June 15, 2024
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June 15, 2024
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Zack standing proud with the Israeli flag in front of Auschwitz—WE’RE STILL HERE.

The recent events taking place in Israel are nothing short of a waking nightmare. It feels like one of those horror episodes from the Netflix series “Black Mirror,” where our worst enemies are using modern technology and social media to cause death and destruction in as public and cruel a manner as possible. I will not go into the graphic details of the death of our innocent brothers and sisters who were killed; instead I wanted to share, vent, relate—I am not really sure what the right word is, to be frank—my thoughts on the catastrophe.

Over chag, I enjoyed a beautiful tefillah on Shemini Atzeret in my apartment complex alongside a few dozen of my peers. Following the tefillah, the head of our minyan announced that we would be saying Tehillim for what’s going on in Israel. I am sad to admit that I thought, “What is it this time? A rocket was fired or a stabbing?” It’s crazy to think how numb I, and I am sure many of you, have become to the absurd fact that a rocket or knifing is just a normal occurrence in Israel and we take it too lightly.

After the prayer, I walked into the building’s lobby, where our building’s de facto Shabbos goy had turned on the television news where everyone was crowding around staring dumbstruck. I quickly saw why when I read the headline stating that 70 Israelis had been killed due to a surprise terrorist attack by Hamas. I couldn’t believe it. In my head, 10-15 was a significant amount of casualties. 20 max. I had never seen a number as high as 70 in my life! Over the next few hours, the news we heard got worse and worse as the number 70 was looking more like over 100 and then eventually over 300. I didn’t know how I would bring joy to Simchat Torah after hearing all of this news, but my father reminded me that the Lubavitcher Rebbe on his deathbed told his students to dance extra hard for him. Fueled with the fire of giving it my all, my friends and I had an enjoyable Simchat Torah full of ruach.

Zack by an Israeli flag in front of the Kotel—2,000 Years WAITING FOR THIS.

But, in the back of our minds, we all were anxious to turn on our phones and read the news. When I turned on my phone and saw what had actually transpired, I immediately was brought to tears. At Beth Abraham, there was an emergency communal Tehillim gathering. Without uttering a word, Rabbi Neuburger got up and went to business. He announced the Tehillim we were going to recite and everyone in unison prayed. I couldn’t contain myself; I have not shed so many tears in one night since I was a child. It was so powerful that no other words needed to be spoken: We were on a mission to pray for life and the safe return of our brothers and sisters in Israel.

I have never felt such uncomfortable fear in my life. How could Hamas have pulled off such an efficient and coordinated attack on our Holy Land, Israel, whose military and intelligence is one of the best in the world? Hamas never pulled off any feat nearly as destructive as this. I read online that the death count was greater than any single day since the Holocaust. Why did this happen to us on our holiday as we were closing out the month of Tishrei after praying for hours upon hours saying Selichot, blowing the shofar, fasting, shaking the lulav, and hakafos? Who could do such a thing, to murder children and grandparents live on social media, behead babies, and kidnap people who were celebrating the chag?

No answer will satisfy these questions, but the fact that we have these questions is really the most important part.

David Abramov, father of the missing Laor Abramov whose mother, Michal, is American, said a stirring line that put into perspective the entire situation to me: Hamas is an organization that celebrates death, while Israel is a nation that celebrates life. Israel is always looking to help others whether it is by being first responders at world crises like the Haiti earthquakes in 2010 or making the world a better place through agricultural or technological advancements. As Jews, our mission is to follow the Torah and be an “or lagoyim” or “a light unto the nations.” Israel is fulfilling that mission to the best of its ability and for a startup nation coming off of the Holocaust where we lost 6 million of our people and surrounded by enemies who attempted to wipe Israel off the map multiple times, it’s nothing short of a miracle.

Here’s where Hamas defers. Hamas raids innocent towns on their holy holidays while residents are sleeping and brutally slaughters all in their path. Worst of all, they do so with glee, singing praises and smiling. They are starving their own people, the Palestinians in Gaza, by stealing a large portion of the funds “donated to help Gaza” and using it to buy more weapons to hurt Israel instead of using it to build up their area and help their own civilians. They care more about destroying Israel than building themselves up. Not only that, but oftentimes Hamas takes their own innocent people such as women, elderly people and children (just Google “Hamas human shields” if you don’t believe me) and places them in areas around their top terrorists to deter Israel from eliminating the terrorists. They just want death and destruction at any cost and they value no one’s lives: not the people of Israel, Gaza, or even their own.

This isn’t just a political conflict anymore. It’s about fighting terrorists who celebrate death. Every single innocent civilian who is killed in the cross-conflict, especially those in Gaza who are living in slums and have no warning sirens, I am deeply sorry that this is occurring. I cannot imagine what is occurring to you, and I can only cry for the fear that everyone in the region must be feeling right now. But Israel doesn’t want this. As Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu put it, “If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more violence. If the Jews put down their weapons today, there would be no more Israel.‎”

When I was in seventh grade, I remember all of the schools joined together in Tehillim for the release of Gilad Shalit. Thankfully our prayers were answered, but not for free. In exchange for Shalit’s release, Israel agreed to release 1,027 Palestinian prisoners, including 477 who were serving life sentences. Seeing their success over just one Jew, Hamas thought, Why not try more? Their recent raid has led to the capture of around 150 Jews. By the same ratio, that would mean Israel would have to trade over 150,000 prisoners, including around half who did criminal/terrorist deeds worthy of a life sentence, just to get these Jews back, an unfathomable amount of prisoners that is just not possible. Israel would have to release all of their prisoners, and then about 20 times that number, in order to make the math work.

God willing this story will have a happy ending and our brothers and sisters will come home and we can dance and celebrate together. For now, we need to do what we can to support Israel and its army, which includes many of my friends and family who are doing what they can to bring peace in the most heated and volatile region in the world. We need to show our support at prayer gatherings and rallies. Bring your Israeli flags and let us daven to end terrorism, bring back the captured Jews and celebrate life.


Zachary Greenberg is a consultant at Semler Brossy and the TABC track coach. Zack is a proud Jew and hopes to move to Israel as soon as possible and open up a theme park there.

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