We received this email the morning of October 8, from Rabbi Yosef Benarroch, of the Herzlia-Adas Yeshurun Congregation:
I am writing these words from my home in Efrat the morning after the terrible events that took place on Simchat Torah. It was a Simchat Torah like no other.
My wife and I travelled to the settlement of Elazar just across the way from our home in Efrat in Gush Etzion. We spent the holiday with our daughter and her family. My son-in-law prays in an outdoor minyan in the courtyard of a neighbour. The setting is pastoral, at the edge of the settlement, perched atop the mountains of Gush Etzion. The view is short of spectacular offering vistas that reach all the way to the coastal cities of Ashdod and Ashkelon, and further south to Gaza.
Friday night we danced and celebrated unaware of what was in store for us the next day. I woke up to a sunny Shabbat morning looking forward to a second round of Hakafot and celebration. Some twenty minutes into the morning service the first round of sirens began to sound. At first, we thought it was a mistake or perhaps a test. But there was no mistaking the explosions that followed. We quickly ran indoors to take cover. The explosions were relentless, many landing in our area of Gush Etzion. We were determined to conclude our prayers, recite the traditional prayer for rain, and perform the Hakafot. It was a subdued Simchat Torah like no other. I was struck by the thought that as we prayed for rain to fall from the skies our enemies were raining down destruction. A little seven-year-old boy was called to the Torah, as is the tradition in Sephardic synagogues on Simchat Torah. He recited the blessings and read flawlessly. I wondered what seven-year-old boys in Gaza were thinking.
It was hard to know the full extent of what was happening. As the day progressed, we knew it was serious as more and more men from the settlement were dressed in full army gear. Cellphones and walkie talkies were becoming more and more visible as the day progressed -an unusual sight in an Orthodox settlement on Yom Tov. The head of security in the settlement is a friend of mine. I asked him what was happening and he responded with “not good.”
It was a tense rest of the holiday. Our imaginations ran wild thinking the worse. It was only after we recited Havdalah on Saturday night that we ran to our cellphones and understood the full extent of what had happened. We were stunned. Our hearts broken at the extent of the carnage. The horror of terrorists infiltrating into our cities and homes, and no less on a holy Jewish day. Apparently, nothing is holy in the eyes of loathsome terrorists.
Shortly after the holiday we received news that our youngest son Yoni was called into duty to Gaza. Our daughter-in-law and her little baby boy spent the night with us as her husband made his way to Gaza. I think of him every moment and pray for his safety and the safety of all our soldiers.
We are now hunkered down in our home and plan to go out only as necessary. I just returned from delivering sandwiches to soldiers stationed in our area. It took a cowardly terrorist attack to unite a country, but I can say that today the Jewish nation feels united. We pray for the safety of our soldiers, the recovery of all the wounded, and the return of all the hostages. The consensus is that a decisive victory is necessary against a cruel enemy who seeks our destruction. The days ahead will not be easy. We are resolute, we are united, and we have full confidence in the IDF. Am Yisrael Chai.
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
Israeli show satirizing students in the US who give blind support to Hamas
If you want to take a break from the tension that comes with following every bit of news associated with Israel’s war on Hamas watch this hilarious video satirizing the stupidity of US college kids who give unqualified support to Hamas: https://twitter.com/LeviYonit/status/1721272323087401428?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1721272323087401428%7Ctwgr%5E833a2a425e6d7029d6ef37b7c9042c1d81dbf8ba%7Ctwcon%5Es1_c10&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.timesofisrael.com%2Fisraeli-satire-shows-mocking-of-us-student-support-for-hamas-goes-viral%2F