I came home from my meal, Shemini Atzeret day, and my husband told me something major was going on in Israel. I didn’t think much about it because, unfortunately, let’s be real – there is sadly always something going on in Israel. When I went to Shule that night, on the happiest day of the Jewish calendar – Simchat Torah, I started to hear whispers. Hamas attacked Israel by surprise through land, sea and air; hostages; bombing… My head was spinning. The first thought that came to my mind was, ‘Wow, this sounds like Fauda (the famed Israeli TV show), but on steroids… and in real life.’ My mind could simply not comprehend. Somehow, we got through Simchat Torah, still somewhat ignorant since everything so far was just talk and speculation and nothing was yet confirmed (simply because I could not access my phone or the news being an Orthodox girl who doesn’t use her phone on Shabbat or Chagim).
And then I turned on my phone.
And then the news poured out.
October 7th 2023, surprise terror attack…
Over 1,000 murdered and counting…
Supernova music festival…
Women raped, babies beheaded, houses set aflame with people inside, people brutally murdered…
To say I felt sick was an underestimate – I didn’t know even what I felt – the atrocities were unfathomable, and my mind could not even comprehend such barbarity.
And yet, I knew this was just the beginning, and worse was yet to come, especially with the social media PR war.
I love Instagram. I am totally addicted. It is a platform where I get to share my life and my musings and get to watch delicious food videos that make my mouth water.
I also use Instagram here and there to be a voice for my people and my homeland.
Whenever there is a terrorist attack (and before this massacre, sadly, there were many), I ALWAYS post. The world needs to know. Jews and non-Jews alike.
And so, as per usual, I began on my posting rampage, with my shock and horror clearly out there (I tend to write megillot (lengthy summaries) about how absolutely abhorrent the situation is)…
As I encountered increasing amounts of anti-Israel propaganda and falsehoods in the mainstream media, my determination and resolve only grew stronger and fueled more posting.
People started to question why this happened (as in perhaps Israel had done something to deserve this).
People started questioning the validity of October 7th, claiming that AI created the images (I kid you not).
People started to celebrate the events of October 7th, using it as a basis to fuel their anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiments (and this was not limited to one race or religion).
Setting politics aside, the events of October 7th are as clear as day, as black and white, representing an act of pure and utter evil. The fact that some people question, twist, and manipulate these events solely because they occurred in Israel highlights the twisted, false, and corrupt nature of our world. It demonstrates that some individuals are blinded by extreme hatred towards Jews and Israel, losing sight of the distinction between good and evil.
And I wish I could say it was just ordinary people, but no, mainstream media was amplifying and legitimising these absurdities. I wish I could claim I was shocked and taken aback, but the truth is, I wasn’t.
I majored in history at university, and it’s always been clear to me that history repeats itself. I’ve also felt that Jewish people are not as safe as they think they are (outside of Israel). Even as a female who doesn’t fit a specific ‘look’ associated with being Jewish (not that there is one, as in I don’t wear a kippa), I’ve often felt like an outsider. During my placement at a foreign school, being in university, as well as in casual conversations with strangers (which I engage in frequently), I’ve always been cautious with my words. I’m a proud Jew, and my name, Chava Israel, often becomes a conversation starter; nevertheless, I’ve consistently strived to remain politically correct and stay impartial and unbiased.
One of my closest friends, who made Aliyah (may G-d protect her family members now serving in the reserves in Israel), has often shared with me that she feels safer as a Jew in Israel, even in the face of continuous bombings and terror attacks, than she ever did in Australia. This perspective is a testament to the complex feelings and experiences of Jewish individuals around the world.
It boils down to an intense and unequivocal hatred, often referred to as antisemitism or antizionism. In my view, these two are one and the same, which is why we’re witnessing an extreme rise in antisemitism, particularly due to ongoing events in Israel.
I don’t disagree with my friend; she’s absolutely right. Take a look at Germany in the early 1900s, before Hitler’s rise to power and the onset of World War II and the Holocaust. Many German Jews were well-integrated into society; they held prestigious roles as high court judges, esteemed doctors, philosophers, scientists, poets, and academics. They couldn’t have imagined that the unthinkable genocide of 6 million Jews was on the horizon. You might wonder how they did not see it coming, given the infamous history of anti-Semitic pogroms in Europe and the publication of Hitler’s Mein Kampf in 1925, his autobiographical manifesto advocating for the elimination of Jews. Still, many cultured and enlightened Jews felt more German than Jewish.
Then, against all odds and despite the warning signs, the ‘unthinkable’ occurred, now known as the Holocaust or the Shoah. We often say, ‘never forget,’ yet it appears that some Jews are beginning to forget or have already forgotten…
Indeed, my main goal is to increase awareness among Jews. Many of my followers have been strongly swayed by mainstream media, which frequently conveys a biased, distorted, anti-Israel, perspective, often filled with falsehoods.
