Eyal Bitton
Cantor, composer, lyricist.

What We Have Learned

What have we learned over the last few days, since the Palestinian terror group Hamas launched a massive and savage terrorist attack on Simchat Torah?

We learned that Hamas really do mean the entirety of Israel when they refer to “the occupation.”

We learned that Hamas really do want to commit genocide against the Jewish people.

We learned that the members of Hamas are all too happy to commit the most gruesome atrocities one could imagine.

We learned that for many pro-Palestinian activists, Hamas’ atrocities are not to feel ashamed about but are to be lauded. And they’re lauded in the streets of cities like NYC, San Diego, Montreal, Toronto, Tampa, Sydney, and on university campuses because they believe that this savage onslaught signifies the imminent death of the Jewish state and the removal of its Jewish presence.

We learned that what we call genocide, they call liberation. The genocide of the Jewish people is what they call the liberation of Palestine. This is what is meant by the slogans “Free Palestine!” and “From the River to the sea, Palestine will be free!”

We learned that what we call mass murder, they call “resistance.”

We learned that many people will tolerate, excuse, understand, applaud, or celebrate the extermination of the Jewish people if it’s executed by Palestinians.

We learned that many people, like university law groups, like school boards, like unions, like our own friends and colleagues, are actually okay if Palestinians commit the most horrific acts against babies, children, teenagers, women, men, the elderly, the disabled – as long as they are Jews or non-Jews supporting the Jewish state.

We learned that these same people are actually okay with Hamas terrorists proudly filming themselves in these acts and committing these acts in the name of Allah, in the name of God.

We learned that many people we expected would stand with us when times got tough, stayed silent or abandoned us.

We learned that the next generation of American leaders are being taught that the genocide of at least half the world’s Jews is not actually a heinous crime against humanity but a noble act of restorative justice.

We learned that if certain members of Congress who blame Israel and not Hamas for this war had been President of the US today, there could actually have been another Holocaust – one that would surpass that of Nazi Germany in number. Why? Because the Hamas mass murderers would be sympathized with; because no aid would come to the Jewish state; because Israel would not be supported but condemned.


But we also learned that, right now, the Western world stands firmly with the Jewish state. We saw world leaders speak publicly about their support for Israel. We saw Paris light up the beautiful Eiffel Tower with our beloved blue and white flag of Israel. We saw the Arch of Titus, a public symbol of the end of our sovereignty, lit up in Israel’s colors. We saw the colors of Israel’s flag proudly lighting up the night on the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.

We also learned that the American President, President Joe Biden, stands firmly and unequivocally with Israel.

We also learned that there are people we know and institutions out there that do stand with us, and do so publicly: non-Jewish friends who put the Israeli flag on their profile photos on Facebook; non-Jewish friends who post positive and supportive messages to Israel and Jews around the world; sports teams that proudly display the Israeli flag at major stadiums; non-Jewish public figures who publicly support Israel and the Jewish community – like former professional boxing champion Floyd Mayweather who offered his own private jet to deliver food and other supplies to Israel; mayors and other politicians who condemn Hamas and their local supporters.

We also learned that the Jewish people continue to be resilient, and continue to mobilize in a multitude of ways to support each other and to support our beloved homeland, Israel.

The road ahead for Israel is a difficult one. The road ahead for American Jews is precarious. We know that there is a real danger to us right here in the States. We remember how pro-Palestinian sentiment during the last Hamas war in 2021 spilled into antisemitic rhetoric and even violence all across North America. We see pro-Palestinian rallies today that are squarely in support of Hamas, rallies where they shout, “F* the Jews! Gas the Jews!” – and we know that what happened in 2021 can happen again, and actually be much worse.

But we remain vigilant. We know that this is not the pogroms of 1882 in Russia. This is not the Farhud of 1941 in Baghdad. The governments and authorities are with us, not against us.

We will weather the storm and, at the end of it, we will find that what we have learned about ourselves as Jews will only strengthen us. We will find that we have learned that we Jews are forever interconnected, no matter where we are on this beautiful planet. We will find that we have learned that we Jews, members of an ancient and diverse people, are more united than we are divided. We will find that we have learned that our precious homeland is an integral part of our Jewish identity, that this part of our identity will forever remain in our hearts and in our souls, and that we will never, ever abandon hope. Od lo avda tikvateinu.

About the Author
Eyal Bitton is the cantor of Congregation Neveh Shalom in Portland, Oregon where he incorporates Sephardi/Moroccan music, Ashkenazi music, popular adaptations, and original compositions into the service. As a composer and writer, his theatrical works have been produced in the US, Canada, Kenya, and China.
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