Last Shabbat I was running late for the late morning synagogue service. As I made my way to shul, I encountered a group of friends returning from the earlier prayer service. I stopped to speak to them despite being late for my appointment to talk with God.
While conversing about the only subject currently on our minds, a rather large pick-up truck slowly approached us. At this time when the timeless cesspool of antisemitism is overflowing the global sewers, one naturally becomes somewhat concerned by such a development. The driver slowed to a complete halt adjacent to where we were standing. By this time our collective alarm bells were going off. He slowly wound down the driver’s side window, leaned out and said, “Sorry for your losses.” Then he proceeded on his way.
I asked my friends if I had heard correctly, and they surprisingly confirmed that I had. But what should have reassured me was in fact troubling me. Was the individual serious and sincere, or sarcastic and facetious? Was he trying to help to heal the emotional wounds, or was he tearing into them?
Upon further reflection it became abundantly clear to me that in addition to the barbaric mass destruction of Jewish life by Hamas, they have tragically deprived many or most of us the ability to grant the benefit of the doubt to our fellow man. The brutes certainly lack any semblance of humanity, but what happened to ours?
Ageless generational trauma is baked into the collective Jewish DNA. Centuries of oppression have formed us, like it or not. The nerve ends of our identity are exposed and the slightest touch triggers a very defensive reaction.
How sad it is when we glance askance at our fellow man with suspicion regardless of his motives. How devastating it is when we must keep our children away from school or college for their own safety. How disconcerting it is in the 21st century when Jews in the Western world’s ‘civilized’ societies are concerned about displaying a kippah on their head and a mezuzah on their doorpost. How shocking it is to hear from a Holocaust survivor that she remembers the same fear gripping the Jews in Nazi Europe 80 years ago when she was merely 9 years old.
While one has felt for some time that Israel is the guarantor of every Jew anywhere in the world, never has that been truer than today. That is why Israel must be empowered to prevail in her bid to eradicate evil from our world rather than allow Jews everywhere to be endangered.
When we pray, we traditionally face east towards our eternal capital of Jerusalem. During these trying times we also face our valiant lions of Judah who are courageously fighting a war that Israel did not choose, risking their lives in the alleyways and corridors of Gaza. This is a just war and indeed a holy war for our homeland and for our very way of life, but the price is high, and we mourn for those who make the ultimate sacrifice for those ideals and for all of us. We hope and pray that our care and concern for our warriors is somehow infused into them as additional strength and purpose, and that soon—with the utter defeat of the forces of darkness—they will return home in good health to the light of their loving families.
In the meantime, although I have no idea who he was, I would like to thank the driver who stopped to express his solidarity with our people. It was his choice to make, and I choose to believe that he was sincere.
God bless Israel.
God bless the IDF.
Michael Turek New Rochelle