The war with Hamas erupted four weeks ago when about 3,000 Hamas terrorists infiltrated Israel and perpetrated a massacre in towns surrounding the Gaza Strip. 1,400 people, mostly civilians, were killed. There are still about 200 remains to be identified from that Black Shabbat. 242 Israelis were taken hostage — at least 33 children, others are people with disabilities. Hamas kidnapped a 9-month-old baby. Many of the hostages are peace activists who live in kibbutzim that support peace initiatives and work for Palestinian rights and a two-state solution.
Since October 7th, anti-Semitism throughout the world has exploded. The news is filled with incidents of harassment, vandalism, threats, and assaults. On October 24, the ADL reported a 388-percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents.
Suddenly, people with whom we worked side by side to further social justice, inclusion, diversity, and other liberal priorities are turning against Jews, blaming Jews for the terrorism and barbaric violence on October 7th. Some of us have felt shocked at the sudden appearance of an abyss of misunderstanding between us and friends or co-workers, who say words that are meant well, such as, “It’s hard to know who is right.” (It is not hard to know who is right. Terrorism and the beheading of babies is never right or justified.)
The viewpoint that Hamas are freedom fighters and therefore should be celebrated, and that their acts of brutality are justified, comes in part due to the rise in oppressor/ oppressed dichotomy that has been taught as part of the social justice movement disseminated over the last ten years. It denies the long history of Jews in the land of Israel and the right of Israel to exist.
On our college campuses, including my alma mater Cornell University, many of our students are being threatened, and while some campuses are stepping up to defend the Jewish students others are not. High school seniors are (and correctly so) reevaluating their choices for college applications as they look for schools that are safe for Jewish students.
The Jewish people are people of peace. Working toward peace is part of the framework of who we are. We did not want this war. When we were attacked and forced into war due to the existential threat posed by Hamas, we warned the civilians to evacuate. We gave them time to evacuate. We know that Hamas uses schools, hospitals, and mosques to shield their military installations and that their tunnels and warehouses were directly under these public spaces. The civilians would not be safe if they stayed. However, Hamas limited the movement because they use the tactic of human shields to ensure that sympathies would turn against the Jews.
Israel has created a corridor of safety to enable citizens to evacuate from the battlefield. Did Hamas help? No, rather they attacked the IDF as they attempted to create the corridor. Hamas cares more about killing Jews than protecting their own people.
We, too, mourn the slaughter in Gaza. We cry for the Palestinian civilians killed, injured, and afraid; we ache for the mothers about to give birth without access to care; we worry about the lack of access to water, food, medicine, and electricity.
But we ache, too, for the parents whose daughters were violated and raped right in front of them, the children who watched their parents die, and for all the families who are terrified, wondering about the safe return of their children and loved ones held hostage somewhere in the dark, in the tunnels below Gaza City. That truly is the definition of terrorism, and it is never justified.
The goal of Hamas is not retribution, it is to obliterate all Jews in Israel and around the world.
The bottom line is that Israelis (Jews, Arabs, and Bedouins who live together as citizens) have a right to live in safety in the state that was legally created in 1948, in a land that has been our homeland for thousands and thousands of years.
What do we do?
– Keep up on the news. I listen to the Times of Israel Daily Briefing a 15-minute audio update. I also keep an eye on JTA.
– College Students, Faculty, and other College Staff: Join the IDF Media Spokesperson on Tuesday, Nov 7 from 6-6:45 pm MT for a unique opportunity to hear what is going on Register here>> (I’ve heard him talk before – don’t miss this!)
– Review your history PBS Crash Course gives a good overview
– Use your social media to continue reminding the world about the hostages and Israel’s right to exist. The social media feeds of our youth are erupting with anti-Semitic posts. Please push back with pro-Jewish posts. There are a zillion out there you can share! We are trying to use the Adventure Rabbi Facebook page to share other’s posts. This is a time to use social media and please help your children to use theirs for good.
– Use online resources such as this
– Be proud that you are Jewish and part of a people who, despite the world’s continual attempt to annihilate us, has survived.
– Attend Jewish events and if you have children, educate them Jewishly. The JCC has many great events.
– Financially support Jewish news outlets and organizations helping Israel.
Be safe, be kind, be strong,
– Rabbi Jamie Korngold