Martin Alintuck
Global Jew Living in Thailand

How I Have Changed Since October 7th

Since October 7th, I have been acting differently.

I wondered why and found a “key” to the answer with Gemini, Google’s new generative artificial intelligence chatbot.   Gemini defines behavioral adaption as “a change in an organism’s behavior that helps it survive better in its environment.”  That definition feels like a perfect explanation for my own behavioral changes post October 7th.

For sure, I cannot begin to understand what it feels like to be an Israeli post October 7th.  I am an American Jew living in Thailand; my feelings about October 7th are unique and definitely “from afar.”  But I have experienced much since that day that is about me being Jewish, that reminds me of my commitment to Judaism and that motivates me to think daily (!) about how much Israel means to me.

The overwhelming feelings I have experienced since the Hamas massacre – and I don’t doubt there are perhaps millions who have felt something like this – is the intense desire to connect/reconnect with Judaism.  It’s becoming even more important to me that I am Jewish and that I do “Jewish things.”  October 7th was my motivation to start blogging for the Times of Israel.  Since that day, I have written about being given, in a small Thailand airport, “Bring Them Home Now” dog tags by a kind Jewish family from Los Angeles and I have offered my opinion that young people would be well-served to watch the black and white Holocaust movies I used to be required to view in Temple Sunday school.  I will write more blog posts…but I am unsure how I could write anything that did not somehow involve October 7th.

My young children – the next generation of (I hope) passionate Jews – are being inundated with Jewish reminders – by their October 7th-motivated father.  I bring them to the Chabad of Thailand Purim celebration to experience being around the small community of Jews here.  We join the Chabad challah bake – not because they understand the connection – but because baking challah is a “Jewish thing” and well, isn’t it good for my girls to do something fun with other Jews?  I spend $50 USD every other month to DHL from my US post box to Thailand the free PJ Library Jewish books, provided free to children in America.

We do Shabbat and Havdalah every weekend and my kids have now memorized the prayers.  It’s hard to put into words what that has meant to me.  I tell them in very simple terms about what happened on October 7th and my 6-year-old said to me the other day “I don’t want to go visit Israel.”  When I asked why, she said “Because of those ‘bad guys’ who kidnapped all those people.”  She doesn’t know the whole story, but she gets it.  I desperately hope one day she will revel in visiting the “land of milk and honey.”

October 7th changed my media habits.  Upon waking, I immediately look at the news to see what’s happening in Israel.  I check in throughout the day with i24 news, IDF YouTube channels and various other outlets because I fear the worst and want to know immediately what is “Breaking News.”  TOI will be happy to know I am “addicted” to the Times of Israel Daily Briefing and have listened to every single one of the 190+ podcasts since the start of the war.  I grow increasingly upset when my previous “go to” American media outlets cause me agita when they seem to have forgotten about and/or whitewashed away October 7th.  I hate that they rarely hold Hamas to account for its massacre and starting the war and seem to have a bias for Palestinian suffering as opposed to Israeli suffering.  I desperately search YouTube clips for insight from Douglas Murray – British author and historian– perhaps the most eloquent commentator on the massacre and war.  Murray, who I call “my new hero,” refuses to join the growing crowd of Israel bashers and eloquently places the blame where it should go.

Then there are the people I meet.  I have run into more than my fair share of Israeli tourists in Thailand and I find myself desperate to connect with them.  When I find out they are from Israel, I offer אני מדבר קצת עברית “ (“I speak a little Hebrew.”).  And within an instant, I am pulling down the top of my t-shirt to reveal my “chai.”  It’s as if I am trying to reassure them that “I am one of you.”

Yet, maybe I am not truly one of them.  I struggle with what to say as I feel like I am walking into a shiva looking for the right words of comfort.  But I don’t want to patronize them so I merely ask something like “How are things there?”  It’s not sufficient, I am sure, but I just hope it’s not offensive.  In a world that seems to have gone crazy with countries, politicians and regular citizens struggling to be the loudest haters of Israel, I hope they will walk away having understood they met a “friendly face.”  It’s the most I can wish for.

And this behavioral adaptation goes on in other ways.  My trips to bookstores find me buying books like Anatoly Kuznetsov’s Babi Yar and Noa Tishby’s Israel: A Simple Guide to the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth.  Simply put, I buy more Jewish books.  I go on Lazada – Thailand’s Amazon-like ecommerce site – and buy Israeli Flag silicon bracelets to wear.  I make sure my list of family yahrzeits is up-to-date and that I will get annual reminders from the National Jewish Memorial Wall website, so I don’t miss any.  While lighting a candle for my grandfather who I was named after, I briefly tell my daughters what I know about him and – of their own accord – they decided to talk to my “Zayde” and send their greetings.  I have no words after they speak.

One day – after taking note of my rabid need to do Jewish things and keep up with the latest information – I wondered why I was so passionate about all this.  I realized it was because I see the outcome of the massacre/war as an existential threat to the existence of the State of Israel.  I have a core belief that the survival of Israel is crucial to the survival of Jews around the world.  What If Israel is to be defeated?  It’s hard to imagine — but I am too much of a realist not to think about the prospect.  Then it will be “open season” on Jews anywhere in the world.  If Israel is to be abandoned and eventually fall to the fundamentalist haters that seek to end its existence, it will be the end of the Jewish people.

So, excuse me if I get vehement about my Judaism or I am experiencing a “behavioral adaptation.”  It’s just that I have a few things on my mind.

About the Author
A native of Boston, Martin has lived and worked in the US, China, Japan, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Singapore. His career has focused on global communications as he has built and managed global PR firm offices and counseled numerous Fortune 500 brands and companies. A graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School and Brandeis University, Martin ran the $65M American presence at Expo 2010 Shanghai, the largest world’s expo ever. He is most passionate about the Boston Red Sox baseball team and teaching his young daughters about the joys of being Jewish.
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