I’m just spent one week in Israel having participated on a Solidarity Mission with Temple Emanu-El of Westfield, NJ. Our group’s four days in Israel as well as my extra days with Israeli friends were remarkable, meaningful and memorable. Our mission came to Israel to stand in solidarity with our Israeli brothers and sisters; and to let them know how much we care for them. I was deeply touched by the heartfelt love and thanks we received from each and every Israeli with whom we met for having made our visit to Israel. Their gratitude was emotional, palpable and unbelievable. From survivors of October 7 at Kibbutz Be’eri and in the city of Ofakim to evacuees from Kiryat Shmona living in a hotel in Jerusalem, to the father of Roni Eshel and dozens of hostage family members, to IDF soldiers in the field…they each thanked us for coming to Israel. As heartwarming as that was, I am filled both with anger and hope having made this important mission to Israel.
I am angry because the world, for the most part, blames Israel for its war with Hamas when in reality the world should hold Hamas responsible for the war that has brought death and destruction to Gaza and the Gazan people who are held hostage there. I am angry because more than 1,200 Israelis and others were brutally murdered, tortured, raped and desecrated on October 7. I am angry because more than 250 Israelis and others were taken hostage by Hamas on October 7 and some 130 remain captive in Gaza…and the world remains silent as it has in the past because Jewish lives are ignored and seemingly do not matter. I am angry because the world stands by silently in the face of the atrocities committed by Hamas terrorists, murderers and thugs while calling them an army of resistors and freedom fighters.
I am angry because more than 220 IDF soldiers have been killed to date defending and protecting Israel and hundreds have been injured and wounded both physically and emotionally. I am angry because more than 250,000 Israelis have been mobilized to the IDF to defend the Jewish state; and angry that hundreds of thousands of Israeli families worry for their sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, family members and friends who are mobilized to the IDF in order to proudly and heroically defend the border with Gaza against Hamas and in the North against Hezbollah.
I am angry that the Palestinians in Gaza and in the West Bank are held hostage and captive by the corrupt Hamas, Palestinian Authority, Iran and their proxies and other funders who have only one objective: to destroy Israel. I am angry that the Palestinian people are too afraid or timid to rise up against Hamas, the PA, and others who are their true enemies who subjugate them.
I am angry that antisemitism is exploding all over the world, most especially in America and on our college campuses, and that the world once again remains silent. I am angry that naïve college students, liberals and progressives proudly shout a slogan “from the river to the sea” and cannot even identify them nor acknowledge that the slogan calls for the destruction of Israel and the death of Jews.
I am angry that airlines are not flying to Israel and that more Jews are not visiting Israel at this time. I am angry that many Jews are fearful to publicly and proudly proclaim their Jewishness and support for Israel, to put yard signs to that effect in front of their homes. I am angry that young Jews on college campuses are afraid to proudly live their Jewishness in fear of being ostracized, criticized and both verbally and physical attacked.
I am angry that the media and public opinion sees Israel as an oppressor and occupier when in reality it is the target of terror and death. I am angry that the Arab world stands by idly and ignores their own brothers and sisters and provides them with little hope and dismal support while expecting Israel to care for their people and family. I am angry that innocents in Gaza are dying at the hands of Hamas and Iran; and that they are too fearful to rise up and rid themselves of their own tyrants who bring them death and destruction.
And yes I am even angry at myself for not having made the decision more than 40 years ago to make aliyah. I am also angry in feeling like I am sitting on the sidelines for the first time in more than 40 years as a Jewish communal professional feeling helpless in not being able to do more for the People and State of Israel and Amcha, the Jewish people worldwide.
Which is why I made this mission to Israel…and to rid myself of my anger in favor of finding hope.
I have HOPE having made this important Solidarity Mission to Israel. I am hopeful because the Israeli people are strong, united and unified. I am hopeful because the Israeli people are resilient and determined. I am hopeful because Israelis have volunteered for IDF service even though they have not been called up and mobilized; and hopeful because Israel civil society has stepped up to volunteer, donate and contribute in ways never before witnessed. I am hopeful because there were many other Solidarity Missions visiting Israel, spending time with regular Israelis, soldiers, bereaved families and the families of our hostages. I am hopeful because I saw a lot of Jews and others, including teenagers and college students, make the trip to Israel and to volunteer.
I am hopeful because even Israelis who have been evacuated, moved and displaced remain confident that they will return to their homes in their homeland…the Jewish homeland. I am hopeful because even those Israelis who suffered the loss of loved ones or the destruction of their homes remain committed to the Zionist ideal and the promise of Israel as a Jewish state. I am hopeful because despair is not a Jewish trait that has enabled our people to continue and thrive in the face of challenges and death. I am hopeful because I have the ability and responsibility to make a difference in Israel, in the Jewish community and for Amcha…the Jewish people.
I am hopeful because the national anthem of Israel, indeed the anthem of the Jewish people, is Hatikvah…The Hope…“as long as the Jewish spirit is yearning deep in our hearts…then our hope, our two thousand year old hope…will not be lost.”
I remain hopeful because I believe in the State of Israel, the People of Israel and the Amcha…the Jewish People. Am Israel Chai!