Alan Potash
Striving for balance as a Jewish American and a Zionist

Israel From the Outside: Sustaining a Strong Connection

Image courtesy of author

Broken but hopeful. 

It has been a while since I have added to this blog. I have been storing bits and pieces of thoughts and feelings since Oct 7th. This post is about how I have been able to stay connected and learn from trusted voices in Israel. The opportunity to immerse in life in Israel from a distance has been helpful and meaningful. The title Israel from the outside was inspired by Daniel Gordis’s Israel from the Inside and Joel Chasnoff’s Inside Israel. There is a lot to discuss. What I want to accomplish first, in this post is to express my gratitude to the work many of the people I mentioned below have done for me and others over the past six months.

We are coming up six months of the war and six months since I stopped listening to the BBC—no need to explain. As I head to Israel this week, long overdue, to volunteer in the South and put my feet on the ground that I have been so connected for over 50 years. The past months have been very difficult for me and many others as passionate supporters of Israel. I was in Israel in September 2023 and traveled up and down the Gaza envelop and spending time in Sderot. I couldn’t even imagine what would take place a few weeks after the visit.

At about 10:30 PM on Friday, October 6th I received a phone call from my sons, “are you seeing what is happening in Israel?’ I got out of bed and started to scan the news. With little details and a lot of disbelief, I tried to go back to sleep. I couldn’t.  Throughout the early morning more and more devastating details came in clear and devastating. 

I put my advocacy hat and fundraising hat on and went to the office. Shortly after my arrival the staff started to join me and we created a fundraising link, an information blog and started fielding calls and donations. That was day one. We also organized community gatherings and rallies that was on day 2. Like many communities we provided space to gather, connected and put into action what we could do from afar.

As I write this today, day 172 of the war and while 134 individuals still be held captive. It is hard to imagine what it has been like for others in Israel and the diaspora. My mission has been to stay informed and connected. Being able to help people through the overload of information and disinformation.

As an outsider needing to be prepared, I found resources that helped in the search for news. The release of the hostage posters put a face and connection that helped understand the depth of what took place on Oct 7th. I must acknowledge the resources that have kept me informed; The Times of Israel, the Daily Briefing and What Matters Now, David Horovitz, the Jerusalem Post, Ynet, Channels 11 and 12, I24, JPPI, Daniel Gordis, Michael Oren, Joel Chasnoff, Yossi Klein Halevi, Matti Friedman, JFNA, Institute for the Study of War, Unholy: Two Jews on the News also, my podcast co-host Liz Feldstern who has allowed me to process from a distance on our podcast IsraelReBound. These are just a few of the meaningful resources that I have been able to access and share. As an outsider these resources have allowed me to be as close as possible from the outside.

As the war continues, the struggle for the hostages, the increase in antisemitism has generated significant scholarship on what is happening in the moment. To the above list I have found the voices of Einat Wilf, Michal Cotler Wunsh, Dara Horn, Douglas Murray, Bari Weiss and Rabbi David Wolpe to provide aid and context.

I want to first say there are a lot of great articles and books about what is happening in Israel and the extremism around antisemitism today. If you haven’t read the following you need to: Dara Horn’s recent article in the Atlantic, or Franklin Foer’s or listened to the interviews on Daniel Gordis’ Israel from the Inside with Einat Wilf and Michal Cotler Wunsh—or Call Me Back with Dan Senor you should.

This is the first installment of Israel from the Outside: Staying connected. How and Why Israel is important. Next post: how someone from Nebraska becomes a Zionist.

About the Author
For over 25 years I have been embedded in American Jewish life. As a professional working for Hillel, ADL and Federation I continuously advocate for and write about how to make a stronger connection to Israel and the Jewish world. Helping people map out their Jewish Journey.
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