What makes it worse is that many Jewish individuals lack knowledge and understanding about the situation, leading them to unquestioningly believe what they read. It’s a straightforward dynamic. They understandably have doubts about Israel, and I can relate, as I would likely have similar concerns if I weren’t well-informed in this field. For this reason, I see it imperative to leverage my voice and platform to provide my followers with a steady stream of content, countering the flood of opposing viewpoints often inundating their Instagram feeds.
But of course, as with everything, it is hard to find the balance. Personally, I find it particularly tough. On one hand, there’s the emotional and mental toll – the sleepless nights and disturbing dreams. On the other hand, there’s the dilemma of deciding what to post.
On the one hand, less is best. Short, sharp, and to the point has proven most effective.
In fact, inundating people with information can lead to overload and push them to view the content as biased or even propagandistic, so it actually has the opposite effect. However, I’m torn because I feel like many videos and posts each have something important to say and needs to be shared.
Imagine (which, sadly, isn’t so difficult to do now) a scenario where a tragedy akin to the Holocaust is unfolding (I’m not suggesting they are identical, but it’s worth noting that October 7th marked the deadliest day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust, which serves as a harrowing reference point and puts thing into perspective).
Now, imagine this: Jewish people, your own kin, being transported in cattle carts to locations like Auschwitz, enduring inhumane horrors and being murdered in gas chambers.
In such a distressing time, would you opt for silence or choose to be vocal?
In this situation unfolding with Israel, I choose to be an up-stander. Not a bystander.
I choose to be vocal and not stand silently during these trying times for myself, my people, and my country. Especially for many Jewish people, the silence can be deafening and speaks volumes.
It is absolutely okay for people to have differing opinions, but I must emphasise that this is a firm belief of mine.
I cannot and will not sit idly by while my brothers and sisters in Israel are fighting for their existence. Just think, if Hamas went for a holiday, NO civilians would be killed; if the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) went on a holiday – well, Israel & the majority of the Jewish people would be wiped off the face of the earth.
I cannot and will not sit idly by when anti-Semitic attacks across the globe are occurring, including here in Australia, where my own friends are too scared to walk in the streets wearing their Tichels (head scarves), and where I know people who have taken down their Mezuzot on their doorposts because they fear for their lives.
No – I will not be quiet.
Naturally, as a religious and observant Jew, I thank the good Lord that I believe in G-d because if I didn’t, this world would truly be a dark place.
I also strongly believe that there is a spiritual war occurring as well, and as I teach my students, we need to increase in acts of goodness and kindness and strengthen our prayers and connection to G-d.
Yet, that doesn’t mean I cannot also be vocal for my people.
I have learnt from these challenging times that two emotions can coexist simultaneously.
As we see with our holy soldiers – they are fighting a battle and yet are dancing with their new Tzitzit on or singing Kabbalat Shabbat with so much pride and joy.
I can still feel outraged and distraught and yet have room for love and kindness towards humanity. As my friend so wisely said, “Humanity is there when you are open to it.”
I can still feel that G-d has a plan even though I am FAR from getting it (Emunah), and yet I can still trust and demand to G-d to only bring revealed blessings to the Jewish people (Bitachon).
I can still feel the joys in everyday life and still cry as I recite Psalms for the hostages.
These things do not negate one another; in fact, they coexist more than ever.
What I am over is the fact that Israel needs to defend itself for defending itself.
Of course, I am not over it enough that I will remain quiet; I will continue fighting the fight, and yes – I still get emotionally charged whilst doing it, and that is okay.
I’ve moved past the need to be overly politically correct. For instance, when talking to my Uber driver Abdullah (who was, by the way, the nicest guy), I did not whitewash what was going on in Israel, nor did I unleash words of hatred.
Judaism is a faith centred on love and peace. I’ve always understood this, but it became even clearer to me on the Friday night following October 7th.
Rabbi Moss, the Rabbi of our Shule, shared words filled with inspiration, pure encouragement, love, unity, and a reaffirmation of our faith in Hashem.
And it wasn’t just this Shule.
I can guarantee that if anyone walked into ANY Shule at any time, all the spiritual leaders would be reiterating similar messages.
Mi K’amcha Yisroel – Who is like you, O Israel!
And as Rabbi Moss was speaking, tears sprung to my eyes, and I pondered to myself, who are these crazy people? If they wanted to, they have every right to be angry and outraged, but no, they choose to be a beacon of light and love to the world. In the words of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, “Don’t ask what will be, but ask what can you do?”
And then, through the tears, I couldn’t help but smile to myself: Chavi, you are a part of these remarkable people! And wow, how lucky I felt (and feel).