The Jewish people just witnessed the Holocaust trauma of our nightmares playing out in real time updates, and instead of the world seeing evil as it is, unequivocally, instead too many people explained that “the complicated history needs context.” Instead academics in Harvard, Penn, Columbia, and Cornell, are justifying the evil, while their students celebrate it. We feel dread thinking of 240 hostages, held by the barbaric Hamas, as cold-hearted people rip down flyers, calling babies “occupiers.”
Most corporations and celebrities have remained silent on the atrocities done to Israeli civilians, when they spoke up for everyone else. And the real clincher it that even as our enemies rejoice in our carnage, deniers of the attack are all over the internet claiming the beheadings, burnings and rapes never took place, including from news outlets like Reuters, which put out a video saying that footage from a Bruno Mars concert was being used to claim teens were running from terrorists. This was a slight of the hand. They tried to discredit the 260 peace loving teens at the rave in southern Israel who certainly were gunned down last Saturday.
For the Jews who have marched with every oppressed group – and that is most Jews – the silence, the betrayal is a gut punch they will never recover from.
But maybe that’s the plan. Jews everywhere are feeling increasingly alone, isolated, gaslighted, misunderstood. In Europe, a French man was stabbed, murdered in a hate crime. In London, a kosher restaurant was vandalized. In Germany, a Molotov cocktail was thrown at a synagogue. At Columbia University, an Israeli student was attacked with a stick for hanging posters of our hostages. And the Jewish students were locked into their Hillel building by the NYPD to keep them safe from the pro-Hamas rally on campus. The tactic of locking Jews into a space to protect them from violence was done in the 1200’s in Girona, Spain when the Jews paid the king for protection and he locked them in the ghetto every night.
As all of this is going on, we are seeing posts of the 1400 slain Jews on social media, one by one. A national pain almost too much to bear. One could understandably be lost for words at a time like this, which is exactly why the psalmist, King David, gave us language, for when we can’t find our own.
“From the depths I called out to you God; O Lord, listen to my cry; let Your ears be attentive to my plea for mercy.” Psalm 130
“I look to the heavens (in exasperation, wondering) from where will my help come? My helper is God, Maker of the heavens and the earth. He will not let your foot give way; your guardian will not slumber; He will not let your foot give way; your guardian will not slumber; The LORD is your guardian, the LORD is your protection at your right hand. By day the sun will not strike you, nor the moon by night. The LORD will guard you from all harm; He will guard your life. The LORD will guard your going and coming now and forever.” Psalm 121
As it feels like we are in a vice, with few allies to look to for support, we can honestly say, “From the straits I called out to God. God answered me with expansiveness.” Psalm 118
Our people have been through generations of trauma and that has left many Jews far from God. It’s understandable. But we need to break that cycle of distance.
Sarah Silverman just posted on Instagram this week that she finds herself praying, even though she is godless. Several of my atheist friends have told me they are also praying. We posted a poll on Instagram asking men if they’d start laying tefillin for the safety of Israel. 95% said they would. We have connected many of them to an organization that provides tefillin for men who want to wear it. (Check out kosherproject.com if you will take this mitzvah on for Israel.) We asked women in a poll if they would commit to lighting Shabbos candles every week. We got hundreds of responses and 100% of them said yes.
The Jewish people got too comfortable over the last several decades as we had a reprieve from extreme violent antisemitic attacks. We got too comfortable with Israel, thinking it was our army, our might that protected us. The Jewish people’s continued existence is only by the grace of God. As is the state of Israel. And so, while we God forbid, could have multiple fronts attacking us, from Hezbollah up north to Iran, when God is on our side, we have protection from everything.
Right now, we are responding correctly. We have united, we are giving unprecedented amounts of tzedaka (charity), doing acts of kindness, participating in Torah study and prayer. Two days ago, the mullahs in Iran threatened Israel with an earthquake if they don’t stop fighting Hamas. Then yesterday, Iran had an earthquake, hopefully only destroying military capabilities and not its many citizens who love peace and the Jewish people.
We are all terrified, but it is the perfect time to put our differences aside with our fellow Jews and turn our hearts and hope to God. “Turn your hope to God; be strong and be filled with courage; turn your hope to God.” Psalm 27:14