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The Ties That Bind

The Ties That Bind (courtesy)

We went to Camp Ramah in Wisconsin 50 years ago, all of us from the Midwest (which at the time included Texas). We are Nivonim 1974 from Wisconsin Ramah.

Some of us made aliyah, some live in the US and others in Panama and Canada.  When the pandemic started, Dvora Lopez (f/k/a Dana Barg) and Joy Argaman (f/k/a Joy Rabinowitz) suggested we start a Zoom discussion.  We began by hearing from some in our group about what we did and continue to do in our grown up lives.  Interesting and nice to reconnect.  Then October 7th, Black Saturday, happened.  We continued to Zoom and discuss the war, how it affected us and how we could help each other.

One of our members, Michael Even-Esh (f/k/a Michael Firestone) grew up in Kansas City, majored in broadcast journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and moved to Israel in 1979.  Shortly after the war broke out, Michael shared a letter he had written to a group he teaches. After another Zoom on April 7, 2024, on “Ethical Combat in the IDF – Jewish Sources & Personal Stories” which Michael led, many of us revisited the letter he circulated shortly after the war began.  Dvora and Joy and I worked together to edit the letter and found it more profound today than it was even then. Below is the edited version of Mike’s letter, posted with his permission:

“Saturday afternoon my reserve unit (The Northern Paratrooper Brigade) was mobilized, as so many other reserve forces were. We showed up at our base, got our gear as quickly as possible, lots of hugs, lots of disbelief, and within a few hours were on our way. At the moment, we are in a forest near the border, holding a strategic position, doing some training, getting our gear in the best shape possible, guarding ourselves at night, hearing military updates by various commanders, and most importantly – getting to know each other better. Not just names, but lives…DMCs are a part of service (Deep Meaningful Conversations). Soon we’ll be given a mission and we will get it done. It’s true that I’m pretty old for army service, but there are a few things that if you’re good at, you can be helpful to your team. One – being okay with the Great Unknown and going with the flow. Two – enjoying living in the great outdoors, without showers or a change of clothes. Three – carrying heavy backpacks on your shoulders. Four – keeping your calm in stressful situations. And Five – working well with others, and helping those in need.

In almost every conversation between us, there is one subject that keeps coming up. It is perhaps one of the most important subjects in the world. But it is not taught in universities, not reported on in the news, not the subject of many books and movies, and not a big theme in social media.

It’s about living a life of love vs living a life of hate. Love vs hate. It sounds trite, but I’ll say it again: Love vs hate.

What happened on Shabbat in southern Israel [on October 7, 2023] was not about politics or land or governments. It’s about what you think about when you go to sleep at night and when you wake up in the morning. It’s about what your life is about. Are you living for LOVE or are you living for HATE?

I really and truly believe that this is what it comes down to. And everybody I’m talking to in the army is mentioning the same thing! And if you’ve been following trustworthy media, you know exactly what I’m talking about. This (and previous wars) are not just battles with bullets and bombs. It is a battle of light vs darkness.

I have spent most of my life teaching about a Judaism of love, and not a Judaism of hate. Some people really do live a Judaism without love. We all struggle. But Judaism without love, Judaism without compassion – this is not our tradition!

The more we see hate in the world, the more we have to love in this world. The more we have to care. The more we have to be sensitive. The more we have to give. (“The more that I give, the more I’ve got to give!”) This is why the State of Israel was established when it was established.

Terrible things happened on Shabbat [i.e., October 7, 2023]. And more terrible things will yet happen. One of the biggest challenges for Israel will be destroying terrorist infrastructure while keeping our ethical soul intact. And this will be at a time that terrorists will be hiding behind civilians, under hospitals, in schools and in private homes, with an actual wish that the IDF will hurt their own civilians for PR gains. And some civilians will be actual terrorists. I hope you realize how hard it will be to discern between the guilty and the innocent. If we are too mean, we lose ethically. If we are too nice, we lose more lives. (And you know one thing for sure: the world and the world’s media and the world’s institutions will soon vilify Israel, no matter what we’ll do.) It is a lose-lose situation, but it must be done.

But we must live and act in the way we feel is ethical, even if we are censured by the entire world. This is no small challenge.

There is so much work for us all to do! And choosing a Judaism that is filled with love, with care, with giving, with compassion. That is not a simple task!

Be careful with your words! Use them to build and heal and not to destroy and wound. That task is as hard as any soldier’s task!

We are living at a time when world events change our world view. What happened on Shabbat [October 7, 2023] is one of those events. I think we should all change our world views, hit the update button, and focus on being a source of light. And we need to shine that light – at one person, one family, one community at a time.

Shalom!

Michael”

The ties that bind our Nivonim Eidah from 1974 are strong; peril has made them even stronger.

About the Author
The more complicated the better! That is Terri Krivosha's belief in helping shareholders, family business owners, and companies buy or sell businesses or solve their legal problems. One client, who shared his reasons for working with Terri, said, "Her intuitive business sense together with her passion for helping clients achieve success permeates everything she does". Terri also participates in Daf Yomi and looks forward to finishing the current cycle after she and her husband Rabbi Hayim Herring make aliyah on July 8, 2024.
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