Mordechai Cohen

Dear Jewish Educators: Israel is at War

Dear Jewish Educators:

As you know, your position carries tremendous responsibility, and as Israel is now at war (day 5), your teaching is more important than ever.

I want to share with you what I see going on in Israel and offer you some information and ideas that may be appropriate to share with your students.

The Hamas attack and murder of over 1000 Jews on Simchat Torah is more Jews murdered at any one time since the Holocaust. The best term may be pogrom. Hamas had no red lines, Jews of all ages, babies, women and children were murdered. One of the sites of murder was a huge outdoor party, where young people were celebrating life only to be murdered because they were Jews. Israelis have been glued to the news as the death toll has grown and grown by the hour. There is death on everyone’s mind. My nephew is in the army and has been attached to the army’s burial society. He helps move the body bags from location to location and all he says is that the number keeps rising.

Many Jews were also tortured, raped and kidnaped into Gaza. Hamas and regular Gazans (that distinction might have ended) celebrated by brutalizing their Jewish captives to cheers from the crowd and recording it on social media that went viral. Even the Nazis tried to hide their crimes. The depraved barbaric butchering of Jews is the same type of evil that ISIS displayed when they beheaded their victims and used other repulsive forms of murder. All sane people should reject this inhumanity and vociferously condemn these evil and horrific actions.

The reason that Hamas attacked is that they hate Jews and believe they should be murdered. This should not be sugar coated. Jews especially need to know that there are vile anti-Semites that want to murder you. We need to recognize this and be strong.

The families of the kidnaped are beside themselves. They have had no one to turn to or meet from the government to help them because there is no one there for them. Hearing their stories of how they have searched for their loved ones from one hospital to another or tracked their relatives cell phones inside Gaza before losing the signal and understanding that their children are now hostages has been heart wrenching. The videos that Hamas took are sometimes their only way to identify their relatives as captives. It is incredibly painful for the families to watch their relatives paraded around and beaten while a crowd of Gazans are cheering. Take a moment and pray for the hostages and their families. This is Gilad Shalit multiplied more than 100. Israel’s worst nightmare.

Israelis have lost confidence in their leaders, in the army and every institution that was supposed to keep them safe. There was a colossal failure of the intelligence agencies and of the army. There is a raging anger against almost every politician. They have for the most part been in hiding since the pogrom started, giving only a couple of televised statements. The news anchors filled a critical vacuum offering insights and strength to the country as people watched the news. The main channels are running special war coverage 24 hours a day. The newsrooms are also airing ways to help the soldiers. For years, politicians played a strategic game by using Hamas as a counter to the Palestinian Authority. They allowed millions of dollars from Qatar to fund Hamas. Many are now calling Qatar an enemy state. As a result of the pogrom, the experts as well as the few politicians who offered televised statements, have said that Israel will now completely destroy Hamas and that it no longer may exist. This is the mood in Israel, destroy Hamas completely and absolutely.

Most talking heads are saying that for right now, we won’t talk about the colossal failures because that will detract from the morale and the fighting spirit that’s needed. Everybody seems to agree that we will tackle the issue of how we got into this horrific mess with investigations and commissions, but only after the military campaign has been waged. Every time on TV that there has been a move to talk politics, it’s been shut down by the anchors with the comment that now is not the time for such discussions. However, the reasons for so many failures is impossible to purge from the public mind. It’s a huge elephant in the room that has rightly been put on the back burner, but is burning strongly.

There are rumors that we will get a national unity government. Benny Gantz has said he will join, without conditions and it just happened but took way too long. Yair Lapid said that Netanyahu would first need to drop Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir from the far right party, part of Netanyahu’s coalition, before he would join a national unity government with the Likud leader. So far nothing.

The great fear is that Hezbollah will open another front on the northern border and that Israel will face a multi-front war. Hezbollah has amassed a huge arsenal of rockets and estimates are that they could rain down hundreds if not more rockets daily on Israel. Over the last day, there have been northern border skirmishes, mortars and drones sent over into Israel. It could be that President Biden with his clear order of a carrier strike group to the Mediterranean will keep Hezbollah at bay. Biden’s actions should be celebrated and he should be thanked. If you have not heard his speech you should listen to it.

Another potential front that could be very dangerous is the West Bank or Judea and Samaria. The question is whether Palestinians there will significantly increase their attacks on Jews. Furthermore, if Israeli Arabs make a pogrom as they did in some of the mixed cities in 2021, Jews will face an internal enemy. If all of these fronts happen at the same time, I have almost no words; it is another horrific nightmare scenario.

