Snapshots from Rabbi Emeritus Don Goor from Israel, after a month of war...
11.07.23 | Stories, Articles, Israel
Evan and I continue to be buoyed by the many expressions of concern for our wellbeing. It does make a difference! A few snapshots of our life now that it’s been almost a month since the horrific events of October 7.
Snapshot 1: War
We are living a dialectic of war/fear and life/routine. Our apartment is 41 miles from Gaza City. (About the same distance as Tarzana to Oxnard.) 41 miles away a horrific war is being fought. There are daily barrages of bombs and rockets. Thousands of people are dying. Yet here in Tel Aviv we have developed a routine to our lives. Slowly we’ve returned to normal patterns. There is traffic on the roads. People are out and about. Restaurants and shops have reopened. And yet, we stay close to home. There are two to three rocket sirens a day, which means hurrying to the safe room in our apartment, shutting ourselves in, and waiting for the loud explosions of the Iron Dome intercepting the rockets from Gaza. We wait for a few minutes of quiet, and then return to our dinner, to our TV show, to our lives.
Snapshot 2: Emotions
Despite the return to a semblance of routine, sadness continues to permeate our lives. The images from October 7 will not disappear. Each friend has a friend who was killed or kidnapped on October 7. Each day the newspapers list the soldiers who have been killed. They are not disembodied names. We see the pictures of their sweet faces, smiling without a care. We hear on the radio the sobs as their families bury them too early, too young. And the images from Gaza won’t disappear either. We are surrounded by sadness, by misery.
In our tour company we have returned to work – asking our staff (when possible) to come to the office at least once a week. We understand the power and the psychological strength derived from being together physically. And yet, both in our in-person meetings and our zoom meetings there are often tears. The sadness for lives lost, the devastation of hostages held, the new feelings of vulnerability, percolate not far from the surface.
Again, we are living a dialectic. People are sitting in cafes – always aware of the closest safe room. I ride my bike to work – usually a challenge amidst the traffic and craziness of Tel Aviv. Now, rather than watching for other bikes and scooters, I’m constantly scanning the path ahead in case a siren sounds…where will I quickly find safety? I ride the same path to work that I’ve ridden for the past year. A lovely 20-minute excursion. However, now I pass by the Tel Aviv Museum where the families of the hostages have erected a tent as a constant reminder of their loved ones. Above the tent is a large digital clock with the read out of how long our fellow Israelis have languished in captivity. Despite how much I enjoy being on my bike, I can’t ignore that I pass by the famous installation of the empty Shabbat tables set for all the hostages – may they return speedily.
Snapshot 3: Community
A month ago, the advertisements in bus shelters and on the banners hanging on lampposts all had to do with the proposed Judicial Reform – “A free people in our own land” (words from Hatikvah) along with “Bibi, you have torn apart our nation.” Now instead we see “together we will be victorious” along with “there is no left or right – together we will win.” There is a palpable spirit of unity.
A study found that in the past month almost 50% of Israelis (secular and religious, Arab, Druze, along with foreign workers) have volunteered in meaningful ways making a real impact. The Reform movement has delivered challah and flowers for Shabbat to evacuees from the south and the north. A rabbi with whom I work, Naomi Efrat, led a public Havdalah ceremony for families whose homes have been destroyed, who have nowhere to go. Supermarket shelves are stocked by volunteers due to a lack of staff. Closer to home, we housed a young Canadian student from Toronto who was waiting for an evacuation flight. I’ve spent hours packing food and necessities at the convention center. It’s as easy as scanning a barcode upon entry and then following directions to the place where my labor is most needed. I’ve delivered coffee to soldiers. The staff in our office is given a day off each week to volunteer. Last week they went south and picked pomegranates that were ripening on the trees because no one was available to work in the fields.
There is no right and left…there is only the desire to come together and endure this pain together.
Snapshot 4: The Future
While all our energy is devoted to moving forward together so that Israelis remain safe now and into the future, there is much discussion about what comes next. Who is responsible for this glaring failure is a question on all our lips. How can we ensure nothing like this occurs again? And most importantly, what can we do to ensure a better future for all Israelis and Palestinians?
We’ve fought in Gaza many times before. Rockets have flown for years. Tunnels are constantly being built. Israelis have bombed Gaza repeatedly. We must do better. Palestinians deserve a state of their own. Israelis need a guarantee of security. The true measure of success for this war is not only the destruction of Hamas, but also looking beyond that moment and creating a hopeful future for both peoples. We Israelis deserve leadership and a government that is both visionary and brave.