As of this writing many bereaved families, to our great distress, have not even begun sitting shiva, let alone gotten up from it. As a nation, though, our shiva is over. We are, of course, still in a profound state of mourning. We will never stop feeling this pain–nor should we. But now it is time to stand up and take action. “Shake off the dust, arise my nation and don your mighty armor (Yeshayahu, 52).”
In Der Judenstaat, Theodor Herzl repeatedly declared, “We are a People, one People.” This notion was the basis of his dream of a Jewish national rebirth in the late 19th century. It should serve as the basis of our national recovery today. It doesn’t matter where you live or where you’re from; your religious affiliation or lack thereof; your political views or what you look like. We are a People, one People. And now, more than any other time in most of our lives, our People needs us, every single one of us.
At the announcement of the emergency unity government last week, Minister Benny Gantz said a phrase that’s been heard throughout Israel for the past week. “We’ve all been enlisted. We’re all enlisting.” Let us tell our brothers and sisters in Israel that they are not alone. They are not the only ones enlisting in this war. Let those words ring across the globe. Wherever a Jew can be found let us cry out: kulanu mitgaysim! We are all enlisting! Let us unleash the collective genius, creativity and radical capacity for hesed of our eternal nation. Let them regret the day they waged war on Am Yisrael.
How do we enlist? What can we do? I make the following suggestions without pretending to have any expertise or authority. I do so as a simple Jew whose heart has been torn asunder and whose “eyes have shed streams of water over the suffering of my dear nation (Eicha, 3).” Doubtlessly, others will have ideas that I’m not aware of and I urge them to share with us.
The Battle for Truth
We are fighting a multifront war and not just geographically. Indeed, our heroic chayalim are defending against those who are set on physically annihilating Israel and her children. However, there is also an international battle for the truth and for the justice of our cause. We’ve all experienced the double outrage of first seeing the evil visited upon Israel’s population and then witnessing the deplorable celebrations and justifications in cities around the world. Not that anything can ever justify this kind of violence by anyone upon anyone else–even to treat animals this way is repugnant–but these were innocent Israeli civilians living in internationally recognized–since 1948–Israel. This was not a protest against occupation. It was an enthusiastic continuation of Hitler’s einsatzgruppen. It was part of a genocidal effort in its most gruesome form. To call this a “political issue” is cruel, willful blindness. Why should Israel’s children have to live in fear of terrorists tearing into their homes and visiting unspeakable atrocities upon them? This is not politics, this is not policy. This is basic humanity. This should be an easy case to make any half decent human being, regardless of their position on the political spectrum. Tell the stories, share the evidence. We need all the friends we can get.
In this fight, though, we are badly outnumbered. What can we do about that? Organizations like Students for Justice in Palestine are not interested in anything having to do with Justice, Peace or Truth–if that was not clear to us yet then their rallies and statements–before Israel even responded to the attacks–should suffice. Arguing with people who will never change their mind is a waste of time and energy. However, there may be ways we can limit their influence and make it costly to spread lies on social media or to join a group that supports and celebrates the murder of Jewish babies. For example, company executives have demanded the names of students who signed letters in support of Hamas to ensure that they won’t employ such despicable individuals. But you don’t have to be a CEO to demand moral clarity from your employers, employees and colleagues. I’ve already heard of numerous examples from lawyers, accountants, programmers, doctors and university professors among others.
It is true that we won’t change the minds of people who are set on Israel’s destruction and are able to justify even the most heinous acts of violence against Jews. But that doesn’t mean we should accept defeat in the battle for public opinion. We should focus on “energizing the base and winning the undecideds.” Thank God, we have seen that there are good people who are willing to speak out for the truth. Let’s make sure that people like this have the right information and that those who do stand up for what’s right know that we appreciate their efforts. If you can write articles, then write. If you can make videos, then make them. If you have a social media presence, then use it. If you’re connected with people who have those tools at their disposal, then urge them to use them for good and, at the very least, to not repost or otherwise spread falsehoods.
Get Politically Active
If you are politically engaged, then use your connections to support politicians who are standing with Israel in her time of need and put pressure on the ones who are not. If you are not politically engaged, then now is the time. Every single one of us can, at least, write emails to our representatives. Let them know that their stance on Israel–especially now–matters. Encourage other members of your community to do the same.
More than any time I can remember as a student or as a teacher, kids are listening right now. They want to understand what’s going on now as well as the bigger picture. They’re ready to hear why Eretz Yisrael is so important to us and why the State of Israel is worth fighting for. As parents, educators and community leaders, it has never been more important to teach our children about Zionism as the miraculous story of our nation’s rebirth after two millennia of brutal exile. We need to make sure they understand that Israel is just, it is good and, though imperfect like everything else, Israel should never have to apologize for its existence. They–and we–need to understand that what is at stake right now is the very survival of this miracle. There were Jews who lived through the first destruction and there were Jews who lived through the second destruction. We can’t assume that we won’t live–or die–through the third. Let’s make sure we all know what it is we’re fighting for.
Offering Your Professional Abilities
If your professional skills and experience afford you opportunities to help strengthen Israel’s political or international position–the Lawfare Project is one such example for lawyers–then please use them. Perhaps you have skills that can help some of the thousands of families who will need to piece their lives back together after suffering the unthinkable. Maybe you can offer mental health support–for those directly affected and for those more distant. If we’re all enlisting, then we all need to be healthy and at our strongest. Maybe you know how to fundraise–more on that below. I don’t know what unique skills you possess, but you do. What can you contribute? We’ve all been enlisted.
There is, unfortunately, no shortage of causes to donate support. From chayalim needing socks, snacks and tape to rebuilding to the kibbutzim and yishuvim in the south to housing and feeding the families relocated from the war–the list goes on. Seeing the outpouring of generosity from Jews around the world for our family in Israel is an inspiration. They will continue to need our support. The economic impact of this war on Israel will be profound. Whatever we can do to bolster Israeli workers and businesses, we must.
The perpetrators of these horrific evils tried to crush our spirit. They did not succeed. The resilience of the people of Israel is nothing short of astonishing. However, there remains a long road ahead of us with formidable challenges, including winning at least one war and rebuilding countless homes, towns and lives. Our brothers and sisters in Israel need to know that they’re not alone. They need to know that we will always pray for them, think about them and love them. Reach out and connect. This is a time of unprecedented unity within Israel. But the unity between Israel and Jews in the diaspora is no less significant. Do we want to build upon this unity or let it fade away?
Can You Go To Israel?
Last I checked, almost 400,000 reservists have been called up. How many families and places of work could use some help? I grew up on stories of Americans who were in Israel during the Yom Kippur War and worked on kibbutzim or factories to fill in for soldiers on the front lines. Beyond the practical help, I’m sure that traveling to Israel now would strengthen morale in a way that is second to only one thing–my final thought. There will always be a difference between supporting Israelis from here as opposed to from there. We all have significant reasons that make moving to Israel difficult. But what can strengthen Israel more than a flood of olim in the coming months? What says, “you’re not alone” more than picking up and moving next door? Can anything make it more clear to our enemies that their evil will never win, that we’re not going anywhere? Just the opposite–now more than ever, it’s time for us to think seriously about going home.
The Wisdom of Kohelet: A Time to Act
For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven:
a time to kill, and a time to heal
a time to weep, and a time to laugh
a time to mourn, and a time to dance
a time to love, and a time to hate
a time for war, and a time for peace.
He who makes peace in His highest places, may He grant peace upon us and upon all of Israel.
Until then, it is a time to act.