Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Opinion | Thousands of Americans have loved ones in Israel. I’m one of them.

Opinion | Thousands of Americans have loved ones in Israel. I’m one of them.


I was supposed to leave Saturday night for Israel. But then Hamas terrorists launched a shocking raid, slaughtering civilians, kidnapping dozens and showering the country with rockets.

Like thousands of American Jews, I have a child studying there. Friends have relatives residing in Tel Aviv. Friends and colleagues have children in the Israeli military. Synagogues have sister congregations there.

So this international horror is different for many, many Americans. The slaughter unfolding was not only a barbaric assault on the larger Jewish family but also on thousands of individual families in the United States and elsewhere in the Jewish diaspora.

Making the terror all the more intense: The assault took place on Shabbat and over the Simhat Torah holiday during which religious Jews turn off phones, television and other electronics. We outside of Israel could not reach our loved ones in the country or even know whether they were aware of the danger surrounding them.

Instead, we texted, called and emailed one another, searching for scraps of information. Looking for advice and comfort.

The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes — and Why,” by Post contributing columnist Amanda Ripley, documents the range of psychological reactions to disasters, chief among them the urge to believe everything is normal — even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Maybe we should still go. Well, maybe we’ll just stay in Jerusalem. Well, maybe … And so it goes until you truly process the horror and grasp that is unfolding.

Suddenly, specifics matter. A lot. Exactly where are the kibbutzim that were invaded? Where precisely are the rockets falling? How far from my loved one’s school or home? Which specific airlines are still flying and where can you go? Now, trying to get a direct flight to a specific place falls by the wayside. Like Jews over the centuries, the question becomes: How can we get anywhere safely?

The images we see have been compared to the 1973 Yom Kippur War or the 1948 Arab attack on the new state of Israel. But worse, they rekindle Jews’ collective memories from the Middle Ages to The Pale to Germany, when pogroms and mass killings terrorized children and women targeted by murderous, rampaging forces. That feeling of helplessness, of vulnerability, was what Israel was supposed to eradicate. No longer would Jews be at the mercy of other nations, their armies and police; a state of our own would allow us to protect ourselves. And when it did not, when it failed at so many levels (intelligence, political, strategic, etc.) and Jews are left cowering in their homes, Jews in Israel and around the world are left reeling.

After Hamas is defeated, there will be a reckoning in Israel to match anything we have ever seen. Evidence of warnings to the Israeli government about insufficient deterrence, recriminations about putting a racist ideologue in the Defense Ministry post and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s misguided assault on democracy will all be reviewed. Careers will end. History will convict many of grotesque negligence.

Here in the United States, I have less patience than usual (which is often none) for inane right-wing rhetoric in the United States. No, there were no humanitarian funds released to Iran that might have put money in the mullahs’ pockets to be spent on Hamas. No, the Biden administration did not invite any of this. Republicans used to denounce the urge to “blame America first” for monstrous evil perpetrated by others. No more.

This should, but likely will not, inject some sobriety into the Republican Party, which has held up U.S. military promotions and confirmations and State Department postings; brought the House to a state of collapse under the weight of MAGA hysteria; carried water for Russia (an ally of Iran); and generally reminded us that adults are needed in government.

Voters need to wise up: We cannot tolerate the return to power of the egregiously unfit four-times indicted former president (who gleefully spread around intelligence information) nor allow MAGA nihilists to hold the country hostage. The stakes here and around the world are far too grave.

As the casualties rise to unimaginable levels and national trauma takes hold in Israel, many of us will continue to feel a very personal connection to the horrific events. If you believe in prayer, pray — for peace, for healing, for humanity. And, if not, believe that competent, mature government matters in a dangerous world. Never before have we more desperately needed wise, competent and empathetic government.





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