October 7 was an unspeakable tragedy. Even 3 months later, many of us are still struggling to digest the horror, let alone to come to terms with the world’s response to it.
It’s really bad. But it’s also not new. As a people, we have had extensive experience with trauma, loss and scapegoating. As a consequence, while trying to make sense of current events, we are also forced to face the echoes of traumatic events from generations past.
We are the battered wives of the world. We know well the cycle of abuse, and until the founding of the State of Israel, we have had no where to escape to.
Given this, it would be understandable, even expected, for us to drown in the sea of learned helplessness and despair. This is indeed what the world claims has happened to our enemies, whom we supposedly oppress.
And yet, we are not only still here – we are thriving. We simply never say die.
Why is this? How we have managed to cope with such tragedy? And how have we succeeded in doing this not just once, but generation after generation?
There are, of course, many, many potential answers from different sources – religious, spiritual, cultural, psychological and practical. Here is one that I have been considering lately that I believe includes many of these aspects.
Generational trauma does not simply beget trauma. Used correctly, generational trauma can evolve generational resilience. And as a people, we undoubtedly have resilience – “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change”¹ – in spades.
As I unthinkingly commented in a discussion with a non-Jewish friend only a few weeks after October 7:
“History is repeating itself, which is very depressing, but also quite reassuring, because we have been here so, so many times before and we are still here. Our culture and religion has many tools to deal with oppression.”
So what exactly are these cultural tools, and how have they manifested, both historically and more recently?
Learn more in my next post.
¹“Resilience.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/resilience. Accessed 5 Jan. 2024.