Pamela Becker

Fighting Two Wars

Photo by Roberto Nickson

Raised in America, I moved to Israel about 30 years ago. I just returned from my first trip abroad since October 7th – two weeks moving between family in the states of New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire.

While active on social media and in daily contact with my family here, it was eye-opening for me to see how American Jews and friends perceive the war. When I listen carefully to my extended family and watch the American news, I hear a deep love and concern for Israel. 

That said, American Jews and friends of Israel and Israelis are experiencing very different wars, or at least watching different wars on TV. Israeli TV channels are nearly 24/7 news, featuring families of the hostages, families of the victims, families of fallen soldiers, and the bravery and heroism of our soldiers risking their lives to keep us safe. We don’t see the footage of hungry Gazans that Americans likely see. 

Coping with Crisis

We celebrated Purim over the second weekend of my trip. And verse 3.13 sounds eerily familiar.

“Accordingly, written instructions were dispatched by couriers to all the king’s provinces to destroy, massacre, and exterminate all the Jews, young and old, children and women, on a single day, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month—that is, the month of Adar—and to plunder their possessions.”

The story of Purim reminds us, that throughout history when faced with an existential crisis like today we were very very clever and strategic but we were also compelled to do things we like to think we normally wouldn’t do as Jews, for the sake of survival. 

For example, Mordechai planting Esther as a kind of agent in King Ahasuerus’ palace feels more like a scene from the show Tehran than the usual Jewish uncle behavior.

But survival is what is on our minds. Even as we hear horrible criticism from around the world, most of us are thinking about our survival. 

We want our hostages back, and to feel safe enough for the hundreds of thousands of residents to move back to the South and to the North. We see calls for ceasefires without hostage deals as irrelevant at best and a demonstration that our lives don’t matter at worst. And more significantly, we don’t all see this as just a war with Hamas. They are the less scary enemy with unguided rockets that can be intercepted by the Iron Dome. 

We are afraid of what lies to the North of us. They have more sophisticated missiles that can take out a targeted office tower in Tel Aviv. Most of Israel’s electricity production capacity is concentrated in under 2 dozen sites, which makes it vulnerable, and many have scrambled to get small generators. Our own family had the what-generator-to-get conversation. And that’s without considering the Houthis or any other proxy Iran might throw at us next.

So there seem to be parallel conversations. International coverage is talking about when the war with Hamas will end while Israelis are stockpiling a 3-day minimum of supplies in their safe rooms, wondering if and when another war will begin.

With all this danger, there is some protection I enjoy living in Israel that American Jews don’t. Israelis watch with alarm at the anti-semitism flaring up worldwide. My daughter studies at an Israeli university and reserve duty aside, today she can focus on her studies. I can’t imagine what it means to be the parent of a pre-college or college student outside of Israel these days. We know that Jewish American families have their own battle in the US and we empathize.

I am sure you have heard of how the country has galvanized and has been working together to support the war effort, from picking fruit to cooking pots of food for soldiers. Americans have come to Israel to volunteer as well. We see them posting Israel and Jewish positive posts while battling haters on social media. My sister does a lot of what she calls Mizva Shopping, buying up more Israeli products than ever. Helmets, vests, warm underclothes, and protective eyewear miraculously arrived from the US to help keep the soldiers safe and whole and we are so very grateful for the incredible fast-moving, and generous people around the world who continue to make this happen. Not to mention beautiful pictures and notes from American children to remind the soldiers of the love pouring in from the international community, to counterbalance the hate they see on social media.

The Double War Vulnerable Children are Facing 

Whether in America or Israel, we all worry about our children. And the way American Jews and friends have shown us that they have our backs means everything. I hope they know we have their backs too. 

Before Oct 7, Israel’s social and educational infrastructures still hadn’t recovered from the strain of COVID-19. Resources were stretched ridiculously thin. While Israel has excellent socialized medical and mental health care, the waiting time for nearly all services grew dangerously long. 

Since Oct 7, anyone who was vulnerable before, and in need of medical or therapeutic services, now is that much more vulnerable. In 2008 I co-founded and continue to manage Jeremy’s Circle, an Israeli-registered charity supporting children growing up with cancer or cancer loss in their families. Today, we say of the children of Jeremy’s Circle that they are coping with two wars. The war with Hamas, and the battle for survival for their family member with cancer. 

One of our families, the Abudis, lost Adir who saved many lives before he fell in action on Oct 7. Other families left their homes in their pajamas – without their shoes let alone their medical records. And just as all of us tried to cope with what just happened and make it through each day, they also had to figure out how and where to continue their life-saving treatments away from home.

At Jeremy’s Circle, we aim to give the children the childhoods they deserve, even in these awful times. In the current environment of stress, crisis, and pain, our activities offer an oasis of resilience-building normalcy, fun, and friends.  (See the pictures from our teen event over Purim)

As state-run government resources and services are stretched, community-based healing and resilience-building have grown even more critical. Israel has long relied on the American Jewish community and we need them more than ever. Together we will win.

About the Author
Originally from New York, Pamela Becker has enjoyed a long career as a marketing executive for some of Israel's leading technology companies including WhizzCo, ironSource, and SafeCharge (acquired by nuvei). After she was widowed with three small children in 2008, Pamela co-founded and remains the active chairperson of the Israeli charity Jeremy's Circle, which supports children and teens coping with cancer or cancer loss in their young families. She earned a BA in Writing Seminars from The Johns Hopkins University and an MBA from Tel Aviv University. Her debut novel Memoirs of a False Messiah was published in 2019. Pamela lives with her husband and their five children in Tel Aviv.
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