the consciousness of the world at large: the protection of human life has been accepted as the fundamental reason for the existence of governments. As the US Constitution proclaims, the very first purpose of a government is to provide its citizens with “life.” To apply this concept to the present situation in the Land of Israel: Although almost 30 years that have passed since the Six-Day War, and despite efforts by all the world powers, there is no immediate sign of peace. Now if anyone wants to stop treading water and make real progress, he has to put first things first, identify his issue of primary concern and make it the focus of his argument. The question of primary concern to Israel is obvious: What is the course of action that will protect Jewish – and for that matter, Arab – lives most effectively? (We mention Jewish lives first. Although all humans are created “in the image of Gd,” and every life must be cherished, the Torah teaches Jews to place Jewish life as the highest priority. And slightly more than 50 years after the world stood idly by as a third of our people were annihilated, no further explanation is necessary. We have learned that if we do not stand up for ourselves, no one else will.) Many Americans live far away from tragedy, and we often view a death as a statistic. We react to a report on a terrorist attack by counting the numbers. “They got three of ours, but we killed four of theirs. So we won.” Not only is such an approach callous; it misses the entire point. The question should not be who killed more, but how to prevent killing. In the pages that follow, we will examine several dimensions of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Over and above all, our focus will be guided by the principle stressed above – the preservation of life.

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