Ariella Cohen

The 100th Day of School

Handmaid mosaic commemorating the victims of October 7th, located in Netanya, Israel (courtesy)
Handmaid mosaic commemorating the victims of October 7th, located in Netanya, Israel (courtesy)

Yesterday marked the 100th day of the war. Milchemet Simchat Torah, Operation Swords of Iron, whatever you want to call it. 100 days since October 7th. 100 days since the hostages were taken to Gaza. 100 days since the morning of Simchat Torah when we were all just minding our own business and forced to watch the world turn upside down. 100 days (and counting) since then.

What’s weird is that 100 days has a different connotation for me. A slightly more pleasant one. It’s probably been over a decade since I’ve even thought about this, but when I think of the 100th day, I think of the 100th day of school. I don’t even remember what happens on the 100th day of school, but I know that it’s a day of celebration. Recognizing getting through half of the school year I guess. So reaching the 100th day of the war presented a weird dichotomy because the 100th day is supposed to be something to be proud of. Reaching a milestone of sorts. But I’m not sure anyone sane would call it a milestone to have reached 100 days and still have 130+ of our people stuck underground being watched like a hawk by terrorists. We don’t even know if they’re dead or alive. The way the world doesn’t seem to care about this predicament only adds salt to the already very deep wound. The wound is festering at this point after 100 days, so every little bit of salt that seems to be getting sprinkled on it with every new day is exacerbating the situation further. I’m not actually shocked by the antisemitism in the news anymore because it’s become the norm. The Jews are viewed by a large percentage of the world as less-than. Not worthy. Unfortunately this is not news. The circumstances do seem to be getting more and more unbelievable though.

Every week during Havdalah, we say the pasuk “ליהודים היתה אורה ושמחה וששון ויקר כן תהיה לנו” (Esther 8:16). In many homes, everyone stops and says it together. The word that has always stuck out to me is ”יקר” which is generally translated in this context as “honor.” This phrase is a prayer that just as the Jews in the time of Esther ultimately saw light, joy, and honor, so may we. Especially since the war began and people all over the world have made it very clear that we are dishonorable in their eyes, I’ve been taking an extra minute to focus on the word יקר during Havdalah each week. Sending up a little prayer that our tiny little nation will finally receive the honor that we deserve from the world. Honestly, even something less than honor would be good. Maybe just a little bit of respect. That is something that we are desperate for, now more than ever. Our current level of יקר is quite low, and it can really use a boost. In any possible way.

In modern Hebrew, יקר means expensive. We Jews are an expensive people. Every single person is worth more than money can pay for. Which is what makes the loss of so many of our people and the waiting for our hostages over the past 100 days so much more difficult that the outside world can comprehend. We are expensive, we are honorable, and we are proud. Not much can stop Jewish pride. It can be shaken, but it cannot be broken. Our Jewish pride is what helps us remain an honorable people even when the rest of the world isn’t willing to open their eyes and see it. The stronger we continue to make it, the more entrenched it will be when the eyes of the world finally do open.

The more I think about the 100 days of war and the dichotomy that it brings up with the 100th day of school, the more I realize that there isn’t actually a dichotomy. The evil people in the world are attempting to school the rest of the world, including our own people. Attempting. To teach everyone who will listen how awful the Jews are and how we are worth less than dirt. How any action, no matter how unspeakable, is ok to do to Jews. This is certainly not cause for celebration. Our enemies have been trying to school the world for the past 100 days. And to some degree, they have been successful. Maybe they are celebrating. So it is a celebration, just tragically not ours. But it will not be a lasting success for them. It will be short-lived. Not short-lived enough because 100 days is already too long, but it will certainly not last forever.

I’m here waiting for the day when we will finally be seen and appreciated by the world for who we are. A moral, ethical, and honorable people. Sure, we aren’t perfect because no-one is, especially not an entire nation. But we own these qualities. Please God, may our worldwide shining moment of celebration and יקר come very very soon. Way before the end of the school year.

About the Author
Ariella Cohen grew up in Far Rockaway, NY and made Aliyah from Bala Cynwyd, PA in August 2023. She is an engineer and amateur musician with lots of other hobbies on the side.
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