OpinionOctober 7

The world has changed

Israel’s existential battle with Hamas did not give birth to our enemies; it just gave them an excuse and a cover to publicly hate Jews once again.

A field with destroyed cars from the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks, near the Israel-Gaza border, Jan. 22, 2024. Photo by Chen Schimmel/Flash90.
A field with destroyed cars from the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks, near the Israel-Gaza border, Jan. 22, 2024. Photo by Chen Schimmel/Flash90.
Rabbi Hayim Leiter. Credit: Courtesy.
Rav Hayim Leiter
Hayim Leiter is a rabbi, mohel, wedding officiant and member of a private beit din in Israel. He founded Magen HaBrit, an organization that protects the ceremony of brit milah and the children who undergo it. He lives in Efrat and can be reached on X.

“You probably shouldn’t put that on your résumé,” my college advisor told me. I wasn’t sure what she was talking about. “That you minored in Jewish studies,” she added. I still didn’t understand. “Well, some jobs might not hire you because of it.” I couldn’t believe my ears.

“The truth is,” I told her, “I’m not sure I’d want to work anywhere that wouldn’t hire me because I’m Jewish.” I remember exactly how I felt at that moment. It was as if my whole college career and all the welcoming, inclusive experiences I’d had for the last four years were a lie.

During college, the only outward expression of my Judaism was the Star of David necklace I wore. It wasn’t until after I graduated that I started wearing a kippah and tzitzit.

My father used to tell me to wear my necklace out because I broke the stereotypical Jewish mold in the gentile mind. I was (and still am) a dedicated surfer—not the typical Jewish pastime. I was proud of who I was and not at all ashamed to show it. But in the final moments of my college career, I felt like I had to decide where I stood. There was no question in my mind. I wanted everyone to know I was Jewish, no matter the consequences.

“Can I have some of your French fries?” my colleague at the radio station asked. I was happy to share. My first work foray was in AM and FM radio. He began to eat with unabated passion. “Whoa, save some for me,” I admonished him.

“Why are you being so Jewish with your fries?” he retorted. I saw red. This individual prided himself on his Native American heritage. “Why don’t you stop scalping them, you bastard.” I don’t know where that comment came from—and I’m not proud of it. But I wasn’t going to take his slight lying down.

Beyond these experiences of antisemitism, I led a pretty sheltered life. Looking back, I don’t think I would have changed either of my responses. But I’m not sure I’d have the strength to do the same if I were facing them today.

The world has changed in shocking, almost macabre ways, both for and by Jews.

For example, resumebuilder.com reports that one-in-four managers right now are less likely to move forward with Jewish applicants. Just the mere fact that people will respond this way in a survey speaks volumes as to how perfectly mainstream antisemitism has become.

That’s far from the only example of antisemitism rearing its ugly head these days. It’s not even the most recent example. Barring all of the protests that have cropped up in every corner of the modern world and ignoring all of the despicable rhetoric chanted from the rooftops, one cannot overlook South Africa’s charge of genocide in the U.N. International Court of Justice.

The case South Africa presented was hard to watch. The lies told and actual atrocities overlooked were physically painful. The only thing that saved me from slipping into a complete depression was Israel’s redemptive response. Our representatives were clear and erudite, and they deserve recognition.

As troubling as all of these things are, they pale in comparison to what some of our Jewish brothers and sisters are engaged in.

Avi Issacharoff is one of Israel’s premiere journalists and one of the creators of the show “Fauda.” In a recent interview on the Bari Weiss podcast “Honestly,” Issacharoff remarked that Benjamin Netanyahu and his coalition are actually responsible for the terrorist attacks of Oct. 7. He claims that in the years leading up to that tragic day, the Israeli prime minister funded and emboldened Hamas, and that his policy decisions directly contributed to the massacre, if not caused the atrocities Israelis and others suffered on that dark day.

Issacharoff is not alone in making these claims. There are many both in Israel and abroad, both laypeople and religious leaders alike, who blame the present administration for the fate that has befallen Israel post-Simchat Torah.

For the life of me, I cannot understand these claims. None of these people would ever blame a rape victim for what she wore. It may very well be true that the transgressions before and during Oct. 7 were massive and numerous. The individuals responsible for those failings will have their comeuppance, whether through future elections or investigations. But none of those people caused the worst attack on Jews since the Holocaust. The evil that is Hamas and Iran are responsible for this pogrom and to blame it on Jews is siding with antisemites.

Those who lament the failings of Israel’s present government, which are many, and those who long for the bliss of the pre-Israel/Gaza conflict must understand something fundamental—none of those problems are our fault. Netanyahu’s policies were never intended to bring about this result. He is one of the most hawkish politicians when it’s come to Israel’s safety. His dance with Hamas was an attempt to normalize some of the radical neighbors that surround the Jewish state. We can all agree that it failed, but no one would have ever imagined, let alone desired, the results Israelis are presently being subjected to.

To my Jewish friends and colleagues in the Diaspora who are face to face with this present bout of antisemitism, we have lived your pain and are emotionally wrapped up in your present struggles. But Israel’s existential battle with Hamas did not give birth to our enemies; it just gave them an excuse and a cover to publicly hate us once again.

To those who struggle with Israel’s place in the world, you are not required to publicly voice your support. But the last thing we need is you siding with those who are against us. It may feel like you’re taking the moral high ground, but in truth, you’re only hurting your own family. If Israel were forced to stop her campaign before its successful conclusion, the antisemites would not become our friends. Our haters have never discriminated between “good Jews” and “bad Jews.” The result would only be the demise of our homeland. The world would still hate us, and you would all have nowhere to run to when, God forbid, you need shelter—and a true home.

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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