I thought I would be hugging my children in Israel right now. Hundreds of thousands of mothers wish they were hugging their children in Israel right now. For weeks my daughter and I have been excitedly planning a special trip to Jerusalem to visit my two sons studying there and to celebrate my nephew’s Bar Mitzvah with our family in central Israel. Now, I sit here in America writing this with trembling fingers and a grieving heart. It is true that my immediate family in Israel is at this moment safe. It is equally true that my brothers and sisters across Israel are very much not okay.
For all my readers who are outside the Jewish community, it is hard to explain just how tightly connected the Jewish world is, but I want to try. When the Hamas terrorists massacred Jewish men, women, and children in Israel on Simchat Torah, (Festival of the Torah), they killed approximately 1000 people, (this isn’t including the hostages nor taking into account that the murder toll rises each day as the army finds new bodies). This would be proportionally similar to well over 35,000 Americans killed in one day. (For some perspective, 2,977 were murdered on September 11, 2001.) The scope of this loss is staggering. There isn’t a Jewish family in Israel who doesn’t know someone murdered or missing. We are all grieving and the grief isn’t just a national grief, it is a personal mourning over our beloved family members.
The response is equally personal. Every few hours I hear from another friend or neighbor that their son or daughter, living safely in America, is voluntarily boarding a plane to rejoin their units in the IDF. Everyone I know, not just in Israel, but here in Baltimore, has children, nieces and nephews, siblings, neighbors and friends on the ground ready to fight to eradicate evil. Those who aren’t in the armed forces are working around the clock supplying food, gear, and supplies to the soldiers, supporting the many young families whose fathers were suddenly called up, attending funerals and comforting mourners. One of my sons in Israel spent hours setting up school dorms and safe rooms for families evacuated from the south, then worked through the night last night baking bread and packaging it up for the soldiers. He isn’t alone. Everyone who can help is doing so day and night.
There is another way that the Jewish world is responding and that is with a surge of Torah (Five Books of Moses) study and prayer. We know that nothing is random or haphazard in this world. Everything occurs because God willed it so. When tragedy hits us, the Jewish response is to storm the heavens with prayer, Torah, and good deeds, because we fully believe that our salvation comes from God, and He is lovingly waiting for us to turn to Him. My eldest son in Israel is waging this spiritual battle in his yeshiva (college for Talmudical studies). Although the yeshivas in Israel were originally not in session this week, they canceled their break and the students are in the study halls learning Torah day and night, spiritual warriors fighting and pleading for God’s mercy.
This last year has been a year of tragic disunity in Israel. Political and religious strife reached unbearable levels. Now that is all gone. The entire nation is united with a single minded purpose and love for everyone. Non-kosher restaurants in Tel Aviv are undergoing complete transformations, becoming kosher so they can provide food for religious soldiers. Jews around the world are sending duffel bags full of gear and supplies on every flight they can find. Soldiers are sending home uplifting messages of love and hope to civilians and civilians line the roads to throw gifts and shower love on the soldiers. We have behaved like squabbling children, but at our core we are one and we feel as one again.
I wanted to share a Torah parenting insight with you this week. (I actually pre-wrote an article for this week as I thought I would be in Israel and unable to post…) But I find that I can’t. Not now. The grief is too raw, the horror is still unfolding, and all I can do is share with you what is on my heart and mind.
What can we share with our children in these dark days? A few thoughts come to mind.
We believe in a loving God who guides the destiny of each and every person. Nothing happens randomly. Yes, we are reeling in pain. Yes, we have questions and no answers. But we know that God has the answers, loves us, cares for us, and our response is to turn to him more tightly than ever before.
Our prayers matter. Our good deeds matter. Our Torah study matters. This isn’t simply a physical war, it is a spiritual battle for a Godly worldview pitted against barbarism. Each one of us provides spiritual ammunition that will influence events on the ground with each prayer and every moment of spiritual improvement or character refinement.
As much as we’re grieving and despite all the suffering, we are confident and hopeful. This is not a time to despair. Godly people retain faith and optimism even in the darkest times because we know we are never alone. There will be justice. There will be salvation.
For those of you looking for ways to help and for more information, I am including links to trusted charities in Israel and articles I have found helpful. Most of all though, please pray. Pray for Jerusalem and Israel. Pray for the Israeli soldiers, civilians, families, and hostages. Please pray for ultimate peace, when all evil will be eradicated and God will reign in His world.
Lema’an Achai https://www.lemaanachai.org/en/
United Hatzalah https://israelrescue.org/
American Friends of Yad Eliezer https://www.bezri.org/
The Other Side of Israel’s 9/11 https://jewishmom.com/2023/10/09/the-other-side-of-israels-9-11/#comment-781383
Hamas’s War On Israel: Everything You Need to Know https://www.thefp.com/p/hamas-war-on-israel-everything-you-need-to-know
When People Tell You Who They Are, Believe Them https://www.thefp.com/p/this-is-what-decolonization-looks-like
We all have so many questions and difficult issues to work through right now. While I didn’t address these in this post, I will do my best to respond to your questions in the comments section, whether about your own understanding of the situation or how to address it with your children. Please feel free to share your questions in the comments; I will do my best to respond promptly.