Nina B. Mogilnik

A Thimbleful of Courage

I have watched Israeli street protests during the past half year plus with wonder and pride. My daughter attended the protests in person this past winter. We did not, in the spring, because our Israeli daughter said it would be too overwhelming for our autistic son. But I did frame and give to the bride and groom at the family wedding we were in Israel to attend, a beautiful photo of the two them smiling proudly in a sea of Israeli flags. At one of many pro-democracy protests they attended. But not the one at which he–a former combat officer and now lawyer–was arrested.

Fast forward to the trek of many thousands to Jerusalem, to the Knesset, and to photos of water cannons at one spot cooling off overheated protesters, and at another weaponizing water against them, to push them back.

I reached out with tears, with rage, with whatever spark of hope is left to my sabra cousins, to their children, and to my Israeli daughter, embracing and commiserating with them from afar.

Then the tepid emails from Jewish organizations started landing in my inbox.  The expressions of disappointment and the pleas for compromise left me with feelings of incandescent rage. Israelis by the equivalent of American millions have been taking to the streets for the better part of a year to try to save their country. It’s frontline defenders by the tens, hundreds, and then thousands declared that they will not defend a dictatorship. Start-up nation has said “hell no.” Health care workers are striking. Israel’s Bar Association is in the fight. And American Jewish organizations offer up offer up disappointment and pleas for compromise. That response is a soul-rotting spectacle.

The synagogues that proudly hosted Bibi’s emissaries through the years. AIPAC, an organization so bereft of principles that it would host Satan himself if he expressed pro-Israel views. The individuals and entities that profited wildly from start-up nation, so happily turned a blind eye to the cost to Israelis who don’t live in hedge fund Disneyland. The arms contractors in America who could care less if Israel’s a democracy, as long as the loan guarantees from our government that underwrite their stock price keep coming.

But above all…or should I say beneath them all… those who trumpet their love for Israel, for the Jewish people. Those who endlessly invoke Jewish values, Israel’s democracy. Those who call out antisemites at every turn. Who tell us we must show up. Who lead junkets and tours, who attend high level meetings with Israeli officials, who invite delegations from Israel to their houses of worship. You have failed. You had so many chances to call out Bibi. When he dressed down President Obama in Congress, embarrassed then Vice President Biden when he was in Israel. When he campaigned against the Iran deal that America worked tirelessly to forge to PROTECT Israel. At every turn, you stayed mute. Or weighed in on the side of that raging megalomaniac. He has never been anything other than he is now. From the incitement that led to the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, z’l, to hijacking Israeli democracy for the sole purpose of keeping himself out of jail. He has never been anything other than he is.

But what of the rest of you? The ones who embrace Bibi and gleefully put a religious noose around Israel; the ones who chose access to power over morality and justice; the ones who preach mercy to widows and orphans and fancy yourselves defenders of Jews, of Israel, of Zionism. Your silence all along and your tepid notions of outrage are a moral failing and stain you will never wash off.

History gave you a chance. Israelis in the streets showed you what courage and love of country look like. And you mostly looked away. Turning instead to try to fill that tiny thimble. It was always too little. Now it’s also too late.

About the Author
Nina has a long history of working in the non-profit, philanthropic, and government sectors. She has also been an opinion writer for The Jewish Week, and a contributor to The Forward, and to The New Normal, a disabilities-focused blog. However, Nina is most proud of her role as a parent to three unique young adults, and two rescue dogs, whom she co-parents with her wiser, better half. She blogs about that experience now and again at
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