Streams of Anxious Consciousness VI

Elizabeth Kubler Ross’ stages of grief are hitting in micro and macro circles. Walking around and seeing the sun shine down on faces and people go about their business reminds me of when I rose from shiva and walked to my local bagel shop. Everyone around me was fine. I was not. My hurt and pain were so profound I was sure all could see it. Like a severe limp or a gushing wound but our cuts are inside. Our bruising is internal. Our pronounced limps are in our hearts and minds, not visible to the naked or uninformed eye.

Our grief hits closely because this was an attack on Jews. It happened in Israel, but any Jew is a legitimate target for this group, wherever we are. It is in their charter. It is their core mission. We are saying, “There but for the grace of God, go I.”

As Israeli boys and girls, men and women gear up for war in Gaza and deterring the enemy in the North, there is another front that you and I have to gird up for. A war that is equally important today and especially tomorrow. That is the war against biased media.

I plan to mention any journalist on any channel that reports critically, unfairly or untruthfully. I will call out every network, and every anchor that crosses the line. This is an attack on their journalism, not their character.

I will begin with Richard Engel, from this morning’s Today show, who showed a gruesome picture of a pile of rubble in Gaza where men pulled out a lifeless baby covered in soot. It was a painful sight.

What Richard Engel failed to do was show one picture of a baby, a toddler, a grandparent that was maimed, murdered or incinerated by monsters days before. This pile of rubble and the dead civilians in Gaza of any age, did not happen indiscriminately. This was a direct response to the brutal massacre and kidnapping of sovereign citizens.

But here is the real kicker: No rationale Israeli is celebrating the death of that Gazan baby. Even in their rage. Even in their wrath. That is not what we seek. That is not a revenge that satisfies a soul.

Juxtapose that thought to the images we have seen of a five-year-old separated from parents and taunted, spit at and beaten. Contrast the lament of death with the candies shared in Khan Younis where babies’ heads were paraded about. This is the moral difference that makes this more than a war with bullets. It is a war of ideology. A battle for the soul of humanity. It is a conflict of enduring morality. It puts so much more at stake than just territory and history.

Engle talked about the strict blockade on the Gaza strip that Israel imposed for years, limiting supplies like food, water and medicine to the people of Gaza. Well, Richard, apparently, Hamas – which governs Gaza – had the wherewithal to get RPGs and AK-47s, and grenades and tunneling equipment and elaborate explosives, all which are expensive during this strict blockade into Gaza.

For less nuanced readers, I am calling B.S. on Engels’ reporting. There was no blockade, so to speak. There was an abuse of Hamas’ humanitarian aid that was channeled for weapons and not welfare, for firing bullets instead of food or first aid. For rockets instead of roads and repairs. For indoctrination instead of education. For building terror instead of trust.

Simply put, the people of Gaza are hungry because of Hamas. Not Israel. The citizens of Gaza are homeless because of Hamas. Not Israel. The residents of Gaza are sick because of Hamas. Not Israel.

As time ticks forward and the world’s attention span dwindles, we must fight the television, radio, printed papers, internet, social media and water-cooler pundits, wherever and whenever we see them raise their nasty head. We must combat lies, abuse, mistruths or unfounded claims of human rights violations with facts, figures, trusted sources and honesty and loud reminders of why we are here today.

It is a time that beckons all of us to embrace our Zionism. To run towards our Jewish identity. To proudly unbutton our shirts to show our Jewish star dangling from our necks. We need to put up lawn signs that unequivocally state that we stand with Israel. Our communities and shops should be littered with blue and white flags that declare our unwavering support. We should be sure to patronize those shops that bravely demonstrate their moral fortitude and stand with us, now.

While not apples to apples, we saw the power and potency of communities, merchants and common folk who stood – and continue to stand – with Ukraine. Like that war, there are clearly good guys and bad guys. Evil doers and peace seekers. Instigators and defenders. We know which side we are on. We need to enlist the world in our cause. Displaying communal pride will help do that.

(As an aside, Temple Emanu-El has purchased 2500 lawn signs that declare that We Stand with Israel. Come and pick up some and share with neighbors and shopkeepers.)

I am appreciative for the full-throated support displayed by Secretary Blinken today on behalf of the United States. Saying those words in Israel, now, meant even more. That is what friends do. They come to be physically present when we are hurting. They bring love to let us know that during the hard journey ahead, they will be by our side.

Secretary Blinken did make one comment that I have been wrestling with. He said, “Hamas does not represent Palestinians.”


I know he is right. I am friends with and have met countless Palestinians who are not in any way, shape or form part of Hamas and their charter. But have they declared that?! Today? Now?

When some political factions called for a Muslim ban in America, under the banner of patriotism, I used my voice to state, that political stripe does not represent me.

When Proud Boys and Oath Keepers marched waving a U.S. flag, I declared that their so-called patriotism does not represent me.

When the KKK espoused views of racism and hatred on behalf of Americans, it was made known that this was not my America and did not represent me.

When we use our voice to share that with which we agree and with what we object, we delineate which side we are on, and how history should judge us, accordingly.

This is why so many memes on social sites today are about silence and complicity.

I know that freedom to share ideas and feelings are a gift for those in this country that we cannot take for granted. It is not as easy in Gaza City or Jenin or Ramallah to speak out against Hamas. But if enough disagree with them and are willing to challenge them, they can grow in a force larger than the terror community Hamas has become. They need the courage second. But first they have to WANT to stand and delineate to which side they belong. Let us see that and prove that demarcation. Then we can claim Hamas does not represent Palestinians. Until then, I am afraid the jury is still deliberating.

My last thought for today.

The roaches come out at night. In this dark hour, the roaches of the world are seizing on the momentum of fomenting hate and fear and spreading Jew hatred. They are a fierce minority and a loud but small sector of our world. Their roar makes us think they are lions when they are really cowardly mice.

The last thing we should do is be cavalier about threats nor should we ignore animosity or disregard acts of hatred. Especially now. At the same time, think of Mister Rogers, obm, who would say, “Look for the good people running to help.”

There are indeed many more people that silently help and quietly offer support, and sympathetically stand next to us. The more of those good-hearted souls that rise to the surface, the brighter the light that will keep the roaches at bay.

God of mercy, look after the troops defending Israel, Her citizenry and Jews and good-hearted humanity, worldwide. We need your embrace and your comfort today and tomorrow.

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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