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Rabbi's Update 11/22/2023

Dear Friends:

Before sharing with you some thoughts on recent events, I want to draw your attention to some schedule adjustments due to the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. I will not be holding my drop-in hours tomorrow (if you were hoping to get out of helping with Thanksgiving prep by coming to speak with me I am sorry to disappoint you). The office will be closed tomorrow and Friday and there will be no minyan Thursday evening. Shabbat morning services will be held on Zoom only as several “regulars” are either traveling or feeling under the weather and it seems unlikely that we would get the ten in-person attendees necessary for the Torah service.

As you certainly know, an agreement was reached yesterday evening between Israel and Hamas which calls for a four day pause in the fighting, release of 50 Israeli and international hostages held by Hamas, release of 150 female and teenage prisoners being held in Israeli jails, and the admission of several hundred trucks with humanitarian aid. The pause in the fighting can continue beyond the initial four days if 10 additional hostages are released per day. The whole agreement is supposed to go into effect at 10 a.m. local time tomorrow which is 3 a.m. our time.

Winston Churchill once said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all others which have been tried. I suspect that many of us feel the same about this agreement -- it is the worst resolution except for all other resolutions. It is definitely a good thing that a large number of hostages will be released and that the humanitarian crisis facing civilians in Gaza will be eased. But this deal still leaves almost 200 hostages in captivity and could potentially be an opportunity for Hamas to rearm and recover.

As of this writing there are almost 17 hours until the deal goes into effect and a lot can happen between now and then. This agreement does not deal with a longer term resolution of the crisis and I cannot imagine any conceivable Israeli government agreeing to a situation in which Hamas remains in control of Gaza indefinitely. But assuming that Hamas can be removed from power, what happens next? A return to direct Israeli control (which Israel says it does not want)? Returning Gaza to the control of the Palestinian Authority (which they also say they do not want)? Some sort of international presence? I have no idea what arrangements are both possible and desirable -- but we can certainly share in the joy of the families and friends of those hostages who will, if all goes according to plan, soon be freed.

As a reminder, I am having drop-in hours on Thursday afternoons from 2 to 4 at the shul. There will be no drop-in hours tomorrow due to Thanksgiving. You do not need to make an appointment -- that would negate the whole point of drop-in hours -- but I’d urge you to check and make sure I am there regardless as sometimes there are unavoidable pastoral or other emergencies which might take me away from the building.

As always, if I can do anything for you or you need to talk, please contact me at or 301-977-0768 rather than through the synagogue office. I am happy to meet you at the synagogue by appointment. I have been spending more time in the synagogue recently but if you want to speak with me it’s best to make an appointment rather than assuming I will be there when you stop by.


Rabbi Charles L. Arian

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