There has been an unprecedented show of support for Israel by President Biden. In his remarks, he made it clear that the United States has Israel’s back and also hinted to Hezbollah not to get involved. But it is not only his words; he is providing very much needed military supplies and is moving a carrier strike group to the Mediterranean to support Israel. These actions are significant and incredibly helpful to Israel. However, there is a possible connection between Iran and Hamas and the US under President Biden has given Iran billions of dollars to release hostages and this been interpreted by some as strengthening Iran and in turn, enabling Iran to strengthen Hamas. This US policy has upset many in Israel.

Another theory that has been put forth is that Hamas’s attack was a way to try to derail the US sponsored normalization process between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Jews who are living outside of Israel will face, if history is any guide, more Jew hatred. Jewish schools and institutions are increasing security as anti-Semitism is on the rise. Anti-Israel rhetoric is also increasing. In NY the other day there was a pro Hamas rally. It is hard to understand that people are choosing to side with evil, but they are.

In Israel there is utter chaos with the call up of over 300,000 reservist, which is unprecedented. This is a huge call up. Some reservists were called up while they were in synagogues on Simchat Torah other from their homes. They are motivated. The soldiers, their families and the country know they are going to war, know why; to protect us from Hamas and to eliminate Hamas. Reserve soldiers who were traveling outside of Israel have tried to return as fast as possible to join their units. There is an unbelievable morale of the soldiers, and there is unbelievable support for them by the Israeli public. Unfortunately, there are already many casualties. We know there are going to be many more. Our neighbor’s kid, special forces soldier, 19 years old, was buried yesterday. Heroically killed while fighting the Hamas terrorists and rescuing Israeli civilians. May his memory be for a blessing. May his family know no more pain.

With so many soldiers being mobilized, they don’t have enough food or provisions. So many civilians have donated food, money and supplies. My friends and former students have given me a few hundred dollars to buy supplies for soldiers and my family has given a couple hundred shekels and cooked shnitzlim for a unit. This is happening in every home in Israel, except some must have bigger frying pans.

There is unbelievable unity in Israel. As divided as we were a week ago, today there is palpable feeling of togetherness. One of the reasons for this is the unbelievable support everyone is showing the soldiers. Koach Kaplan, who helped lead the protests against the judicial changes, Haredi mothers, along with everybody else are working together (in spite of the ineffectiveness of the national institutions) to help provide food and supplies that the soldiers need. Watch this video

There also seems to be a feeling of unity of Jews around the world in a great outpouring of support for Israel. Rallies were held in Toronto, Los Angeles and Paris with the Eifel Tower lit up in blue and white and in so many other places. Additionally, Jewish students on college campuses are running powerful programs supporting the Jewish State.

Lastly, I have seen several videos of rabbis bringing an army unit into a circle and blessing the soldiers. Some rabbis have the gift of oration and are able to do it so well. They motivate the soldiers and ask God to keep watch and protect the young men and women that are fighting for Jews to live in peace in our homeland. I also send my blessings to the soldiers and urge you too to bless the soldiers. May they come home unharmed to their families.

So what can you do? You play a huge role.

  1. First, learn more about what’s going on and keep your students informed.
  2. Pray for the soldiers. Write down your prayers. Send them to soldiers. Or send me hardcopies of your prayers and I’ll get them to soldiers for you.
  3. Send get well cards to the thousands wounded. Or send me hardcopies and I’ll get them to the injured.
  4. Do a Mitzvah or take upon yourself something concrete as an extra responsibility like special volunteer hours in honor of the soldiers.
  5. Reach out to any Israeli you ever met via whatsapp. A simple message of just thinking of you and wanted to share I stand with Israel! While you might feel its awkward, trust me, they will be happy to hear from you.
  6. Pray some more, especially for the hostages and their families. Write cards and prayers for them.
  7. Visit Israel. El Al is flying. And if you have special skills you can volunteer. And if you are over 18 and here give blood.
  8. Give money. 5 dollars, 18 dollars or more, every dollar helps. Need help choosing where to give, email me.

Am Israel Chai!

About the Author
Mordechai Cohen loves teaching, loves to see people excited by their Jewish heritage and loves to see people fall in love with Israel. He is married to a sabra and they have 4 wonderful children. Mordechai lived in southern California, Toronto and now Lod, Israel. He has served as teacher and administrator in a variety of Jewish educational settings; including Jewish National Fund's Alexander Muss High School in Israel and a member of the Forum of Interfaith Leaders – a joint program of the Ministry of Interior’s Division of Non-Jewish Affairs and Beit Morasha. Please note - any views expressed are Mordechai's and Mordechai's alone and Mordechai might change his views at any time. The views he expressed do not represent anybody else's views, unless of course they do.
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