David-Seth Kirshner
Author of Streams of Shattered Consciousness

Stream of Anxious Consciousness V

I wish I could say that reality is getting easier. In fact, it is quite harder. The names surfacing are attached to pictures which are connected to families which are tied to histories fastened to characteristics and tethered to funny and meaningful anecdotes. Each name is a rich, sweet and beautiful tapestry that was senselessly ripped away from the world.

One of my daughter’s friends who she has been anxiously awaiting word from, has now been identified as one of the dead. The finality was a gut punch to her. All of us, really. I guess there actually was a sliver of hope that we held on to. Hope flickers as if we are lighting a candle in the wind.

A few disparate thoughts on this evening that is still an unmitigated nightmare.

The distance from the United States to Israel never felt closer. At the same time, I have never felt so physically far away from my homeland and my people.

Strangers and those who offer check-ins and support have buoyed my spirit and restored my hope in humanity. At the same time, never have I been more disappointed in some leaders of colleges, organizations and companies as well as a handful of people in my social circles who have been radio silent.

The Jewish world as we know it will never be the same. Every synagogue, Jewish Day School and the alphabet soup of the Jewish organizational world will change its foci, its budgets and its operations for decades to come. No Jewish Federation will go back to business as usual. Similar to America after 9/11, our Jewish DNA has been irrevocably altered by this tragedy.

One manifestation of this change will be future conversations on land and peace. Unequivocally, the two-state solution was beheaded this week. Not in my children’s lifetime will a sovereign Palestinian State be established bordering Israel. I am OK with that, today.

There is more than one reason why October 7th achieved Hamas’ goal and ruined peace-loving people’s dreams: Yes, it was proven and verified that we cannot ever have a hostile neighbor in arms reach to Ben Gurion Airport or Tel Aviv. Ever. But worse than that, the silence from the majority of the Islamic world, especially in the West Bank, is a clear condonation of these despicable acts.

Not all Middle Eastern countries fit into that bucket. The UAE expressed solidarity with Israel as did Bahrain and a few select other countries. But far too many, from Tehran to Tunis, were dancing and celebrating this heinous loss of life.

Further to this point, Hamas proved that leaving Gaza in 2005 was not an opportunity seized but a terrorist enclave established. It was declared by the actions of Hamas this week and the celebration of others in the Middle East, that statehood sits a distant second to ambitions to annihilate Israel. In fact, I doubt statehood is even – or ever was – on the top of the agenda for many.

On Sunday, October 8, Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the “moderate” Palestinian Authority claimed that Palestinians should have the right to defend themselves and called on the UN to intervene to protect Palestinians in Gaza. This is the moderate we should negotiate with? These are the factions we should establish a state with? Discuss security concerns with? C’mon! That idea was set ablaze this Saturday.

Some have lamented the lost momentum of peace with Arab countries. Some called it the cessation of the Abraham Accords. I read one blog that exclaimed how close we (Israel) were to brokering peace with Saudi Arabia.

Yeah. I am sad about that too. But, if Saudi Arabia is not on the side of condemning Hamas, we do not need normalization with them. We survived 75 years without peace with Saudi, we can survive 75 more. We cannot, however, survive another day of terrorists and those sworn to our destruction as our neighbors.

I was the loudest cheerleader of the Abraham Accords. I rejoiced at the new horizons opening up for all that extended an olive branch and new opportunities. But what good are the Abraham Accords and peace with countries once hostile to us, if our very existence hangs in the balance.

Last disparate thought for tonight:

When 9/11 happened and many Americans targeted Islamic people living in America, from taxi drivers to fellow employees, I joined the marchers and chorus that said, “Stop! No! We will not tolerate this hatred towards others.”

When a white nationalist opened fire on a Sikh church in Wisconsin, I joined the marchers and chorus that said, “Stop. No. We will not tolerate this violence towards others.”

When Covid broke and many Americans bullied and taunted and abused Asian Americans, I proudly joined the marchers and chorus that said, “Stop. No. We will not tolerate this behavior towards others.”

When a white police officer held his knee on the neck of a black man for long enough to kill him, giving fuel to critical conversations of race in our country, I proudly joined the marchers and chorus that said, “No. Stop. Black Lives Matter.”

As tragedy has now befallen my people, I have taken attendance at who is part of the marchers and the chorus. I am hurt by the absence of some. I am heartened by the attendance of many.

For those who are sitting this march out or who have squelched the megaphone or are equivocating and offering ‘what-aboutisms’ and ‘both-side’ conversations, I have two things to share:

a) History will delineate you not as freedom seekers or peace lovers. Rather, as people that see Jewish blood as less-than or cheaper-than other groups. When one of the largest chapters of BLM claims to be on the Palestinian side only, and proudly posts pictures of terrorists entering Israel to murder seniors and rape teenage girls, you are ironically saying that Jewish lives do NOT matter.

b) When faced with a moment that I hope never happens again, but most likely will, whether another terrorist attack in America by radical Muslims, white nationalist shooting against a minority group, any at attack against Black people or Asian Americans, I assure you I will STILL stand up and join the marchers and the chorus and chant even louder, “Stop. No. We will not tolerate this.”

My advocacy is not to curry favor or earn chits. My marching and chanting are because of my moral compass and values.The reason I am often surrounded in those moments by fellow Jews is because we share those values and compass. It is core to our Canon. Part of our genes.

For all of those that are not of my faith but still share my coordinates and values, thank you. We are warmed by having you stand close. For those that are absent and silent in this moment for the Jewish and Israeli people, I am heartbroken that your values and ours were never really in sync, all along. What a painful awakening!

May peace be upon us soon. God, please protect the soldiers and citizens of Israel that are protecting their country and Jews worldwide.

About the Author
David-Seth Kirshner is the senior rabbi of Temple Emanu-El, a Conservative synagogue in Closter, New Jersey. He is the past President of the NY Board of Rabbis and the NJ Board of Rabbis and is a Senior Rabbinic Fellow at the Hartman Institute and serves on the Executive Committee of the JFNA. Rabbi Kirshner was appointed to the New Jersey/Israel Commission by Governors Christie and Murphy. Rabbi Kirshner is a National Council member of AIPAC and an adjunct faculty member at the Academy for Jewish Religion, (AJR). He is the author of Streams of Shattered Consciousness, featured in The NY Times Book Review (Feb '24) and has over 11,000 copies in circulation in its first three months since publication. He has spoken on his book and topics connected to Judaism and Zionism across the world.
Related Topics
Related Posts