Sarah Mali

This is Our Moment: Shabbat, October 13th 2023

It is totally bewildering to me that we are reentering Shabbat.

There has been no structure to the week. You wake and have this split second where you think life is normal and then your whole stomach churns and your heart aches, again. No day, no night, incessant calls, no meetings, from doing to more doing punctuated by travel to funerals and then back to the mayhem – the tohu, vavohu – the chaos – that we will read in this weeks’ Torah portion. If you have spoken to an Israeli this week you may have found it odd, sentences stopped in the middle, lines of thought dissipating intermittently, children, sirens, thunder, succahs falling down in the wind in the background.

Though our speech may be choppy we have total clarity.

We have been enlightened in the cruelest of ways. And we will overcome darkness. Medieval, grotesque darkness. History is important: The spiritual leader of the Palestinian community in the 30s was Haj Amin Al-Husseini who was pictured meeting Hitler and who notoriously said “Kill the Jews wherever you find them. This pleases God, history, and religion. This saves your honor. God is with you.” He is the acknowledged spiritual symbol of Hamas.

There is no room for moral equivalency when facing terror.

This is pure evil.

You may need to suspend a romantic part of your belief system to say this. That we are all human, that this is a human disaster on both sides. It won’t be simple. You need to do it. Because what Israel and the Jewish People need to do now is defeat evil. You may also, heaven forbid, need to face that in your communities too.

We said never again in the past, we cannot afford to use it as a mantra when we are purged. We need to use it as a defiant, bold, and unwavering call for action.

It is quite possible, even were we to live long lives, that we will not see Israel fully repaired in our lifetimes. But we will do everything to ensure that Israel and Israelis are rebuilt from the inside out and the outside in. That we are strong and full of life like we know how to be for the long run.

Listen for a minute to verses from the final chapter of the book of Lamentations, the biblical chapters that tell of the destruction of Jerusalem:

We have become orphans, fatherless, our mothers are as widows. They ravaged the women in Zion, the maidens in the cities of Judah, Leaders were hanged by their hand; the elders were shown no respect. Gone is the joy of our hearts; our dancing has turned into mourning.

This book begins with:

How solitary is Jerusalem – how alone are we

This week I have been inundated by calls, emails, and messages from the Jewish communities across Canada, my native UK and the rest of the world. It is a humbling experience to feel such generosity from world Jewry who are standing up for the Jewish homeland in unprecedented ways. (You have also asked how I am, which has warmed my heart.)

Together, at rallies, parlor meetings and in more discrete ways you declare:

Israel will never be solitary again!

This is our moment, as Canadian Jewry and the Jewish People, to be the people our history has taught us and our future demands of us to be.

Am Yisrael Chai: No slogan, unapologetic, upright, unequivocal, and enduring,

About the Author
Sarah Mali is the director general of Jewish Federations Canada-UIA. Sarah has served the Jewish community for over two decades and is a prolific writer and public speaker in Israel and globally.
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