Leah Jacobson
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What side of history do you want to be on?

There is so much noise, it can be hard to discern the values you agree with. Here are some tips to help you determine with whom you stand
Students participate in a protest in support of Palestine and for free speech outside of the Columbia University campus on November 15, 2023, in New York City. (SPENCER PLATT / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)
Students participate in a protest in support of Palestine and for free speech outside of the Columbia University campus on November 15, 2023, in New York City. (SPENCER PLATT / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

Since Hamas attacked Israel on October 7th there is a global debate surrounding the events of that dark day, with citizens of the world unwillingly being brought into the fray. Many people are asking themselves: Who is the aggressor? Who is the victim? Are Hamas and the citizens of Gaza one and the same? Does Israel occupy Gaza? What can and should be done about this situation? Do I necessarily need to get involved?

If you are having trouble deciding, consider that historically, groups who proclaim their intention to dominate the world and force their ideology upon all its inhabitants (such as Hamas) are generally to be taken at their word. Jihadists rarely stop their crusade after their first target is pursued (in this case, Israel). Which means that even if you are tempted to mind your own business while enjoying the freedom of a democratic society and comfortable lifestyle, your days of innocence are numbered.

So, what can you do about it? How do you know which “side” to take?

As a first step, peel away the noise of newscasts and social media posts. Don’t let others impose their opinions on you. Secondly, trust your own five senses to guide you.

Watch and listen to coverage of pro-Hamas rallies around the world. These rallies are happening in countries that have opened their arms and borders to people of all races under the assumption that they will become contributing members of said societies. The vibes at these rallies are violent and intimidating. They are led by kafiya-wrapped faces shouting angry slogans, and attended by masses of impressionable youths who are largely unwilling or unable to discuss the facts of the cause they are purportedly championing.

Pro-Israel rallies, by contrast show lively, music-filled atmospheres with palpable camaraderie. The attendees span ages and demographics, faces exposed and speaking of hope for a better future.  Attendees may not agree on all issues, but they are pro-democracy, peaceful and do not result in unnecessary violence or arrests.

Which of these is more in line with your vision of a healthy world?

You may have heard the buzz words “peaceful two-state solution” (between Israel and the Palestinians) and wonder why it has not materialized. Israel has had no partner for peace because Hamas and other terrorist regimes have stolen the reigns and guided two generations of Arabs into a dark, love-deprived abyss and violent existence.

Their society has been shattered by their own leadership. See through that façade of false righteous indignation. Rescind your sympathy for those who planted weapons instead of seeds and drained bank accounts instead of swamps. Who set their sights on targets instead of the stars and broke down greenhouses instead of barriers. Who dug tunnels to regress instead of digging inside themselves for progress.

Your olfactory sense is generally used to differentiate between pleasant and foul smells. In this case use it to discern between healing or toxic intentions. Unity is a powerful tool, but a worthy goal is a necessary extension of that unity. Uniting to build something up is praiseworthy; to viciously tear down lives and hold babies, the elderly, women and other innocents hostage is not.

If you can’t get past the feeling that the people of Gaza are oppressed, let’s look at some tangible evidence of accomplishments that can be achieved under duress.

Israel is a flourishing country, advanced in most fields despite being in a state of defensive war for much of its existence. In 75 years, its accomplishments and contributions to the world can be held in your hand in myriad ways. Check the world map again to remind yourself how infinitesimal the area of Israel is — even at its broadest disputed borders — and take in the disproportionate development and benefit to society at large.

Don’t be hypocritical. If you’re against Israel, then be consistent. Try to function without the technology she has developed, the medical advancements, the pampering health and beauty products. Many of these are based on natural resources revitalized since Jews returned to our land- antioxidant pomegranate products, world-class wines, mineral Dead Sea salts. Forgo the hydroponic vegetables, colorful flowers and global entertainers with roles ranging from superheroes to grocery checkout cashiers.

Don’t preach about how oppressive conditions squelch creativity and innovation. There has never been another people so oppressed across the millennia who have consistently risen above discrimination and destitution as the Jewish people. It’s an intrinsic value of taking responsibility, obtaining an education, valuing life, and wanting to improve it not just for ourselves, but for our children and for humanity.

Jewish people choose to live a moral and uplifting existence in the name of our God. We do not proselytize, forcibly convert or kill in His name. We welcome brotherhood and coexistence with fellow humans of all races and religions.

And finally, what taste will it leave in your mouth when your children ask you how you stood by and watched animals in human clothing rape, murder and behead civilians in the name of their god. How you justified not taking a stand against obscene violations of basic humanity because you weren’t sure which people deserved to inhabit the land being disputed.

It’s been a few months, but it is not too late to make a difference.

If your values align with Israel’s, actively express that in a way that you feel comfortable.  Write letters to news outlets and politicians demanding pressure on Hamas to release the hostages and disarm. Stand tall on social media, join a demonstration.

If you are still unsure where you stand, educate yourself. Seek answers to important questions. What is Israel’s charter? Hamas’s?

Seek the facts behind the Arab-Israeli conflict of the past 100 years. The Jewish state has extended its hand for peace time and again. But understand, the war with Hamas is not about territory, it is about ideology.

Ask yourself — what does Hamas bring to the world? What are they working toward? Is their utopia something you identify with: oppressive laws, plus 70 virgins in the afterlife and a handsome cash bonus for your family if you blow yourself up in the name of Allah. On the ground, many of their citizens lack fundamental rights; basic necessities are scarce while their leaders bathe in money thousands of miles away.

Absent is a functioning, viable, supportive, motivated, productive society and member of the world. The absence of light and hope is tragic but can be taught. For this to happen, the people have to want to shirk the terrorist oppressors. If they don’t find their voice then you can still help rid the world of this reign of terror.

In Judaism, we understand the value of one. One God who created each of us as an individual but with a divine spirit. Countless innovations have come from a single person’s dream or action.

One person can make a difference and set things in motion.

One person who is willing to break the cycle of negativity and anger.

One person who sees beyond lies and intimidation to the essence of evil.

What side of history do you want to be on?

About the Author
Leah Jacobson made aliya to Raanana from Seattle with her husband and children in 2011. She is an artist, a Madrichat Kallot and a Jewish Educator. Her passion is integrating Torah learning with personal expression to keep our ancient texts relevant to modern life.
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