What Can We Do With Our Anguish? Stay United and Fight

By | Oct 31, 2023


What can we American Jews do about the mortal perils now confronting the state of Israel, and about the resurgence of antisemitism in our own nation and around the world?

What we witnessed October 7 was as savage as any pogrom ever visited upon the Jewish people. It not only exacted a grievous loss of innocent lives but deprived us of all illusions: We face an existential threat to Jewish people everywhere. There can be no doubt of this, even for those of us who would prefer to dismiss our worst fears.

Israel’s national anthem is called Hatikvah, “the hope.” We are a people of hope, but hope must always be tempered by reality. “In every generation,” says the Passover Haggadah, “enemies have risen up to destroy us.” We have pledged “Never again.” Yet here we are again.

For many of us, the specter of the Holocaust is remote. The connection to recent events is not one of magnitude but of malevolence; in the ideology of Hamas, Jews everywhere are targeted for destruction. This means that the State of Israel, the front line, must wage a war of self-defense not only to protect its own civilians but to protect you and me. Not only that: Log on to any social media platform and you will witness the avalanche of distortion and antisemitic propaganda that has descended upon us. Israel must wage this battle as well, and it is just as daunting. This is also a battle we can help Israel fight—and fight for ourselves. It’s everyone’s job to seek out solid information and make sure it is disseminated widely.

Should Israel’s enemies prevail, what will be the fate of the Jewish people? Surely we have learned what can happen when we lose the capacity to defend ourselves. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are a mighty front line—and it’s imperative that we support them. This is not a war against the Palestinians, although so many are and will become innocent victims of it as well. It is a war against a fundamentalist Islamist group and its backers who seek to destroy Israel and kill all Jews.

Hope must be tempered by reality, but there is hope. It begins with our own United States of America. Its leadership continues to demonstrate a deep commitment to Israel’s existence and security. Every Jew, in America and around the world, can be thankful for this. More, we can call or write those in the government—your senator, representative or anyone else—to express that gratitude and help make sure it continues.

But even the deepest commitment can be jeopardized if we Jews ourselves are not united in our own resolve to stand by Israel—in word and deed, in daylight and darkness, through its most agonizing trials.  Our fortitude, our solidarity, our support, our unwavering determination are what we can give to the Israelis who are fighting at this very hour to defend their lives and ours.

The book of Ecclesiastes tells us: “A threefold cord is not easily broken.”   A rope woven of many strands will always be stronger than a single thread. That is the verdict of our people’s history, and my most profound conviction. In the words of the Jewish sages, “Let us be strong, and let us be strengthened by one another.”  When we unite, we cannot be broken.

Uri D. Herscher is founder, president and CEO Emeritus of the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles.

Photo credit: Lizzy Shaanan via the PikiWiki. Creative Commons.

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