Friday night October 6 was a Simchat Torah celebration across the entire town. But it changed radically the next morning.
I was in synagogue in Netanya the morning of October 7. I was on call, so I had my phone on me from very early morning. My phone had been buzzing since around 6 AM but it was not the typical ring of my professional calls, so I did not pay much attention until just a few minutes after 8 AM when a woman, a mother, came running into shul with a cell phone waving it in her hand. She called her son over. The 21-year-old man took the phone from her and put it to his ear. He took off his tallit, said something to his father who stood and blessed him, went back to his mother who hugged him, and he left. Similar scenes were repeated over the next few hours. Horrifically dramatic scenes all the while hoping that this would not be as bad as it sounded. But it was/is even worse. At some point a man who I is charged with security for the shul rose to the bimah and announced that “We are being told that there are terrorists that are travelling on motorcycles…I have a gun with 30 bullets and only one extra magazine…If others have guns, please get them. If there is a battle, please just get on the floor.
I sent my son in law back to our apartment to make sure that my granddaughters stayed at home and did not come to the shul.
The schedule for this holy, joyous day was sharply attenuated. The Kiddush/luncheon was cancelled. The Hakafot were performed rapidly. The rabbi announced that there would be no evening services at the shul, and he uncharacteristically suggested that we turn on a radio or television to the Home Command channel.
I am a trained, experienced psychologist with extensive and many decades of trauma treatment practice. I am a clinical supervisor with several trauma treatment programs. I can be cool under pressure clinically. But as the brutality of what had happened became clear there was no way to stop the tears. I believe that is the healthiest response given the circumstance.
I had to travel back to New York a few days later. In our New York Offices every patient was consumed by the situation in Israel. What was most moving for me though was when my friend, not a member of the tribe, but my partner since our early training – our professors called us brothers from different mothers – saw my face and just came over and hugged me. He understands. But that is where the good news ends. Because Israel very appropriately decided that it had to react. And the world suddenly and predictably flipped back to old anti-Semitic tropes.
I soon returned to Israel but leaving the airport to board my El Al flight back was an experience I hadn’t had in 50 years. We could not board from the terminal. We had to leave the terminal, board a bus and be driven, apparently under guard, to a far end of the airport to board our flight. If you thought America or Europe was safe for Jews, then you have not been watching the news. University campuses, main streets, Jewish owned shops and even homes are targets for increasingly unbounded anti-Semitic hatred. This is not just the “Woke” participating in public hate. There are brainwashed students who have not learned history or developed insight and an understanding of nuance. There are older people who blame Jews for being wealthy if they are not. There are hooligans who just like to add to the chaos. There are all sorts of people coming from under the rocks they have been hiding under and showing us, yet again, who they really are. I did not expect any less from Hamas, they are a true terrorist group. I made the mistake of believing that in democratic countries anti-Semitic public displays were not as likely to occur.
The world reflexively believes Hamas over the Jewish state. For them it is easy to blame Israel for blocking the strip while Egypt does the same but gets a pass. The world believes Hamas’ reports of numbers of deaths while Hamas controls the flow of information. Hamas will not let civilians move south; they use them as human shields and when these civilians are harmed, they parade the pictures to reverse blame Israel. They hide their rockets in schools and hospitals. But if Israel is forced to take out the launch sites Israel is blamed for the harm to civilians.
And today still Hamas, which has all the supplies it needs to carry on its terror at the expense of the civilians of Gaza, continues to fire rockets into southern and central Israel and encourages other Iranian proxies to join them in the destruction of the Jewish people.
I want to scream to the world “If they eliminate Jews, they will next eliminate Christians.”
I Know that to a certain degree I am preaching to the choir, but I strongly recommend that you all read an article that Alan Johnson wrote about Hamas in 2014 – Six Myths About Hamas. It was reprinted recently in Bari Weiss’s The Free Press and is now widely available. It tells the truth about this terror organization. But who outside of us will spend the few minutes to read and see the truth? I tell you who will – those you share it with.