Israeli Rabbi Shalom Hammer visited Temple Beth Torah in Humble Nov. 14 and offered insight on the Middle East situation from an Israeli soldier’s perspective. Earlier the same day, Israeli forces assassinated Ahmed Jabari, head of the Hamas military wing in Gaza City. Hammer stated: “I could not think of a more appropriate evening to have a presentation to inspire us about the land of Israel than on the day that Israel is now engaged in Operation Pillar of Cloud [against Gaza militants]. Hammer continued, “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand that Israel is faced on a consistent basis with an external enemy. Those external enemies reveal themselves daily, including today. We are surrounded by Arab, hostile countries that would like to thwart Israel’s existence and spew us into the sea.” Hammer indicated there is also a newer, internal enemy at play among Israeli youth, the so-called “Internet generation,” which demands instant gratification and instant satisfaction. “Studies have proven children are having a more difficult time communicating because they are constantly texting or in front of a computer,” said Hammer. The older generation, who understand people need to make sacrifice and to invest with earnestness in order to be successful, is slowly withering away. If [we] don’t breed patriots, patriotic spirit, patriotic earnestness, then it’s problematic for the country.” According to Hammer, four years ago, the Israel Defense Force (IDF) created a division of lecturers (including Hammer) charged with infusing soldiers with ideology and Zionism: “In Israel, where you have young men and women who have to mandatorily serve in the army for a period of two to three years; if they don’t understand what it is they are doing, and why they are expected to do it, it is far more threatening to the existence of the country and could cause the downfall of the country and certainly could deter the power and strength of an army.” Hammer shared some of the ideas he espouses to the IDF soldiers. “Our Jewish claim to the land of Israel has nothing to do with 1948 [the year of the establishment of the Jewish state of Israel],” said Hammer. “The Islamic claim to the land of Israel has nothing to with 1948. Our claim to Israel has everything to do with a man called Abraham, who was given as a gift from God, this piece of land over three thousand years ago. The Islamic claim to Israel goes back to when Muhammad, over a thousand years ago, was enroute to Mecca and stopped in Jerusalem, and therefore they claim it is one of the holy cities [of Islam]. This is why the conflict between Islam and the Jewish nation cannot be resolved by tactics, strategies or compromise of land. It never will happen because it’s not a political issue. It’s a religious one, that is why it is so passionate and so rooted in deep faith.” When asked for the general feeling in Israel on the recent U.S. presidential election, Hammer noted, “Israel has its own problems. We aren’t really sitting around thinking about Romney and Obama and who will be the President of the United States. It would be nice if Obama would be a little more overtly supportive, but Israel is going to do what it has to do.” Hammer is originally from Monsey, New York, but moved to Israel in 1990. He has served as an Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldier and chaplain, an educator at an Israeli yeshiva and as a rabbi in the United States, and has lectured around the world. Hammer quoted David Ben-Gurion as saying, “Israel is a wonderful country, in the wrong neighborhood.”  Photo: Israeli Rabbi Shalom Hammer, left, shared his perspective on the current conflicts in the Middle East with Rabbi Dan Gordon, right, and Humble's Temple Beth Torah congregation Nov. 14. Photo by Susan McFarland.

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