Andrea Simantov
Living Out Loud

Flowering among thorns

“I Know We Are Your Chosen People. But Can’t You Choose Someone Else?” –Tevye the Dairyman

Sometimes being chosen doesn’t feel like such a blessing. As Israeli Jews, we’ve been chosen to suffer the unimaginable. Whether one is a survivor of Beeri, related to a hostage, a parent/grandparent/sibling/buddy of a combat soldier who is alive, injured or dead, no one here owns a rulebook for surviving this shocking chapter.

Some days, the pain is unbearable. And the worst part? We can’t opt out. The torment, the overpowering sadness is always there, even when having a manicure, listening to Andrea Bocelli at full volume, taking a spa-day or hitting the gym with fervor. Occasional distractions allow us to place one foot in front of the other as we conduct that exercise called “Life, ” enabling us to navigate these tentative, strung-together days. Temporary poultices.

On a recent trip to South Africa, I was asked by a woman at the Sabbath kiddush, “Andrea, are we going to win the war?” Gobsmacked, I felt bile rising in my throat and a congenital New York attitude kicking-in. Thankfully, this is when God grabbed me by the shoulders and clobbered me with a whopper dose of patience and compassion. I intuited that she was getting her news from South Africa’s Daily Sun along with, possibly, online issues of the New York Times, Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal and/or Al Jazeera. Media outlets that view “Swords of Iron ” as fodder, chatter-worthy entertainment, with a voyeur fascination of watching a cock-fight, cheering the bloodied and butchered. Lazy hustlers with license to distort our story, who can even convince a Jew outside of Israel to consider whether or not we will prevail.

We will win because we have no choice. We have nowhere else to go. Today is a dangerous day to be a Jew anywhere in the world. Anywhere. And yet, I live in a country where I can wear a Magen David, hamsa or Chai necklace without fear, my yarmulke-sporting husband goes to synagogue, any synagogue, and there are no police cars or security guards checking out congregants or passers-by. We live in a miraculous country where even completely secular children know holidays other than Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, Passover and Purim. They may not observe Shabbat but they participate in Tu B’Shvat, Lag B’Omer, and Shavuot. Without question, Israel today is the safest place in the world in which one can be a Jew regardless of his/her ethnicity, level of observance, sexual identity or political leanings. Even when at war.

But we are held to a standard that no nation in the world would, themselves, adhere to.

And despite universal finger-pointing, our IDF soars way above traditional codes of exemplary behavior. From treating the enemy’s wounded, to putting our own holy soldiers at risk rather than inadvertently injuring non-combatants, from assisting civilians to safe-passage before embarking on missions, we do not fear Heaven’s judgment. For the sake of transparency, as the mother of a combat soldier who faces unspeakable danger with each heart-stopping operation, I am not comforted by our policy of restraint.

Perversely charged with ethnic cleansing, bankrolling all the world’s evil, and other depravities that are too twisted to mention, Israel will remain in charge of its narrative and neither a morally corrupt U.N. or Hollywood lightweight is entitled to determine our outcome.

We are not looking to be saved by strangers. Israel’s ultimate redemption will be accomplished by our own physical and spiritual efforts.

Reprinted with permission of San Diego Jewish Journal, March, 2024.

About the Author
New York-born Andrea Simantov moved to Jerusalem in 1995. Writer, podcast host (, life-coach and image consultant. She is spiritual, funny, cries easily (laughs harder), enjoys caravanning, celebrating her Jewishness and is always up for her next big adventure. With six children, 22 grandchildren and a mostly tolerant husband, life is busy, passionate and always evolving.
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