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David-Seth Kirshner

Streams of Anxious Consciousness 50

This will be my last Stream of Anxious Consciousness. At least for now. I am taking a pause after 50 days of chronicling the massacre against Israel on October the 7th and the aftermath of shock, trauma and anguish for the people and nation of Israel, along with the meteoric rise of antisemitism worldwide.

I am not pausing because I have run out of things to write about.

My friend, Ido Aharoni visited our synagogue this morning. Ido is a savvy diplomat and brilliant thinker. When I asked him what the outcomes of this war will look like and when we can expect to taste the fruits of our victory, Ido came back with a fantastic lesson I never synthesized until today.

After the murders of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, Golda Meir assembled a secretive group of Mossad agents and hitmen in a secretive operation called Wrath of God. Her directive was to spend unlimited resources to track down each person connected to the planning, implementation, siege and murder of the athletes in Munich, wherever they may be in the world. Once found, they would be eliminated. Golda, supported by Moshe Dayan, Generals Harari and Zamir, and her cabinet, wanted to send a clear message to any would be assassins and accomplices: Israel will find you and kill you.

It took 9 years for the initial list of masterminds and terrorists to be located, concluding with the assassination of Hassan Salameh. The operation transcended two Prime Ministers, Meir and Begin, and extended to not only those directly involved with Munich, but even people with ancillary connections. Locating and successfully removing Salameh happened almost a decade after Munich.

Ido was reminding all impatient Jews and any members of the instant-gratification society that we have been enlisted to run a marathon, not a sprint. While we are running fast now, we have a long distance to go.

When I wrote my first Stream on the night of October 7th, I intuitively knew that Israel and Diaspora Jewry would never be the same, and that was way before we knew the gruesome details, the tally of hostages and the count of the murdered.

The operation of eradicating Hamas will have many layers: removing the physical militants, destroying their arsenal and infrastructure and establishing a buffer for the future. Those goals will take a minimum of 3-4 more months to achieve. Eliminating the Hamas ideology will take a generation.

Hamas extends far past Gaza. They are in the West Bank of Israel and in Jordan and Egypt. Hezbollah, in Lebanon, is the same animal with different stripes. There is no way Israel can allow an enemy to camp on its border, and to amass hundreds of thousands of rockets. Hezbollah will need to be dealt with soon after this conflict winds down. Further, Israel cannot defeat Hezbollah alone. They will need American support. Most likely that will include rearming munitions, supplying loads of bunker busting bombs, Osprey aircraft and aerial support from the two battleship carriers in the region to keep the Houthis in Yemen and the remnants of Isis in Syria at bay. Make no mistake, the USS Gerald Ford and the USS Eisenhower and their extensive entourage is more than window dressing. Their presence is a clear signal to Iran and its nefarious proxies that should they act like a bully, our big brother is standing by to protect us and pounce on them.  I doubt those ships or nuclear submarines in the Persian Gulf are going anywhere else soon.

Once Hezbollah is dealt with, Iran will need to be defanged for good. Iran can no longer bankroll terror and seek our destruction via stand-in. We will need to address the existential threats Iran poses. That operation will be lasting and ongoing.

When I visited K’far Azza last week, I realized that the best plan forward for the beleaguered Kibbutz is to bulldoze the entire space and rebuild from scratch. Of course, we will rebuild there. Memorials will be erected, and families will make the choice if they want to or can (emotionally) return. The process of rebuilding will take a minimum of 24 months.

The displaced people in the north will not go home until the Hezbollah problem is solved. Who can blame them? Do not expect that to conclude, even in the most miraculous diplomatic achievements, before June 2024.

The infernos of antisemitism on college campus and main street might tamp down, but the heat and stench will last a while. The Jewish community has major work ahead on preparing our college students for being Jewish on campus. Activating Hillels,  ADL and Chabad Houses to be more vigilant on security, and to better arm students with facts and tactics to put out these fires started by reckless and immature arsonists with truths, data, passion is mission critical. Enlisting support of allies to build bridges before the fires ignite or spread will be our first and second priorities.

University leadership will have a reckoning. Some presidents and chairs of the board need to step down. Others will need to be removed. All need to say in a full-throated manner that Jewish lives and Jewish security matters. If saying those words taste like vinegar for anyone, they need to take a long and deep look into their souls and ask why it is permitted to treat Jews differently. We will no longer tolerate being treated as ‘other’ while paying full tuition and gifting 7 to 9 figure donations from Jewish alumni.

