Most weeks, my work occupies well above the standard forty hours. This week, even a single minute feels impossible.
How can one possibly focus on work? While we were dancing with the Torah, our brothers and sisters were being mercilessly slaughtered in Israel. As we celebrated renewal, they mourned destruction.
Here in America, we are of course all gathered in prayers, and doing our best to provide support in any way conceivable.
Yet, the weight of the question persists: how can I work?
I had the privilege of spending four years studying in Israel. The hospitality of my Israeli cousins made me feel like I was always a big part of their lives. Some of their children, having grown up before my eyes, are closer to siblings than mere cousins.
During that time, I traveled the land as much as possible, often solo, trying to absorb as much of our land as possible. When my time learning in Jerusalem came to an end, I cried. I cried on the way to the airport, walking through security, and as I boarded the plane.
This week a few people told me they’re contemplating leaving Israel, fearing for their children’s safety. My heart aches. How can I work, when every fiber of my being yearns to be back home, and others are thinking of leaving permanently.
Before I left to Yeshiva in Israel, my father told me I was only going on one condition: should war break out, I wasn’t to return to the States. Instead, I would reach out to family, particularly my cousins at Terem, to ask where I could be of utmost help. I willingly agreed.
Now, as I sit miles away, there’s an overwhelming feeling of not fulfilling that promise. How can I work knowing my best friend is pulling bodies out of the carnage near Gaza? How can I work when my family stands resilient, protecting our homeland, and I’m oceans apart?
I’m also overwhelmed with anger. Anger towards those with influence who remain silent. Historically, antisemitic voices told Jews to “return to Palestine”, acknowledging our innate connection to our homeland. Now, the narrative shifts. The blame is directed at us, questioning our actions, despite our only reclaiming what ours was historically. Even the “occupied” land only came to us because the Arabs tried to destroy us, and G-d delivered them to us.
They accuse us of “killing innocent women and children when bombing Hamas”. “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” Yet Hamas is the one that continuously launches rockets from people’s apartments and surrounded by children This week, two videos shook me deeply. In one, at the very end of the clip, a child of around ten runs across the corner of the screen, holding two machine guns. The other was a video in which little children were hitting and laughing at one of the hostages, a little Jewish boy. They kept saying “call Ima, call Ima” in jest.
Yes, there might be innocent people in Gaza, just as there were in Nazi Germany. But the Gazans elected Hamas and allowed extremist ideologies to flourish. They arm their kids, instilling hatred for Jews from infancy.
Our unity now reflects our collective memory. Our enemies have vanished over time, but we remain. We’re certain of one thing: the threat from Hamas will be neutralized. They will be destroyed, becoming just another one of the groups we think of when singing at the Passover Seder “In every generation they rose up against us”.
It angers me that while some voices rise for Israel, many stay silent. Like the silence in Germany, it is deafening. It is a reminder of why we fought so hard to reestablish our homeland. It is a reminder why we will never give it back. Not an inch. Not again.
As I yearn to be back home, I once again ask, how can I work?
Tears are unending; anger is palpable. But hope persists.
This past year has been one of bitter ideological differences in Israel. Today we are reminded that divided, our nation has always fallen. But when united, and filled with love for each other, we have ALWAYS prevailed. This gives me hope.
Watching videos of my cousin defending our people while simultaneously singing at a wedding gives me hope. Hope for better days, for prevailing despite global indifference, for achdut (comradery), and for G-d allowing us, as in days of old, to triumph over evil.