To all those who say #neveragainisnow because we have our own military.
To all those who say #neveragainisnow because we're speaking up, making rallies, wearing blue and white, setting a Shabbat table for the hostages.
To all those who say #neveragainisnow because we are donating, we have our own state, we’re sending equipment to our soldiers.
This is for you.
Moshiach Didn't Come
In the summer of 2005, I was in a sleep-away camp for Orthodox Jewish girls. One day, older girls started spreading that Moshiach (Messiah) was coming on such-and-such day at such-and-such time. I kid you not, I packed my knapsack with a few basics so I’d be ready when the shofar sounded. Well, Moshiach didn’t come. My heart was broken. When I got older, I learned that my summer experience was about The Disengagement, when the Jewish people exiled themselves from Gush Katif in 2005. 9,000 Jews became refugees when the Israeli government turned their homes in Gaza and Northern Shomron over to the Palestinians. Girls in my camp had spread those rumors because they had been told that it couldn’t happen, we wouldn’t rip Jewish families from their homes, so Moshiach must be coming.
I recently noticed the use of the hashtag #neveragainisnow. People are showing up and speaking out. They are not silent. Maybe they've got it right? People around the world are wearing Israeli flags in demonstrations, singing Am Yisrael Chai (the Jewish Nation will live) while the “other side” rages for our destruction, raising funds, setting empty Shabbos tables while our brothers and sisters remain in Gaza. Perhaps they've got it right. But does that not insult the Jews and non-Jews alike around the world in the 1930s and 1940s who protested and demonstrated and sent aid to those in Europe? Is the answer not being silent? Is that the key we were missing then that will make the difference now? If there had been bigger and louder rallies in 1935, might the Holocaust never have happened? Or is it just “again is now”?
There are those who say we do have one thing now that we did not have then - we have our own army. I am beyond grateful that we have that. When I cleared our local grocery store of its entire stock of deodorant and body soap for soldiers, I can’t tell you the maternal surge inside of me to nurture and protect our teenagers (and adults!) who are risking their lives in the fight for us to exist. But how am I supposed to believe that the reason 6 million Jews died just 80 years ago, including most of my extended family, was because we didn’t have our own army?!? I’m just not ready to trust that an army is what is going to make the difference.
I’m just not ready to believe that protests, rallies, empty Shabbos tables, social media wars, having our own army, having our own government, raising funds, hanging Israeli flags, or lighting up government buildings across the world in blue and white is enough. It’s not enough. It wasn’t enough just a few weeks ago. Let’s face it, #neveragain happened. Bazman hazeh (in these times). And I don’t see how it will be enough in the coming weeks, months, and years when in the days after the first pogrom in Jewish history of this scale and nature, already the world is ready to tell Jews to hide, to stop destroying efforts to kill us, to decolonize. Jews should hide because pro-Palestinian protesters are allowed freedom of speech and full protection to do so, even if it involves violence against Jews for being Jewish.
Maybe I’m waiting for something bigger than the IDF. Maybe I’m waiting for something bigger than rallies and fundraisers and wearing blue and white. And I’m certainly not holding out hope that #neveragainisnow. I’m holding out hope for something a whole lot bigger. I’m waiting for my family to come home. I’m waiting for never again to be truly and explicitly and clearly now and not now because of our faith in kochi v’otzem yadi (human efforts) being just as much alive as it always has been. What needs to be different now is all the things we know that need to be different: Teshuva (repentance) and Tefilla (prayer). The people we are fighting with are excellent at prayer and praise the name of G-d as they kill us - that is the definition of Allahu Akhbar that we've all heard echo after every terror attack - we need to up our efforts at prayer. And Ahavas chinam (free love) and Achdus (unity). The people we are fighting with do not discriminate between Jews - neither can we. Don’t let my hopes be crushed again. My bag isn’t packed now because I live here, but if you don’t, don’t you think yours should be?
Choosing Connection Over Division
It was only in fairly recent Jewish history that Judaism became so divided between secular, traditional, Reform, Conservative, modern Orthodox, yeshivish, and Chassidish Jews, and all the different nuances in between, please excuse me for those I have skipped. I purposely left out Sefardim and Ashkenazim because I'm not referring to that sort of division, which is purely location-based, not ideology-based. In the last 50 years or so, we've seen a tremendous shift in people coming closer to Judaism. In the last few weeks, we've also seen a massive shift away from the focus on ideologies that make us think we are different and toward remembering that all Jewish people are Jewish people.
I've noticed another insidious division in recent times that I'd like to explore and hopefully make some meaning from our painful current reality. That division is within families. I'm referring to parental alienation, divorce, adult children cutting off ties with their parents, various family members not being on speaking terms with other family members, and even friends cutting off friends. Firstly, sometimes, exceedingly rarely, these situations are necessary. Secondly, I must acknowledge that the pain of those who have been hurt is big and real and I wish that hurt would never have happened. What I want to address is that, with cutting off ties, we are saying the pain you caused me earns me the right to retaliate. I want to explore this in more depth.
Let's start by reviewing some of the strange accusations being flung around at pro-Palestinian rallies around the world right now:
"From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free" - meaning, Israel shouldn't exist
"Death to settler colonialism"
"Resistance against occupation is not terrorism" - meaning, terrorism is allowed in this case
"Honor our martyrs"
"Resistance is justified when people are occupied" - meaning, you deserve this
"No peace on stolen land"
"Stop acting like a victim"
"There is a context" - meaning, the massacre and kidnappings are valid given the history
"Israel=Racism and Genocide"
"Bombing children is not self-defense" - meaning, don't defend yourselves because then children will die
I hope it is abundantly obvious that I am not actually comparing within-family strife to terrorism and genocide here, and am just trying to learn from our current reality. If I can suggest, perhaps when we call for boundaries and cut off anyone who can't respect them, we are saying "our relationship can't exist". Perhaps, when we are cutting ties with loved ones due to their painful behavior toward us, we are saying this behavior is allowed in this case because "you deserve this". Perhaps we are validating alienation with victimhood. If they then defend their actions or justify themselves in any way, they are told they are being invalidating. The IDF continues to try its best to protect Palestinian civilians, despite the protests claiming that they do otherwise. People who love us don't always love us the way we want and deserve to be loved anyway. Just like we have witnessed a mass return to Torah Judaism over the past 50 years, could we possibly witness a mass return to committed relationships, despite the likely pain involved? Can we be who we ought to be, regardless of whether people hurt us badly? Can we allow our imperfect loved ones to love us imperfectly? Can we let go of receiving the external validation we so badly crave, and instead self-validate and act aligned with our values? If we are to learn anything from current events, and I believe we can learn a tremendous amount of somethings, I hope this could be one of them. That I can do what I want to do because it is aligned with my values and not because I got enough validation to do so. That is the task of Israel right now - to take care of its citizens and its future, regardless of whether or not the world understands. And that is the task of those of us willing to take a hard look at our most difficult relationships and say, "Who do I want to be in this relationship" without waiting for anyone's validation or understanding.
When people feel anxious, they try lots of methods to soothe or calm that anxiety. In the past few weeks, so many mental health providers have come out with resources for calming people down and soothing Jewish anxieties. I would like to argue - feel it. Feel afraid. There are sources for this battle at the end of days; let it move through you. Let it motivate you to pray your heart out and look deep inside yourself for what you can contribute to the army of G-d. Let it motivate you to indiscriminately love your people and celebrate their existence.