By SIMONE COHEN SCOTT
Winnipeg Beach, July 11, 2020
My usual practice is to spend the winter months in Jerusalem, returning to Canada in early April. That didn’t happen this year. I didn’t take the Coronavirus seriously until it was too late to ‘get out of town’, so to speak. I ignored the general talk as I have with the other ‘sky is falling’ viruses, just doubling up on Vitamin C and Ecinacea as a precaution.
Then it was too late to get a flight out! “Just as well”, I thought, as I was in the throes of a squabble with an insurance company, and it seemed best to be on the spot rather than trust to calls and emails from abroad. And thus I found myself in quarantine. Bombarded by the media with statistics that I was ‘at risk’ due to my age, I began to feel really old and seemed to need a lot of sleep. Upon hearing tales of what was being experienced all over the country, I became afraid.
For the first while I didn’t dare step out of my apartment. Finally I ventured to the pharmacy. A line of people waited outside. Because I had ignored the pandemic panic I was unfamiliar with all the regs, and so was taken by surprise. It was a small store, only one customer allowed in at a time. When my turn came, my mind went blank….completely. I began to browse, and was immediately scolded by the pharmacist. Quickly buying a toothbrush I left and walked directly home, passing the grocery store although I needed milk, bread, butter, eggs, and sundry other things. (I was never out of toilet paper.)
Just as I began to sink into deep lethargy, I received a call from my upstairs neighbour offering to pick up groceries for me, if I gave her a list. I must tell you here that my upstairs neighbours are very kind to me, and not just because it was their faulty plumbing that had impacted my apartment, hence the aforementioned insurance claim. They simply are extraordinarily nice people! At Pesach they brought me the traditional Seder plate and Seder meal, loaned me a very interesting Hagaddah, and thereafter for several weeks brought me my Shabbat meal.
Eventually however, I got around to ordering in a full pantry of groceries, plus a supply of masks, gloves, and sterilizing wipes, and my negative state of mind lifted. I began to realize that this unexpected, unstructured time, was an opportunity to meditate and reflect. I looked for but couldn’t find commentaries, by any sort of clergyperson, on the name of the epidemic.
Covid, to my untrained ear, is a Hebrew word, one of the various manifestations of the root KBD. Kavod, meaning dignity, honour, respect, homage, is what G-d has told us many times He wants us to direct towards Him. This is what it is to worship and glorify G-d, that is, pay Him honour and respect. The root of Kavod itself implies ‘heaviness’, as in ‘being of great importance’. By altering its vowels the word can also depict man’s inner condition, his spiritual or his physical state, in other words his soul…..or his liver. In some places the Tenach uses a variation in pronunciation to describe the immensity of sins, as it does the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah.
My research did not go into any great depth. Wikipedia had plenty of information for me to dwell on. I have no idea how Covid or Corona became the names of the virus. I went on instead to the number 19. Immediately there jumped to mind the Hebrew number 18, known generally to Jews as the number which symbolizes ‘life’, due either to gematria or to its Hebrew letters spelling ‘Chai’.
My “research” uncovered darker meanings too, but I didn’t go there; for the purpose of my musings there was already enough to contemplate. Once the number 18 (also the number of the Rambam’s list of blessings) is subtracted, what remains is one unit. ONE. AHAD. Need I say more? I will anyway. That G-d is One is the whole point of the Shma, the prayer on awakening, on going to sleep, on the doorpost, wound around the arm and forehead, the topic to discuss with our children when we’re walking, when we’re sitting around, no doubt when we’re driving, something to be worked into all of our conversations.
Alone in quarantine these thoughts were circulating and recirculating ad infinitum it seemed, in my head, but I never spoke them out loud. Once restrictions began to loosen, I was the first guest invited by my upstairs neighbours for a Shabbat meal. Here was an opportunity to articulate (read jabber) my insights! The poor dears were treated to a monologue, as I shared almost every thought I’d had for the last few months. What a treat for me! Before the pandemic, their Shabbat table would welcome at least six or eight others. Now I had their sole attention (albeit six feet away), and there were no interruptions.
Finally, at about the time I could venture out walking around on Jaffa Street, looking for summer clothing, (my Jerusalem wardrobe had not anticipated a heat wave), the insurance company issued me a cheque. Mundane tasks overcame my lofty spiritual thoughts. My task at hand was now to open a bank account; this is another story, a humdinger for another time. Finally, workman in place to completely strip my bedroom walls and ceiling and replaster and paint them, I booked a flight home to Canada.