The hordes of folk who spent their free time tearing down signs of souls kidnapped by Hamas claiming it was hoax, have been noticeably silent as the first tranche of hostages are released. Hmmm.  The professors, airline pilots, physicians, social workers, police officers and babysitters who have spent the past 50 days denying Jewish hurt and advocating for Hamas and celebrating their despicable acts of October 7th, need to be fired and publicly shamed. As one diplomat told me, we cannot be satisfied they were dismissed. We must ensure they are never hired again. Their reputation for siding with Al Qaeda, Bin Laden and Hamas and negating Jewish torment must follow them for all the days of their lives. Or at least until they rescind and retract those abhorrent views.

The trauma Israelis endured on the 7th and the ensuing weeks will live with them forever. Fire fighters are still haunted by September 11th. So too are survivors of the Pentagon, gate agents of the doomed flights, and people who lost loved ones in all four places. Many who watched the towers get hit and collapse still suffer from PTSD. This trauma will not evaporate soon. Emotional and psychological support will be ongoing for all arteries of Israeli life. Our task is just beginning.

October 7th, 2023 was a special day in my life. I turned 50 years old. I was born as the Yom Kippur war began. It was October the 6th. My mother heard the news of a surprise attack on Israel while praying in America. Her water broke and a few hours later, officially early morning the 7th of October, I entered the world. 50 years after that and the biggest time marker of my life is indelibly stamped by war and Zionism, again.

The Black Sabbath Massacre happened on Simchat Torah. The festive holiday commemorates the conclusion of the cycle of reading the five books of the Torah. Interestingly, when we finish with the last words of the Torah, we do not pause and take a breather. We are not afforded a hiatus. We instantly roll the scroll back and begin the process of reading and interpreting the stories and teachings all over again.

The Torah is absolute yet never ending. What a fantastic paradox.

When I first was engaged to my now wife, Dori, we visited an amusement park. I was so excited to go on all the rides and roller coasters. The speed and thrill give me a high. Upon entering the park Dori finally broke the news to me she was dreading to share for fear of bursting the bubble of my excitement.

“I hate amusement parks,” she solemnly confessed.

I was devastated. Would our marriage survive? Could this be the woman I would spend the balance of my life with? Is this the person I would create a family with? I felt dupped. Betrayed. I was shattered.

Then Dori said to me, “Hey. I will go on the Ferris Wheel with you.”

Is there any ride more boring than the Ferris Wheel? Seriously! It just goes round and round so damn slowly. I hate the Ferris Wheel.

Getty Free Image

We were invited to board the bucket of the Ferris Wheel by the toothless, tattooed  attendant. The door gingerly shut locking us in to our open cabin. No seat belts or warning were necessary.  It was not a fright inducing or dangerous ride. Dori was smiling from ear to ear, so happy we could enjoy this moment together. I was faking – not too well – my enjoyment.

In simmering frustration, I declared how bored I was on the Ferris Wheel. “It just goes ‘round and ‘round. So damn slowly. Nothing changes. I hate this ride!”

Then Dori taught me one of the most profound lessons of my life.

“David,” she said, “The ride might spin ‘round and ‘round, but the world around us changes every turn of the cog in this giant wheel. No one and no one thing stay the same as we circle in place.”

Since that moment, I was positive I made the perfect choice in life partner.

This war has many echoes of yesteryear and yet, so much of our reality is different and new. Partners for peace were once adversaries while some we considered allies are ambivalent at best, foes at worst. We are circling another bout of what was, while we anticipate what might be. Much around us is the same and much is changing yearly, daily, hourly and by the minute.

Throughout these Streams, I have jogged our memory back to Egyptian bondage, expulsion in 1492, pogroms in Russia under the evil rule of the Czars, the rise of Nazism in Germany and throughout Europe, and the multitude of enemies Israel faced since the founding of the State. This has been half of the Jewish story. Victimhood, challenge, persecution, discrimination, weakness, belittling and denigration are synonymous with our identity.

The other half of the Jewish story is resilience, perseverance, hope, determination, grit, flexibility, strength, commitment, resolve, drive and tenacity.

These two competing narratives are the blend of circling in place while appreciating all that changes around us.

These chronicles comprise our remarkable history that is still being composed.

……

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.
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