I apologize for writing while it is still a Jewish holiday in the United States. I am currently in Jerusalem, where this morning we were awakened at 8:15 am by the sound of sirens preceding the booms of Iron Dome intercepting rockets launched from Gaza.
Many prayer services were cancelled this morning and people were asked to stay home, as sirens rang out (followed by booms) several times in the following hours. Given the holiday, we only had rumors and incomplete information about what was happening this morning, and it was only later in the day that the extent of today’s tragedy became clear.
An unprecedented attack took place from Gaza, almost 50 years to the day after the start of the Yom Kippur war (according to the Western calendar). Hundreds of terrorists infiltrated towns in the area, shooting indiscriminately, attacking families, and taking hostages. As of me writing this, 250+ Israelis were killed in the attack, and more than 1500 injured. Dozens were captured and taken back to Gaza – children, women, elderly, as well as soldiers. Those numbers are expected to rise.
It is unclear how many terrorists entered across the border; fighting is still happening in several towns. Reservists from all over the country have been called up – there is something heartwrenching when you see a religious soldier wearing a kipa (yarmulke) on Shabbat/chag, kissing their kid goodbye, getting into a car and driving off to meet their unit. I saw that sight several times today.
The reality is that there will be – NO…there IS a war and it will likely be very painful.
So…why am I writing now?
First – it is important that people who care and with a connection to Israel and the Jewish people appreciate the magnitude of what is happening. This will not be a brief engagement with minimal collateral damage, as has happened before. Already the numbers affected dwarf anything that has happened to this country in the past decades. Some have described this as Israel’s September 11th. EVERYONE knows someone affected – someone killed or injured, someone missing, or someone called up. This is still a small country and the ripple effects of what happens here are felt widely.
Second – there should be no doubt or confusion that those who committed this attack are seeking to kill Jews. There is no interest on their part in coexistence or peace with Israel. This is not about how Israel treats Gaza. Those in charge in Gaza, such as Hamas, are not doing this primarily as part of a political strategy to gain concessions; they are not interested in coming to terms with Israel or finding a path that doesn’t involve violence. They are attacking Israel because a Jewish state exists and they can’t abide that. The people of Gaza, as well as Israelis, pay the price for this extremism.
Third – those who would say that this is somehow Israel’s fault or: “if only Israel had behaved differently and done/not done X, Y, or Z…” are delusional, actively buying into double standards, or embracing the idea that Israel shouldn’t be here and should be destroyed. I don’t see any way around that conclusion. And, just to be clear, that has nothing to do with support for Palestinian rights or self-determination or a two-state solution. There’s an expression – just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. We see that here. I appreciate that many in the West like to avoid conflicts; sometimes they are unavoidable and being prepared to defend yourself doesn’t make you the “bad guy” in the story.
And lastly – this is a time to put differences aside and show solidarity and support. After a very tough period of internal divisions and struggles in Israel, we see all sides coming together to respond and protect the country. Yes…there are many questions which will need to be addressed about how we came to this point – but this is not the time.
This should also be true for us in America, regardless of how we feel about Israel’s policies. As we said in response to Ukraine, natural disasters, and other tragedies – when the Jewish people are at risk or need help, we step up and are there for them.
We want to show our solidarity for the people of Israel and Jews around the world at this time. That’s why we have a Jewish Federation…to enable our community to come together and address challenges, make a difference, and strengthen the Jewish people.
We have opened up a special fund to show support for our friends and family in Israel. We encourage you to show your support. Make a donation
We will share more updates in the days and weeks ahead. We encourage you to follow the news and connect with loved ones in Israel. They would appreciate your support.
Best wishes for the remainder of the holiday. Chag Sameach. And thank you.