Steven Windmueller
Where Jews and Judaism Meet the Political Road!

Israel at War: The Take Aways

Earlier in the week, while meeting with Jewish leaders in Houston, I was asked whether this moment may be more reminiscent of 1948 than any other wartime situation that Israel has faced. The questioner was raising the notion whether we will have a Jewish State in the aftermath of these events. None of us can even fathom such an idea, yet such a notion surely resides in the recesses of one’s inner most thoughts. Collectively, we all are believing otherwise, as we pray for the welfare of Israel, those held captive, and for those across the Middle East who share a desire for peace.

Here are a few key observations:

  • Our Uncertainty: What lies ahead may represent the most uncertain moment in the storyline of the State of Israel. Unclear what the IDF will face, and who maybe Israel’s opponents moving forward. A war potentially fought not against nation states but against terrorist religious movements (Hamas and Hizballah). This is a conflict being waged over ideas as well as over land and people. Everything Israel, Judaism and Western culture represents is being challenged in this moment by our enemies, who seek to destroy not merely a nation state but the very ideas that define democracy and Judaism.
  • Beyond Trauma: A series of stages confront us: the trauma, anger, grief, and anxiety that followed October 7th remains with us, even as stage two emerges as the country now focuses on resiliency and unity as Israel mobilizes for what comes next;  stage three will be involve reflections and accountability for what has happened and what it may mean for the future.
  • Reclaiming Jewish UnityDid Israel’s enemies believe that our political divisions represented a sign of weakness? Only days ago, Jews saw themselves as politically divided. Yet, over these last several weeks, there has emerged a unity of purpose binding our people as one. The power of oneness is both profound and elevating.
  • Philanthropic Revolution: In the aftermath of October 7th, Diaspora Jewry is on pace to raise more money than at any time in Jewish history, moving beyond the numbers raised in 1967 and 1973. Unlike other crisis situations within Israel, there are today more choices available in providing charitable assistance. The focus on specialized and targeted needs is fundamentally reshaping the Jewish philanthropic sector.
  • The Reality of Antisemitism: The pace and scope of anti-Israel expressions and antisemitic responses, in the aftermath of October 7th, appears to be on track to represent the single highest number of reported incidents, since the ADL has been monitoring assaults, harassment, and the messaging of hate. We are daily experiencing anti-Israel rhetoric and action. The public opinion war is one that has always been particularly challenging for the pro-Israel community, and it will be tragically the same in this current climate.
  • The Generational Wars: This is a generational battle, as older white Americans (72%) are aligning with Israel, while younger, non-white Americans (51%) are less connected or committed to the case for Israel (AP/Marist Poll). The university scene is a clear reflection of this divide. We see a similar disconnect between more senior American political officials and some younger elected politicians.
  • The New Political Reality: Drawing upon the themes of intersectionality, post-modernism, human rights, and the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign, Arab advocacy groups have successfully developed alliances with an array of campus, ethnic, religious and gender-based organizations as a means of off-setting and weakening over time pro-Israel advocacy efforts. Jewish organizations and the Pro-Israel community, on the other hand, have relatively strong support systems with more senior political elites, some labor, religious and business groups. Where Arab organizing efforts have targeted younger constituencies, the Jewish community still benefits from having the support of more mainstream and seasoned leadership. The core question will be for how much longer can the pro-Israel community maintain its political advantage?
  • The Technology Revolution: With access to technologies of Webinars, Zoom and social media and with the presence of more news outlets, access to information and analysis has become more immediate and continuous. Sadly, as we are learning, a good deal of this coverage tends to misrepresent historic realities and distorts contemporary factual information.
  • On the Ground: What we are learning from Hillel professionals and school educators is that our kids, our students, are terrified, fearful, and struggling. In some cases, losing friends, being uninvited to activities, and facing faculty members who impose their progressive ideas and anti-Israel messages on Facebook and in classroom settings. Our college campuses represent the second battleground, where the stakes are particularly high for our community.
  • The Legacy of Words: One of the most significant outcomes involves the vast number of poems, prayers, songs being generated both here in the Diaspora and in Israel following these events. The desire to express oneself reflects the need to find one’s voice in dealing with our individual and collective anxieties and anger as well as to offer comfort and support to others.
  • This War on Israel’s Soil: In most other conflict situations involving Israel since the Yom Kippur War, the conflict has taken place beyond Israel’s borders; in this scenario these acts of terror and bloodshed were committed inside the State of Israel on its citizens.
  • From Where We Sit: We remind ourselves that Hamas conducts its terror campaign of death and destruction from underground tunnels and caves, whereas Israelis claim the public square where they manage their lives above ground, celebrating life.
About the Author
Steven Windmueller, Ph.D. is an Emeritus Professor of Jewish Communal Service at the Jack H. Skirball Campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles. Prior to coming to HUC, Dr.Windmueller served for ten years as the JCRC Director of the LA Jewish Federation. Between 1973-1985, he was the director of the Greater Albany Jewish Federation (now the Federation of Northeastern New York). He began his career on the staff of the American Jewish Committtee. The author of four books and numerous articles, Steven Windmueller focuses his research and writings on Jewish political behavior, communal trends, and contemporary anti-Semitism.
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