And here I am, having nicely finished 14 days of self-isolation at my Winnipeg Beach cottage, looking forward to a long, lazy season, without any of the usual structure…Beach Shul, Remis Forum, Rotary Club.
In Jerusalem I learned to do ‘lazy’ very nicely; here, reality has set in. A call from Jerusalem tells me that removal of the walls has revealed more than the insurance adjuster reckoned. Cost of repair will be double what the company gave me. Well, never mind that; here’s what’s important! Being closeted in Jerusalem during the isolation has left me a little like Alfred E. Neuman of Mad Magazine: “What, me worry?”
It has been a type of religious experience, similar to time spent in a retreat or in an Elijah cave of sorts, and it has led me to this conclusion: Our world is heavy with sin. A quick survey of the chaos now surrounding us bares this out. We must stop and turn ourselves around to face G-d, trusting only Him, giving Him the honour and respect, the glory, the Kovid, due Him. It is for this purpose He has given us Chai, our life, and He is Ahad, the One and only One Who is in charge, and not we ourselves.
Hamas murdered their friend. Now, they help Israeli soldiers to keep his memory alive
By VIRGINIA ALLEN (The Daily Signal) David Newman sent a text to a friend the morning of Saturday, Oct. 7. Something terrible had happened. Word quickly spread among Newman’s group of friends, who had known each other since high school.
Newman, 25, had traveled the night before to the music festival in southern Israel, close to the border with the Gaza Strip. It was supposed to be a fun weekend with his girlfriend “celebrating life,” something Newman, who served with the Israel Defense Forces, was good at and loved to do, friend Gidon Hazony recalls.
When Hazony learned that Newman, his longtime friend, was in danger, he and another friend decided they were “going to go down and try and save him.” Trained as a medic and armed with a handgun and bulletproof vest, Hazony started driving south from Jerusalem.
Hazony and his friend ended up joining with other medical personnel and “treated probably around 50 soldiers and civilians in total that day,” Hazony recalls, but they kept trying to make it south to rescue Newman.
But the two “never made it down to the party, and that’s probably for the best,” Hazony says, “because that area was completely taken over by terrorists. And if we had gone down there, I think we would’ve been killed.”
Hazony later learned that Hamas terrorists had murdered Newman on Oct. 7, but not before Newman had saved nearly 300 lives, including the life of his girlfriend.
When the terrorists began their attack on the music festival, many attendees began running to their cars. But Newman and his girlfriend encountered a police officer who warned them to run the opposite direction because the terrorists were near the vehicles, says David Gani, another friend of Newman’s.
Newman “ran in the opposite direction with his girlfriend and whoever else he could kind of corral with him,” Gani explains during an interview on “The Daily Signal Podcast.”
“They saw two industrial garbage cans, big containers, and so David told everyone, ‘Hide, hide in those containers,’” Gani says. “And so what he did over the course of the next few hours is, he would take people and … he was this big guy, and he would just chuck them in that container. And then he would go in, wait, wait till the coast is clear, and then he’d go back out, find more people, put them in there.”
Newman’s actions that day, and the atrocities Hazony and so many others in Israel witnessed Oct. 7, led Hazony, Gani, and several friends to quit their jobs and set up a nonprofit called Soldiers Save Lives. The organization is working to collect tactical and humanitarian aid for the Israel Defense Forces, or IDF.
According to the group’s website, Soldiers Save Lives has supplied over 20 IDF units and civilian response teams “with protective and self-defense gear.”
Gani, board chairman, chief financial officer, and chief technology officer of Soldiers Save Lives, and Hazony, president of the organization, recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to raise support and awareness for their mission to provide IDF troops with needed supplies.
If you would like to find out more about Soldiers Save Lives or donate to them, go to https://www.soldierssavelives.org/
Reprinted with permission.
Our New Jewish Reality
By HENRY SREBRNIK Since Oct. 7, we Jews have been witnessing an ongoing political and psychological pogrom. True, there have been no deaths (so far), but we’ve seen the very real threat of mobs advocating violence and extensive property damage of Jewish-owned businesses, and all this with little forceful reaction from the authorities.
The very day after the carnage, Canadians awoke to the news that the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust had inspired sustained celebrations in its major cities. And they have continued ever since. I’d go so far as to say the Trudeau government has, objectively, been more interested in preventing harm to Gazans than caring about the atrocities against Israelis and their state.
