Freda Rosenfeld

My Interfaith Day at Nir Oz

Placing a an anti violence sticker in a house in Nir Oz. (courtesy)

As president of the board of the American Friends of Beit Morasha, I accompanied a group of interfaith leaders, all members of Beit Morasha’s Forum of Interfaith Leaders of Israel, on their tour of Kibbutz Nir Oz, one of the kibbutzim most devastated by the Hamas attack on October 7. The Forum’s motto is “Violence – not in my religion!” and they came to pray for the victims and express solidarity with all of the Kibbutz residents. It was a day of many mixed emotions that I would like to share with you.

The pain and devastation were palpable. In one instance, when we entered a totally destroyed home that reeked of the smell of fire and smoke (three months after the destruction!), my mind could not help but conjure images of the Holocaust. In another home a bottle of wine sat on a counter ready to be opened. My heart leapt thinking of this family meal unattended by the family that has painfully left us.

One of the strangest scenes I encountered, as we walked around the kibbutz, was the abundant beautiful gardens and plantings. They remained untouched.  On one hand it showed that the terrorists were really only interested in killing humans. On the other, it tells the tale of the Israeli army that came too late to engage the terrorists in a fire fight (a discussion for a different time). But it also gave us hope that things can, and will, renew and reflower.

Another poignant moment was when an imam placed the Interfaith Forum’s sticker “Violence – not in my religion!” in one of the burnt-out houses. It highlighted that this is not a war about religion or against a people or an ethnic group – it’s a war against evil.

At yet another house we met Reuma Kedem, a mother and grandmother whose children and grandchildren were killed on October 7.  Her pain and her resolve were both gripping and inspirational. The void and sense of loss brought all of us to tears. But her unwavering hope in better times and the overall goodness of the world lifted us. After we spoke with her, giving her words of hope and consolation, I hugged her (as one of only two women on the tour, I guess there was a different connection that allowed me to be so bold). Afterwards, I realized that I needed that hug as much as she did. I too have been in this in-between zone of total despair and hope. Not just me, but all of us in Israel are living in this unreal world that needs to be healed.

But hope remains. The comradery and caring of the priests, ministers, Druze imams and rabbis has given me hope that we can all come together and wipe out violence. I knew that it wouldn’t be a quick fix when I heard the mortar just two miles away from Nir Oz. I am aware that we are only at the beginning of this journey to peace. But standing in Nir Oz, I felt a sense of confidence that we are indeed embarking on a worthy and noble mission. I just hope and pray that it’s not too winding.

About the Author
Freda Rosenfeld is a lactation consultant, enthusiastic Jewish learner, and environmental and Jewish activist, living in Jerusalem and Brooklyn.
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