OpinionTorah Portion

After Oct. 7, the world should hate Israel less, not more

As a result, we must be there for ourselves and each other in ways we haven’t been before.

Empty chairs in the northern Israeli city of Tzfat show pictures of civilians being held hostage by Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip, Nov. 14, 2023. Photo by David Cohen/Flash90.
Empty chairs in the northern Israeli city of Tzfat show pictures of civilians being held hostage by Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip, Nov. 14, 2023. Photo by David Cohen/Flash90.
Rabbi Areyah Kaltmann. Credit: Courtesy.
Rabbi Areyah Kaltmann
Rabbi Areyah Kaltmann is the chief Chabad rabbi of Columbus, Ohio.

After Oct. 7, the world should hate Israel less, not more.

The most horrific massacre of Jews since World War II and the Holocaust took place that Shabbat morning. More than 1,200 Jews were mercilessly slaughtered, and as many as 250 innocent people taken hostage. It was a humanitarian catastrophe of epic proportions.

Less than 24 hours after news of the attack broke, protests erupted in major cities around the globe. You would have thought that these protests would have condemned Hamas’s brutal and barbaric attacks in southern Israel. However, they actually condemned Israel for being the victim of the attack! Has the world gone mad?

A victim should evoke mercy, not global condemnation.

I couldn’t wrap my mind around why these protests were attacking Israel so harshly when scarcely a day had passed since terrorists killed men, women and children in their beds, and had subjected the young people at the Nova music festival to all kinds of unspeakable violence. The protesters couldn’t accuse Israel of having done anything wrong because no justified retaliatory strike had even been launched yet.

It was pure, calculated antisemitism laid bare for the world to see.

What was even worse than this was that the feeling of safety and security that Israel had so carefully cultivated for 75 years was shattered in an instant. The Holocaust happened in Europe, where Jews were stripped of their legal protections one by one until they were completely dehumanized. The State of Israel was created as a safe haven—a refuge where Jews would no longer be subject to the whims of antisemitic rulers or politicians who exercised control over them. Israel was a country where we did not have to justify our existence to anyone else. We could be free people to be who we were without fear that we could be massacred again.

Oct. 7 broke the confidence many had in Israel as that safe haven.

So how could it happen that one day later, on Oct. 8, people were demonstrating against Israel and the Jewish people when no coherent reason could be offered?

This week’s Torah portion may offer us a clue as to why and may offer the solution to the helplessness and despair that many have felt in the weeks and months after Oct. 7.

This week’s parshah, Shelach, recounts the story of Moses sending 12 spies to the land of Canaan. After 40 days, they return with reports of a lush and bountiful land. However, 10 of the spies warn that the inhabitants of the land are giants and warriors “more powerful than we” and cause a great panic among the Israelites, who begged God to take them back to Egypt.

According to Jewish belief, the spies were originally righteous people who enjoyed the Divine protection and sustenance provided for them in the desert. They were so connected to this spiritually elevated reality that they didn’t want to enter the Promised Land, where they would have to toil for a living.

It was because of this lack of trust in God that they spread fear and panic among the people of Israel instead of trusting in the Divine plan.

Chassidic tradition teaches that lessons in the Torah portion have relevance for our everyday lives and the goings-on of the world around us. Just as the spies had ulterior motives for spreading fear-laden narratives, so, too, did the demonstrators and agitators who condemned Israel on Oct. 8. These people held deep seeded anti-Jewish animosity on Oct. 4, Oct. 5 and Oct. 6, and waited for the attack on Oct. 7 as an excuse to unleash their bias.

So, what is the solution? How can we respond to antisemitism and restore Jewish feelings of safety and security?

The answer is simple. We must be there for ourselves and each other in ways we haven’t been before. We must double down on our Jewish pride and offer support to help fellow Jews in our community. By choosing this path, we not only uplift ourselves but also inspire those around us, counteracting the spread of hate.

This is the approach that was taught by the Lubavitcher Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson—who is widely considered one of the most influential rabbis in modern history. Rather than advocating confrontation or hostility towards our adversaries, the Rebbe famously taught: “You don’t conquer darkness with more darkness but with light.” This maxim holds profound relevance today. If the world feels like it is drowning in negativity, don’t fight it. Instead, do something to increase the light.

This year on July 9, Jews around the world will commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Rebbe’s passing. Taking from his teachings, when you encounter antisemitism in person or online, instead of feeling helpless or hopeless, take the opportunity to do something kind for your fellow Jew. Extend an invitation to someone for a Shabbat meal. Visit someone in your community who is ill. Pray—either individually or communally.

Each of these acts not only strengthens our own sense of Jewish pride but builds communal unity and resilience, which are potent antidotes to hate and antisemitism. Just as the antisemites of the world hate us regardless of what we do or don’t do, we, as Jews, should love ourselves and each other even more.

That is the lesson that the story of the spies and the Rebbe’s approach to antisemitism teaches us. The more we trust in G-d’s plan—and exercise love and care for our fellow Jew—the more that antisemitism won’t be able to bring us down, and Jewish resilience and survival will win the day once again. Then we can triumphantly state: “Hey world, we’re not going anywhere, get over it.”

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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