OpinionIsrael at War

Wake up, Diaspora Jewry! Your fate is bound to Israel’s

This morning’s news reminded me that no place in the world is safe for a Jew.

Iron Dome air-defense system fires interception missiles as rockets fired from the Gaza Strip to Israel, as it seen from Moshav Neve Ilan in central Israel on Oct. 18, 2023. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.
Iron Dome air-defense system fires interception missiles as rockets fired from the Gaza Strip to Israel, as it seen from Moshav Neve Ilan in central Israel on Oct. 18, 2023. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/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.

A few days ago, I was finally able to speak to my friend Akiva. Like so many other reservists, he was called into active duty on Simchat Torah when the war broke out. “I need the things in my car,” he told me. Prior to our conversation, his battalion was transferred from Netanya to outside of Beersheva. Due to the rush, he was unable to collect his belongings before they left. “I’ll get it for you,” I replied, unsure how it would become a reality.

In addition to the contents of his car, Akiva sent me a list of things his platoon needed. Both his family and mine worked feverishly, as so many Jews around the world are doing, to both secure a sponsor and purchase whatever they needed. As the items were being bought, I made my way north to Netanya.

Once I had the car and was returning south, I connected with my wife in Jerusalem to collect all she had for the soldiers. In a split-second decision, I agreed to bring my 11-year-old son Rafi with me to deliver the goods. As far as I could remember, Beersheva had had the same number of rocket warnings as Jerusalem did, so it seemed fine to bring him along.

When we arrived at the base, Akiva met us just as the sun was setting. Rafi and I helped him transfer his gear into his commander’s car. The visit ended with praying the afternoon service and eating McDonald’s that we’d picked up along the way. As I hugged Akiva goodbye, I said: “Keep yourself, and all of us, safe, OK?” He assured me he would. It had just gotten dark as we drove our separate ways.

Not five minutes after we’d left the base, I noticed three unusual streaks of light in the sky ahead of us. They looked like fireworks, only thicker and more yellow. “What is that, Aba?” Rafi asked. That’s when I realized those were rockets and they were close. The terrifying thing about rocket fire at night is that only the launch is visible. There’s no way to tell if they’ve already passed or if they’re about to make an impact nearby. But in the dark, it always feels like they’re about to rain down on you.

Not long after, another two sets of rockets were fired in our direction. Each round, I held my breath until my phone lit up with a push notification: “BREAKING! Rocket sirens sound in central Israel.” Upon seeing those messages, I breathed a sigh of relief. This meant they’d passed overhead. I prayed they’d land in open areas so no one was hurt.

I know what you may be thinking—what I did was extremely dangerous. It’s one thing to put myself in harm’s way, but to bring my son there was totally irresponsible. That may be true. I may not have needed to go down south. And if I had thought about it first, I may not have brought Rafi with me. But in a way, that’s what it is to live in Israel, especially at this moment. The dangers we face are around every corner. We are constantly running into the shelters, and threats of terrorist infiltration persist to pop up everywhere, even at home. If my only priority were mine and my family’s safety, then I might move back to the United States. But, in truth, that’s not the solution either.

This morning’s news reminded me that no place in the world is safe for a Jew. Samantha Woll, a 40-year-old Detroit synagogue leader, was stabbed to death on Shabbat morning. At first glance, this may seem like a random act of violence, but I don’t believe that to be the case.

Throughout America and the whole world, tensions surrounding Israel have been rising. Last week, those tensions rose even higher when the explosion at a hospital in the Gaza Strip was immediately blamed on Israel. The subsequent investigation by the Israel Defense Forces provided ample evidence that the explosion was caused by a misfired rocket launched by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group based in the Strip. This was sufficient for most, but there are still those who are peddling the lie.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), in Woll’s district, was involved in an anti-Israel rally last week in a congressional building. She cried over the microphone, accusing Israel of “committing genocide” when the IDF bombed the hospital. The problem is that the rally was held well after Israel had provided the exonerating evidence. Everything Tlaib said was an outright lie, and she knew it to be the case.

Subsequent to that rally, a massive anti-Israel protest was held in Southeast Michigan, home to one of the largest populations of Arab-Americans. Those attending chanted anti-Semitic slogans, such as “from the river to the sea [‘Palestine will be free’]” and “when people are occupied, resistance is justified.” These chants are calls to exterminate the Jews and justify the murder on Oct. 7 of 1,400 innocent civilians in southern Israel, the wounding of thousands and the abduction of some 222 more.

After these two rallies, Samantha Woll, a public Jewish figure in the region, was murdered in cold blood.

The Anti-Defamation League requested that the public “refrain from speculation” about the motive until more facts are known about Woll’s murder. I have a question: Why are we Jews the only ones who are not permitted to speculate? Why can almost the entire media complex and congressional leaders not just speculate, but spew outright falsehoods in the face of demonstrable evidence and ratchet up the racial tensions until they are calling for blood libels? 

This behavior must stop. 

Diaspora Jews: Wake up! Your fate is bound to ours here in Israel. You may feel that America—or wherever you’re living—is safer than being in the Holy Land, but that reality is rapidly disappearing. Rhetoric like Tlaib’s is reprehensible, dangerous and can lead to Jewish deaths. And, worst of all, it’s becoming more commonplace with so few in her party willing to speak out against her.

Now is not a time to pray that this will all go away. Make your voices heard. Show the world that we are strong, united and unafraid of those who seek to destroy us, no matter where they may be.

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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