Rachel Gottlieb

Israel at War: Hey, Quick Question

Israel in a nutshell
(Photocredits: Author)

To all of the organizations that have been involved in arranging our upcoming March on Washington:

Thank you. This needed to happen. American Jewry needs to be doing more, showing up more, coming out more, sacrificing more to show its solidarity with the Jewish people and the State of Israel. Thank you for taking the initiative, for asking everyone to come out, for giving us time to come in from all over the country. And we are coming. We are coming down to Washington, D.C, to paint the capital in the blue and white, to show our support, to make our voices heard, to keep government support alive. The way I see it (and this is not my own analogy, so I cannot take credit for it), if this were 1938 and we knew what was coming, we would do at least this much, if not more, to campaign on behalf of our Jewish brothers and sisters.

And it really is an apt comparison. On Thursday last week, we marked 85 years since Kristallnacht, the Night of the Broken Glass, a state-sanctioned pogrom that saw the burning of synagogues and Torah scrolls, the destruction of Jewish homes and business, and the arrest of hundreds of Jews in what properly kicked off the German campaign to exterminate all of Jewry. Comparatively, October 7 is one of the darkest days in recent Jewish history. It’s impossible to ignore the UN’s vacuous justifications on behalf of Hamas in comparison to the St. Louis that was sent back to Germany because, well, nobody likes the Jew. Nobody wants the Jew. We are, and have been, incredibly blessed here in the United States in the last 75 years, but we still cannot ignore the comparisons, and we most certainly cannot ignore the call to action that comparison demands of us.

I cannot tell you how proud I am to belong to a people that is answering that call. There are buses booked up from today to tomorrow from every Jewish center in the New York metro area heading down to D.C. Forget about trying to get a train, because that isn’t happening. Flights are booked completely solid. I know someone who wanted to come in from Los Angeles to attend and the only way he could potentially make it work was to fly into Newark, New Jersey, then sit on a bus with a bunch of schoolkids for four hours. People are taking off from work, putting their lives on hold, because we need to be there. We need to show up. We need to make our voices heard. We need to show the government, the country, the world, and Israel that we really, really care. That when push comes to shove, we know where our priorities lie, and that’s with taking care of our own in whatever way we can.

Not everyone can go, of course, and I understand that. There are valid, legitimate reasons to not be going. Based on a number of factors, I will most probably not be going, myself, much as it pains me to not stand shoulder to shoulder with my brothers and sisters in as powerful a show of solidarity with Israel as we can muster. And even though I cannot go, I’m doing everything that I can to facilitate those who can by supporting them in whatever ways I can. So I do not, in any way, mean to impugn upon those who will not be attending. I am simply expressing my gratitude towards you, the organizers, for making this happen so that those who can go are all there, and my overwhelming pride in the Jewish people for the commitments to make our voices heard.

I have one question, though, for you organizers, or any other organization that may be involved behind the scenes. I’ve heard from a number of different sources that there’s little to no funding available to help subsidize schools renting buses, which, in case you aren’t aware, is expensive. Buses can sometimes be the bulk of the cost of a trip, and especially for a full day event down to Washington, D.C, that is going to be very expensive. And I’m just curious: Can you explain why?

The way I see it, perhaps the most important members of the Jewish people to be there are those who will step up to take their place as the leaders of the next generation. It seems, to me, that it is critical that they be present on Tuesday, feeling in as real and tangible a way as possible, what it means to be part of the Jewish people. What it means to be part of something greater than yourself. What it means to care about something more than yourself. What it means to love Israel with a fire that keeps you alive. What it means to be part of a family that’s composed of millions of strangers who aren’t strangers because they will willingly die for you. Because that’s what our children will gain by being there on Tuesday. That’s what will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

I’m not the only one who thinks this way. There are plenty of parents who feel that way, and they’ve gotten together on their own and rented buses to take their children down to D.C. There are other parents who sat and watched waiting lists like a hawk and grabbed available spots on buses as soon as they opened up so that their older children could attend. Still other parents have reached out to adults they know who are going, asking if these other adults can be responsible for their children because due to circumstances beyond their control they can’t make it but please, my child needs to be there. Not only parents, but many schools think this way, too. I work in two different schools, and I cannot tell you how much I look forward to seeing how few students we have in school, because the schools have actively encouraged the student body to attend. And that we will be having alternate programming in school focused on activism towards support for this war in Israel. And my schools are hardly the only ones to have adopted such policies; it seems that everywhere I turn, that is the case.

But I am having trouble understanding how it’s possible, if the children, who are our future because they are the next generation in the unbreakable chain that is the Jewish people, are the most important attendees at this rally, how is there little to no funding to send the schools? Again, if this were 1938, wouldn’t we be doing everything within our power to make sure that our children were there? And please don’t misunderstand me: The fact that the parents have pulled together and organized buses themselves is incredible. The fact that schools are actively encouraging their students to go is phenomenal. It’s what we should be doing. The lack of funding does not take away from my praise—and, frankly, relief—of the parents who are stepping up to make sure their children can go. I’m just wondering about the organizations that have been leaders of American Jewry, that have guided us through a whole host of different issues over the years. It can’t possibly be that leadership doesn’t extend to something like this, because, well, if leadership doesn’t extend to empowering and training and teaching the next generation, is it really leadership?

Please let me be clear: I’m not trying to accuse. I apologize if you feel accused. I’m just asking the question, because it doesn’t sit right with me. Something doesn’t seem to make sense. I presume that means that there’s more to this story that I don’t know, but I can’t know the more of the story if I don’t ask the question. So I’m asking.

That doesn’t take away from my gratitude for your organizing this event. That doesn’t take away from my pride and my respect and my relief that we are turning out the way that we are. I am humbled to belong to this family that is the Jewish people. And again, I am not, in any way, disparaging those who are not going. Reminder: I’m most likely not going. But we can thank and praise those who are going without insulting those who are not, because those are two very separate and distinct conversations.

And to the parents who are doing everything they can to bring their children to Washington to partake in this moment in history: Thank you. I stand in awe of you. I may not be physically marching with you, but I promise, I will be with you in solidarity every step of the way. Because our children are our future. Israel is our future. And our future starts now.

Please continue to pray for us, and for the following soldiers, especially:
עזרא צבי יוסף בן אריאלה פנינה
יעקב זכריה בן אריאלה פנינה
אליהו סִינַי בן ביילא רבקה
נַתַּן בן דבורה אסתר
דוד אלכסנדר בן דבורה אסתר
אלכסנדר בן שרה אלישבע
ראובן אליעזר בן אביגיל אסתר
בועז כָּלֵב בן יפָה מרים
יצחק אייזיק בן פריידא
אהרן בן רחל ברכה
חובב בן דבורה אסתר
שמחה בן הינדא ברכה

‪כי ה׳ אלקיכם ההולך עמכם להלחם לכם עם אויביכם להושיע אתכם. ה׳ ישמור צאתך ובואך מעתה ועד עולם

About the Author
As a combination logophile and Israel-o-phile, Rachel's fingers itch whenever something needs to be shared about Israel, particularly as it relates to the Diaspora. Her credentials include a Master's in English and many years experience as a high-school English teacher, which covers the writing part, and being a card-carrying member of the Jewish nation, which covers the Israel part. Although she currently resides in Suffern, NY, her heart has long since been stolen by Israel herself, and her mind is constantly preoccupied with the capital of the Jewish people.
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