YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

O.C. Jews Praise Israel for Its Policy of Restraint Despite Iraqi Missiles



The Hebrew word for patience was being used and its message supported by local Jewish leaders Tuesday even as Israel was stung by the most destructive missile offensive yet.

"Israel refuses to be provoked by the neighborhood bully," said Rabbi Mark Miller of Temple Bat Yahm in Newport Beach. "Israel is waiting for the best opportunity to deliver its own counterpunch. The long-range pressure is mounting with each strike, but it appears Israel is seeing this situation in the larger context."

With a few exceptions, Orange County Jews were holding fast to a policy of restraint, allowing the military response to be delivered by the U.S.-led multinational forces. Their reactions were delivered with growing concern after Tel Aviv was hit with an Iraqi Scud missile attack, killing at least three people and injuring dozens more.

But at the Chabad Center in Yorba Linda, news of the attack was prompting a quite different response from Rabbi David Eliezrie.

"I think Israel should attack, but using its intellect, not its heart and make a blow on Iraq which will destroy its ability to continue warmongering on innocent civilian individuals," Eliezrie said. "Today's events prove the need (for Israelis) to depend upon themselves and nobody else."

Aliza Pasandi, a native of Jerusalem who has lived in the United States for the past 10 years, predicted Israel would have to strike soon.

"Israel has the right to go in and finish the guy," Pasandi said at the Chabad Center, "and they're going to do it--fast and hard."

For Mali Leitner, director of the Jewish Community Center in Garden Grove, war's concussions are being felt in Orange County. In a Friday telephone conversation with her brother-in-law in Tel Aviv, Leitner said she learned a chandelier had been knocked loose from her parents' home in a previous missile attack. But she was relieved to know her family was safe.

"It's scary, but these people believe in God," Leitner said. "It's more of a psychological war for them. They are having to wear their gas masks and are running to their sealed rooms."

Leitner, too, expressed support for a policy of restraint, but said the situation would probably be reassessed with each new missile attack.

"My brother-in-law was telling me that (President) Bush is doing a good job."

Rabbi Richard Ettelson of Congregation B'nai Tzedek in Fountain Valley condemned Tuesday's attack, but said he had "complete confidence in the alliance."

"I'm not the one who has to put on the gas mask and run to a shelter," Ettelson said. "The Israeli people are very, very strong people. If any country can withstand something like this, the Israelis can. This is a time when we need to maintain cool heads."

Just days ago in a Costa Mesa address, Rabbi Alexander M. Schindler of New York, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, was commending the United States for its support of Israel but warned of the mounting pressure on the Israeli government.

"Could anyone really blame Israel were it to respond?" Schindler asked in his Saturday address to the Hebrew congregations. "How many shocks must it absorb before reacting? How many dead and wounded must there be before a retaliation is sanctioned? The head says no, but the heart cries otherwise. If you prick us, do we not bleed?"

Bill Shane, president of the Orange County Jewish Federation, said that with Tuesday's destruction, a counterattack would not be unjustified.

"I think that Israel continues to say that they will respond with the appropriate measures at the appropriate time," Shane said. "I don't think that position has changed whatsoever, and I fully expect that Israel will pick its time and place."

But he said he is confident that any response will be in cooperation with the multinational force opposing Iraq.

"The war is not Iraq versus Israel, but Iraq versus the multinational force," he said. "But there will be a time and a place when Israel must respond accordingly."

Times Staff Writers Zion Banks and Maria Newman contributed to this story.

Los Angeles Times Articles