I was WhatsApping with a friend in Israel earlier this week and we were talking about the popularity of the Rachel Edri story. In case you aren’t familiar with it, when five terrorists entered her home in the southern town of Ofakim on October 7, Rachel offered them coffee and cookies and kept feeding them for the 17 hours it took before she and her husband were rescued. The ordeal must have been terrifying, but Israelis quickly connected with the humor of a Jewish grandmother subduing her hostage-takers via home cooking. Soon Rachel memes were ricocheting across social media and she quickly became a national folk hero, even meeting with President Joe Biden during his most recent trip to Israel. My friend told me that people liked the story so much because they are trying to find any moment of levity amidst the horror—and it’s true Jews have always found humor in the darkest of circumstances.
Despite that glimmer of humor, it has been an undeniably grim week in Israel, in Gaza and for Jews around the world. Europe Editor Liam Hoare gives us an overview of what has been happening across that continent. Hoare focuses on three key aspects: the European political response, which on the surface is united behind Israel, but with indications that there is more division behind closed doors; the collective shock running though European Jewish communities; and the eruption of pro-Palestinian demonstrations in European capitals.
In the United States, much attention has been focused on college campuses. I have been inundated with news alerts about incendiary statements put out by student groups, students being doxxed—i.e. their personal information publicized—by outside organizations, and donors threatening to pull their funding over what they view as universities’ lackluster response to Hamas’s attack on Israel. To give one perspective of what is happening on campus and what should be done, Opinion and Books Editor Amy E. Schwartz interviews Miriam Elman, the executive director of the Academic Engagement Network, a group that seeks to combat antisemitism and anti-Israel narratives on U.S. college campuses by promoting what it considers a more informed debate.
Our recently published piece by Social Media Editor Andrew Michaels, which examines how misinformation related to the Israel-Hamas war—including videos—spreads on social media, feels particularly apt as images and videos of the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital blast in Gaza City are shared and reshared around the world without verification. In this timely piece, Michaels gives some practical suggestions on how to sort fact from fiction online.
Finally, I urge you to read former New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief David Shipler’s stirring essay on what he terms an “arms race of memory.” Jews and Palestinians are “two peoples imprisoned by history,” he writes, and the events of the past week will just add to their competing narratives.
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