I am writing to you today, dear friends and readers, with a request for your mobilization and help to the People of Israel, that you care for and feel you are a part of.
I was, and am still, glued to the TV, watching the Israeli News Channels live feed as the horrific details unfold. The current estimate is over 700, with expectations that it will be closer to 1000 fatalities! Infants, children, young women, young men, parents, along with soldiers and other members of the security forces that were butchered, slaughtered and fell while trying to resist the terrorists. There are over 2,000 casualties; 300 of them are in a risk-of-life condition.
These numbers may seem “not too bad” to some. Considering the size of Israel, these numbers are as if 9-11 in America suffered 21,000 fatalities and over 500,000 Americans were wounded. This is how bad it is.
Some Rabbis use mild words such as ‘Israelis killed’ and ‘Israelis in captivity.’ They express sentiments like “we hope that further sufferings for Israelis and Palestinians can be prevented.” This is totally inappropriate. I apologize, I cannot use these terms! I’d rather call a spade a spade. I rely on the words of the President of Israel, Itzḥak Hertzog, in his message to the People of Israel. I have translated most of his speech here, as I feel it describes best the situation and what we are expected to do as a People, a united People, that are combined of the Diaspora and the State of Israel.
“These moments are too hard to bear. We all mourn and suffer the pain of the ‘the splendor of youth, the charm of valor, the holiness of will, and the devotion of sacrifice which came to an end in the heavy battles’ (from Yizkor prayer to the fallen). We all saw our enemies attacking with an inhumane brutality and cruelty towards elders, women, families, babies. Without discrimination of background, faith. In the Kibbutzim, the farms, the towns and cities.
Human beasts. Yes, monstrous human beasts, that have no ethical discriminator. They slaughter, butcher, and kidnap small children and elderly women. Beasts that launch on a murderous spree aimed at innocent youth in a party. All just because they were Israelis who wanted to celebrate and be joyous. These are your enemies, Israel! And we will overcome them with the power of the IDF and the Security Forces, and the strength of our own spirit.
This act of abomination that started during Shabbat and a Holy Day is an unredeemable, unforgiveable crime. A crime that is led not just by a murderous terror organization but by the axis of evil, that its base is in Iran and its’ proxies. My sisters and brothers, we are in a war to defend our own home. We must, and will prevail!
Our State has been fighting from its inception for the essence of its life, for the mere right to be a free People in our land. Once again, we will find our resilience and unbreakable spirit. We will overcome and regain strength like a lion, find the powers within our souls, rise from the depths of sorrow and mourning and charge forward. We will suppress our enemies and beat them to the bitter end. We will make it unequivocally clear; we are here forever. We will rebuild whatever was ruined and then some.
My dear beloved People of Israel, I do know how hard it is. I do know the depth and intensity of the pain. But the Israeli Spirit always wins, and it WILL win this time, as well. I visited the wounded and their families earlier, and I met the nobility of the Israeli Spirit. Even within the piercing pain, one can see the Israeli Strength in its full scope and power. It shows up in the assumption of responsibility and harnessing the energy to do what is needed. It is the spirit of volunteering and the mutual responsibility to all of Israel. It is thanks to the support of the Jews in the diaspora, and our friends around the globe. The hidden light of Israel erupted out all at once and proved what a wonderous and magical People we are a part of.
I ask, on behalf of all the people, to send condolences to the families that lost the dearest of all, to strengthen the fighting forces and the worrying families. I, together with all of you, pray for the healing of the wounded in spirit and body, and strengthen, embrace and support all of those who are in uncertainty regarding the fate of their loved ones.
Let me conclude with a pure prayer for security and peace upon us and upon all the People of Israel: ‘Strengthen the hands of those who defend our holy land, grant them deliverance, our God, and crown them with victory. Bestow peace on the land, and eternal joy to its inhabitants’.”
These were the words of President Hertzog. Now, let me end with the ideas of Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove, from Park Avenue Synagogue in New York City, what to do next:
- Stay informed: Now is the time to stay engaged with the unfolding events in Israel. Find a trustworthy news site to keep abreast of the news. Times of Israel, The Jerusalem Post and Stand With Us are a few example.
- Be an advocate: Write an email, send a text, or make a phone call to your elected representatives. An easy way to do that is through the website of the Jewish Federations of America. In your community, classroom, or social media platform – let the world know that you stand with Israel.
- Show Up: In the days ahead there will be events that will demonstrate our support in Israel. Show up! Let Israelis know that they are not alone in their hour of need.
- Give: An Israel Emergency Fund is established to allocate resources to an array of relief agencies. Friends of the IDF, Magen David Adom (the Israeli version of the Red Cross) United Hatzalah (emergency response in times of emergency) are some other worthy organizations. Your support is both substantively and symbolically critical. Please give at the level you are able.
- Put politics aside: Our community consists of a wide range of political views both in America and Israel. Now is the time to set our differences aside and stand united in support of Israel’s safety and security.
- Reach out: Many of us have family and friends in Israel (or friends with family in Israel). While we cannot remove someone’s pain, the act of letting someone know that they are not alone is an important gesture. Send a text or email letting them know they are in our hearts.
- Pray: Prayer is how we give expression to our hopes for our world and tilt God’s will towards making those hopes a reality. The shattered soul of Israel needs our prayers now more than ever. At home, in the synagogue, wherever you are – now is the time to pray.
Please make every effort to distribute this message to all your acquaintances. Forward it via email, post it on your social media, provide the link to the post and my website in any way you feel comfortable.
I am here to answer your questions, and support you with resources and information. Please do not hesitate to contact me.
With gratitude to you and with prayer for the security of Israel,
Rabbi Emanuel Ben-David