For diaspora Jews, the attacks of Oct. 7 were not distant overseas events and in this country since then they have inspired anti-Semitism, pure and simple, which any Jew can recognize. Even though it happened in Israel, it brought back the centuries-old memories of defenseless Jews being slaughtered in a vicious pogrom by wild anti-Semites.
I think this has shocked, deeply, most Jews, even those completely “secular” and not all that interested in Judaism, Israel or “Zionism.” Jewish parents, especially, now fear for their children in schools and universities. The statements universities are making to Jewish students across the country could not be clearer: We will not protect you, they all but scream. You’re on your own.
But all this has happened before, as we know from Jewish history. Long before Alfred Dreyfus and Theodor Herzl, the 1881 pogroms in tsarist Russia led to an awakening of proto-Zionist activity there, with an emphasis on the land of Israel. There were soon new Jewish settlements in Palestine.
The average Jew in Canada now knows that his or her friend at a university, his co-worker in an office, and the people he or she socializes with, may in fact approve, or at least not disapprove, of what happened that day in Israel. Acquaintances or even close friends may care far more about Israel killing Palestinians in Gaza. Such people may even believe what we may call “Hamas pogrom denial,” already being spread. Many people have now gone so far in accepting the demonization of Israel and Jews that they see no penalty attached to public expressions of Jew-hatred. Indeed, many academics scream their hatred of Israel and Jews as loud as possible.
One example: On Nov. 10, Toronto officers responded to a call at an Indigo bookstore located in the downtown. It had been defaced with red paint splashed on its windows and the sidewalk, and posters plastered to its windows.
The eleven suspects later arrested claimed that Indigo founder Heather Reisman (who is Jewish) was “funding genocide” because of her financial support of the HESEG Foundation for Lone Soldiers, which provides scholarships to foreign nationals who study in Israel after serving in the Israeli armed forces. By this logic, then, most Jewish properties and organizations could be targeted, since the vast majority of Jews are solidly on Israel’s side.
Were these vandals right-wing thugs or people recently arrived from the Middle East? No, those charged were mostly white middle-class professionals. Among them are figures from academia, the legal community, and the public education sector. Four are academics connected to York University (one of them a former chair of the Sociology Department) and a fifth at the University of Toronto; two are elementary school teachers; another a paralegal at a law firm.
Were their students and colleagues dismayed by this behaviour? On the contrary. Some faculty members, staff and students at the university staged a rally in their support. These revelations have triggered discussions about the role and responsibilities of educators, given their influential positions in society.
You’ve heard the term “quiet quitting.” I think many Jews will withdraw from various clubs and organizations and we will begin to see, in a sense like in the 1930s, a reversal of assimilation, at least in the social sphere. (Of course none of this applies to Orthodox Jews, who already live this way.)
Women in various feminist organizations may form their own groups or join already existing Jewish women’s groups. There may be an increase in attendance in K-12 Jewish schools. In universities, “progressive” Jewish students will have to opt out of organizations whose members, including people they considered friends, have been marching to the slogan “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and similar eliminationist rhetoric, while waving Palestinian flags.
This will mostly affect Jews on the left, who may be supporters of organizations which have become carriers of anti-Semitism, though ostensibly dealing with “human rights,” “social justice,” and even “climate change.”
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg took part in a demonstration outside the Israeli Embassy in Stockholm on Oct. 22 in which she chanted “crush Zionism” along with hundreds of other anti-Israel protesters. Israel is now unthinkingly condemned as a genocidal apartheid settler-colonialist state, indeed, the single most malevolent country in the world and the root of all evil.
New York Times Columnist Bret Stephens expressed it well in his Nov. 7 article. “Knowing who our friends aren’t isn’t pleasant, particularly after so many Jews have sought to be personal friends and political allies to people and movements that, as we grieved, turned their backs on us. But it’s also clarifying.”
Henry Srebrnik is a professor of political science at the University of Prince Edward Island in Charlottetown.
Former Winnipegger Vivian Silver, at first thought to have been taken hostage, has now been confirmed dead
Former Winnipegger and well-known Israeli peace activist Vivian Silver has now been confirmed as having been killed during the massacre of Israelis and foreign nationals perpetrated by Hamas terrorists on October 7. Vivian, a resident of Kibbutz Be’eri was originally thought to be among the more than 1200 individuals who were taken hostage by Hamas.
To read the full story on the CBC website, go to https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/israel-gaza-vivian-silver-1.7027333