Saturday, May 25, 2024 -
Print Edition

This time, it’s up to us

It’s been one month since the war began, since we have been living the words eit milchama ( “. . . for everything there is a time . . . a time for war”), words that on Oct. 7 still felt so fresh from the reading of Ecclesiastes on Sukkot.

One month since life, as we knew it, has been upended.

One month since October 7, 2023, the date that hurled us into a new epoch.

The post-October 7 era of Jewish history.

And after this one intense, profoundly sorrowful and simultaneously inspiring month of immersive life in Israel at war, I took a flight back to New York City. Deplaned, and experienced how different the fight here is.

Here, it is a war of words. A war of making a case. Also, a war of standing up against.

In Israel, obviously, it is the biggest war against.. It is the actual war. But the soldiers are fighting that battle, so the nation’s role is more one of love and support, and there is this gorgeous outpouring of love and support for the soldiers. As well as for each other. And for all the displaced families — our Jewish families.

Although there is the sense of having an existential threat at Israel’s border, there is also the sense of the current needs being quite practical.

We need to help get clothes to the newly displaces families, as well as so many sundry items that make up a life. We need and want to bake treats and cakes for the soldiers, so they feel our enormous embrace while they are away from their homes, their lives, while they are on military bases, needing to confront the deepest thoughts a soldier might have before he goes to war. And of course our embrace of those soldiers already at war.

There is a sense of needing to rebuild. Of amassing sweet and comforting toys for displaced children as they need to create their temporary lives until — if? — they return home to southern Israel.

There is tremendous uncertainty and pain. 
Of course, there is the profound grieving.
For those who were slaughtered, for those Jews in captivity, for those who survived Oct 7 physically, yet whose lives are destroyed. For the brave soldiers who have fallen in battle; for their lost pasts and the lost futures that had yet to come and now never will. There are endless heartrending shiva calls and funerals and memorials and stories of heroism and endless tears for all the beautiful young people whose lives were cut and whose parents are left as though amputated.

The rocket attack sirens that suddenly puncture the air, causing panic, are ongoing. The anxiety, fear, and trauma are high.

In New York City, the fight is against the those who deny the justice of Israel’s war.

The fight is against the fresh and terrifying wave of anti-Semitism.

Specifically, the fight seems to be against people in New York City who want to erase the Jewish Israelis, even children, who are in captivity.

In 2015, a picture of a beautiful Syrian boy, lying, looking dead, on a beach, went viral. He had been escaping with his family as a war refugee from Syria, when their boat capsized. The sight and plight of this little innocent child suffering the price of war was shattering. The world responded to the power of that photo.

These days on the Upper West Side, pictures of Jewish children in captivity that have been glued to lamp posts are being ripped off. Not even stealthily. People walk by and just rip them off with icy indifference to the sight and plight of a Jewish child’s suffering.

Who are the neighbors in our community who are ripping these posters of Jews in captivity? Some New Yorkers can’t seem to summon a basic humanity for Jewish children.

The bright red framed posters of the Jews in captivity have generated a lot of tension. This is one of the fights that the Jewish community seems to be fighting right now.

There have been the inspirational rallies. Thousands of every type of Jew in unison, chanting “Bring Them Home!” and singing “Am Yisrael Chai” with passion and tears.

What has felt common to both Israel and New York? The unity. The absolutely stunning unity of the Jewish people is electric in both Israel and in New York.

Suddenly the labels of right or left, religious or secular, evaporated. All there is now is just Am Yisrael.

What else feels common to both Jewish communities in Israel and The Diaspora?

A certain unspoken visceral understanding of what our new post-October 7 mission is: We are no longer simply watching history unfold, but, rather, we are called to create these moments of molding Jewish history, by how we respond. Our obligation is to steady this quaking, scorched, blood-soaked earth, from which we have not yet recovered and won’t for a long time. We must leave a strong, steady and secure Jewish foundation for the next generations to lean on.

This time, it’s up to us.

Copyright © 2023 by the Intermountain Jewish News

Tehilla Goldberg

IJN columnist | View from Central Park

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *