During Simchat Torah, I heard rumors of trouble in Israel. Since it was Yom Tov, I did not check my phone. When the holiday ended and I saw the news, I was grateful to have had that brief buffer of ignorance
My son, Michael Danziger, who lives in Jerusalem, called me in the early morning Israel time after Simchat Torah ended in Los Angeles, where I live. After assuring me that he and his family were safe, he shared an encouraging viewpoint.
What happened in Israel was a pogrom the likes of which has not been seen in recent history. Our enemies gleefully butchered or captured innocent civilians, including the elderly and small children.They have been doing this for thousands of years, different enemies in different guises, but all with the same demonic goal: To destroy the Jews.
Pogroms happened in France, Germany, England, and Italy as well as in Iraq, Iran, and Egypt. In fact, most of the people living in Israel today are either survivors of pogroms or descendants of Jews who fled oppression in European and Arab countries. Jews have a long history of persecution within Israel as well, from ancient times to the Crusades to the Grand Mufti’s devastation of the Jewish settlement in Jerusalem in 1929, followed by the constant toll of intifada and terrorism. True, we have the Purim and Hanukah stories and Israeli military victories to uplift us, but historically, my son said, our response to a pogrom was to take our losses and keep our heads down until the next time. We dared not resist.
This time, Michael said, it’s different. We are not going to lie low. This time, we fight back. The IDF will stop at nothing to rescue hostages and wreak vengeance on the cowards who perpetrated this evil on a civilian population. And it is not only the Israeli army that is fighting this war: The people of Israel, so recently divided, have unified to support each other at a painful time. A young mother told me that she initially thought it was a mistake when the sirens sounded in Jerusalem on Shabbat morning. Then she opened her front door. When she saw her non-religious neighbors barreling down to the cellar at full speed; she figured the threat was real. She sent her children ahead of her into the shelter. Then she stopped at the apartment of a bedridden elderly man. With his arms sprouting intravenous tubes and his non-functioning legs, there was no way he could be moved to the basement. She closed all his shutters to protect him from falling glass and moved his bed to the center of the room. Only then did she take herself to the bomb shelter. Her daughter was distraught that she had not been with the children the whole time. The mother told her daughter where she had been and said, “This is what we do. We take care of other people.” Her daughter understood. It is a lesson she is not likely to forget.
I spoke to my daughter-in-law, Rachel Sharansky Danziger, and asked her what I could do to help. She said, “Write to your congressperson.” Today, President Biden states his “rock solid” support for Israel. But as anti-Zionist (read anti-Semitic) voices rise and the inevitable casualties mount, that support might begin to waver. International media outlets are sympathetic to Israel now, but when Israel responds to Hamas’s incursion with force, the media may revert to their pattern of blaming Israel – even though Hamas triggered the conflict. We need to keep the narrative clear.
No one thinks this war will end quickly. It will be long, and it will be bloody. Diaspora Jews need to unite, just as Israeli Jews have done, to advocate for the Jewish state. So here’s what I ask you to do:
• Today, write to your elected representatives. If you are American, contact your Senators and Representatives (www.congress.gov), President Biden (www.whitehouse.gov), and Secretary of State Blinken (www.state.gov). If you live elsewhere, reach out to your Members of Parliament and Prime Ministers, telling them you support Israel’s right to defend itself and urging them to provide all necessary aid.
• Talk to your friends and neighbors, comparing Israel’s behavior with Hamas’s. Remind them that the Israeli army warns civilians before bombing buildings and never takes hostages. Remind them that Israel is the only liberal democracy in the Middle East, with a free press and equal rights for women and members of the LGBTQ community. Compare that to those who viciously quash dissent, throw gay men off of rooftops, and slaughter innocents without warning.
As the war proceeds, some Palestinian civilians will be killed, possibly when being used as human shields. Any loss of life is tragic. However, Hamas and its allies brought this war on themselves, and they are responsible for its consequences.
Yes, it was a pogrom. No, it should never have been allowed to happen.
But this time, it’s different. We support each other. And we fight back.