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Rabbi Marcia Tilchin

In the September issue of Tidings, I recalled memories of being in synagogue on Yom Kippur in 1973 and how the stunning news and rapid response to the Yom Kippur War had a profound impact on me as a young Jewish American. I had been thinking about the 50-year anniversary, not as an auspicious harbinger of something brewing, but because of the half-century milestone and my interest in how different things seemed to be five decades later. Also, I had recently seen the film GOLDA and had not realized how much the failures of her administration in 1973 became a defining component of her leadership legacy.   


Now, 50 years later, here we are. I was on my way to Temple Beth Emet on October 7 for Shemini Atzeret / Shabbat services when I got wind that something horrible had happened in Israel. On that day, and into the week that followed, people were trying to piece together the different components and degrees of carnage wreaked by the surprise massacre that took place 50 years and one day after the Yom Kippur War. More than a month later, we are still praying for the safe return of more than 200 hostages. The death toll on Israeli civilians is nothing like we have seen in decades. We are at war, this time with an insidious terrorist organization funded by a powerful enemy. 


Antisemitism of the not-white-supremacist variety that seemed fringe 50 years ago, identified with radical groups like the Nation of Islam, is now out in the open and strongly identified with the Palestinian cause, blurring the lines between anti-Jewish and anti-Israel activism, protest, and violence. Since most people in the world will never even meet a Jew, there is no way for us to dispel myths about who we are or to combat the rhetoric and distortions about what Israel is, why it exists, the wonderful contributions it has made to the world in such a short time, and how important it is to  uphold democratic ideals. We are now at a historical crossroads that feels, not unlike during the Yom Kippur War, existential. 


Once Israel’s military leaders feel confident that Israeli citizens are out of harm’s way from Hamas instigated terror, it will be necessary for Israelis to come together to form a government that reflects the make-up of all citizens. In case we were mistaken, it is now confirmed that complacency will never be a luxury that Israel can afford, at least not as long as Iran is around to fund militant groups wishing to see it destroyed. It also cannot be governed by the ultra-religious who are guided by a different vision of what Israel should be and are intentionally isolated from the complex realities of geopolitical dynamics. 


When I watched GOLDA for the first time at the end of August, a vulnerable Israel felt like a distant memory. This frightening time for the Jews has reminded us of how small the world Jewish family really is and how much we need one another to survive and thrive in what promises to be a world of growing hostility to us as a people and our homeland. We must pray for wisdom and courage for Israeli and allied leaders to manage the immediate safety threats and set Israel on a renewed course toward developing long term strategies to exist peacefully in a forever hostile, tension-filled neighborhood.   Kein Y’hi Ratzon. 



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