Yakir Englander

Please Hold Us

This grieving sermon was delivered in a Black church in Philadelphia on October 22nd, in response to the recent Hamas attacks on Israel.

Dear friends, my name is Yakir Englander, and I represent the Israeli-American community. On October 7th, thousands of Hamas militants launched a brutal attack on Israel, resulting in the tragic loss of 1400 lives, including hundreds of young adults celebrating the Jewish holiday of Sukkot at a party in nature, children celebrating the joyous holiday in their homes, and elderly citizens. I come before you today seeking your support and solidarity.

Please Hold Us: The Hamas terrorists not only murdered people but also desecrated bodies and harmed pregnant women and women whom they used as sexual objects. Hamas abducted 210 men and women to Gaza, including 30 children and dozens of elderly individuals.

Please Hold Us: The terrorists did not just target individuals; they targeted families and our entire nation. In the Negev Kibbutz, there lived the Kotz family, who returned to Israel after many years in Boston. Livnat, the mother, was born during the Yom Kippur War in 1973. Her husband, Aviv, used to fly kites in front of Gaza to symbolize their desire for peace. Their children, Rotem, Jonathan, and Yiftach, all perished together, with their father trying to shield and protect them.

Please Hold Us: We, the Jewish community, as does the Black church, understand the impact of trauma and post-traumatic experiences. Our healing process depends on our ability to speak, share, and know that we are loved. We turn to you, the Christian community, to stand with us during these ongoing days of trauma as more Jewish lives are affected. And beyond that, after the conflict ends, when we can start mourning our losses. As the poet Maya Angelou once said, ‘Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.’

Please Hold Us: so that we are not tempted to revenge. The Jewish tradition is known for its opposition to revenge. The Israeli army is named IDF, meaning the ‘Israel Defense Forces’ and possess a unique ethical code emphasizing the need to defend our nation and citizens without seeking revenge, never descending to the path of Hamas. Our calling is to ensure that no Jew in the world will ever live in fear following the Holocaust. This responsibility calls Jews to act in such a way that the vulnerable, the ‘other’ (הגר in the Hebrew language), will never feel alone.

James Baldwin said it, in his sensitive words: ‘I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.’ We need you to hold us in your prayers so we can hold to our values.

What happened on October 7th is not just an attack on Israel; it is an attack on every place in the world that aspires to a life of justice and peace. As Martin Luther King Jr. proclaimed, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.’ And in the words of his friend, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel: “Few are guilty, but all are responsible.” Please hold us, so we can protect you.

Dear brothers and sisters, you are the disciples of Jesus, who taught the world the essence of love. I ask you to continue holding us in your prayers, to support us with your love.

Neta and Iran were a loving couple, both 22 years old, who lived in their family’s apartment in Kfar Aza. The terrorists entered the apartment and threw a grenade. Neta, a reserve soldier, jumped on the grenade, sacrificing his life for his beloved, Iran. For hours, she hid under his body until the rescue forces arrived. Blessed be the memory of Neta and please keep teaching us love.

I want to conclude with the words of our collective teacher, your pastor, and my rabbi – Martin Luther King, Jr.: ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.’

May God bless America, and may peace and healing come to the Jewish people. Amen.

About the Author
Dr. Yakir Englander is working to create Jewish and Israeli leadership in the US at the IAC. Originally from the ultra-Orthodox community of Israel, the Viznitz Hasidic dynasty, Englander earned a Ph.D. from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in Jewish philosophy and gender studies. He is a Fulbright scholar and was a visiting professor of Religion at Northwestern and Rutgers universities and Harvard Divinity School. In addition, he was a Shalom Hartman scholar in Jerusalem. Englander served as the Jerusalem director of Kids4Peace and later as the vice president of the organization. All of my blogs were translated by Dr. Henry R. Carse
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