OpinionIsrael at War

United as a people, we will get through this

We must redouble our efforts to engage and embrace Jews who may be different from us.

An Israeli flag in the Jordan Valley, near the community of Ma'ale Efraim, Jan. 2, 2014. Photo by Uri Lenz/Flash90.
An Israeli flag in the Jordan Valley, near the community of Ma'ale Efraim, Jan. 2, 2014. Photo by Uri Lenz/Flash90.
Steven Burg
Rabbi Steven Burg

Rabbi Steven Burg, Aish’s CEO, serves on the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency; as an executive board member of the Rabbinical Council of America; and as a board member of Yeshiva University High Schools and Naaleh High School.

The past six months have been unlike any in recent memory. I say in recent memory because there is a cycle to Jewish history. As King Solomon said 3,000 years ago, “There is nothing new under the sun.”

We have gone through several mood swings over the past few months. After Oct. 7, we were in shock. There was a sense of national mourning. We witnessed the largest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust. Somehow, our evil enemies found new and inventive ways to desecrate the Jewish people. Our pain was palpable and unparalleled.

We then switched gears to doing what we’ve done since the dawn of Judaism. When Abraham heard that his nephew Lot had been kidnapped in a war, he immediately raised the first Jewish army and went to battle to save him. This established one of the most important rules in Jewish culture: Whenever and wherever a Jew is in trouble, we never abandon him. We never abandon each other. Thus, the Israel Defense Forces raced to save our kidnapped Jewish brothers and sisters.

We felt enormous pride as these Jewish heroes left everything behind and raced to the Gaza Strip. Never has there been a clearer definition of the fight between good and evil. Then we watched as the world slowly turned against us, forgetting that the conflict began with the murder and rape of innocent men, women and children.

I remember sitting in an Israeli government minister’s office a few days after Oct. 7. He told me that the world was united behind Israel and would allow us to do what needed to be done. I recall thinking that these positive sentiments would not last. They didn’t.

Every week for the past six months, when I sent out my weekly emails on behalf of Aish—each one standing firmly behind the IDF—I received responses with “colorful” language and accusations of supporting genocide. The unfairness of the world blaming the Jewish people for trying to bring our brothers and sisters home is outrageous. There has never been a clearer case of international antisemitism than the world’s reaction to current events. Violence against Jews on foreign streets has reached an all-time high. Ours is a world that has turned morally and ethically upside down.

Today, I sense a new mood. It is a mixture of fear and apprehension. The headlines are full of reports about Iran’s massive aerial attack on Israel and the attack’s miraculous defeat as the Almighty guided the IDF and its allies, allowing them to destroy or disable almost all of Iran’s missiles and drones.

Many are asking about the future of Jewry and Israel. I don’t know the future, but I do know that my heart is filled with love for and faith in the Almighty for what he has done to protect our people thus far. Yes, we have suffered painful losses, but we have also seen the incredible intervention that prevented widespread disaster this past Saturday night, as well as the IDF’s success in Gaza.

Next week, we hold our Passover seders and recall how the Jewish people were saved from the savagery of the Egyptians. Just when it seemed as if there was no hope, the Almighty sent Moses to save us and bring us to the promised land of Israel. In times of crisis, the Almighty is there to uplift us just when we need him the most.

Jews are well aware of our story. We were exiled from the Land of Israel 2,000 years ago. In every country we went to, we did our best to serve the local government and improve the lives of our fellow man. Yet every time, the Jews were viewed as a fifth column, massacred and sent packing. I am reminded of a conversation I had a few years ago when I was in Saudi Arabia. A Saudi leader had watched Abba Eban’s famous documentary “Israel: A Nation Is Born” in preparation for our visit. He referred to the Jews being thrown out of Spain. I told him that there was hardly a country on earth out of which the Jews had not been thrown, including most of the nations of the Middle East.

Yet after 2,000 years, we found our way home. Just three years after the Holocaust, the Jewish people came together to establish the State of Israel in our homeland of 3,500 years. The dream of our forefathers became a reality. We have worked hard ever since to create a haven where Jews could finally stop worrying about being persecuted and exiled. Yet our neighbors have constantly attacked us, and the world has vilified us for wanting to live in peace.

As we face some of the most extreme threats to the Jewish people in history, I say to you that in my heart, I know that the Almighty has not brought us back home to abandon us. The Almighty went to battle with us to bring the hostages home. There is no greater priority for the Almighty than seeing His children unified and loving one another. Seeing so many Jewish heroes of the IDF leave their families to save their fellow Jews has left all of our hearts bursting with pride.

I remember sitting in a rehab center shortly after Oct. 7 with a young soldier who was left for dead on the roadside by terrorists. His leg had to be amputated due to the severity of his wounds. He told me that even though he knows his life is now changed forever, he would do it all over again because there is no greater cause than defending the Jewish people. How blessed we are to have heroes like this. So, as Iran and its evil henchmen continue to attack us, I know that just as the Almighty saved us from Egypt 3,000 years ago, He will stand by us today. He will not allow evil to triumph over good. He will never abandon His children.

Our task is clear: We must strive to stay unified as a people. This is often easier said than done. We must redouble our efforts to engage and embrace Jews who may be different from us. We must stand strong and never give up hope for our brothers and sisters who are still in captivity in Gaza. Most of all, we must never forget that we are all blessed with a Father in Heaven who loves us with the greatest love imaginable. We must continue to cry out to Him to help us because our enemies cannot stand before Him. We will get through this. We will emerge stronger. We are the Jewish Nation. Am Yisrael Chai!

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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