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This War Is Just Even Though It’s Brutal

Jewish leaders need to be ready to defend it.
Oren Rozen via Wikimedia Commons
Oren Rozen via Wikimedia Commons
Dr. Yehuda Kurtzer is president of the Shalom Hartman Institute. Yehuda is a leading thinker and author on the meaning of Israel to American Jews, on Jewish history and Jewish memory, and on questions of leadership and change in American Jewish life. Yehuda led the creation of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America in 2010 as a pioneering research and educational center for the leadership of the North American Jewish community, and teaches in

“I’ve been in Israel for only 24 hours, and I’ve quickly discovered that even after a week of weeping and worrying back home, I was not prepared to feel what it feels like here.

There is a cloud over this country, its people’s visages visibly darkened by grief for what has already happened, and with fear for what is yet to come. I have lived in Israel during many difficult and dangerous periods — through intifadas, wars, and the assassination of a prime minister — but there is nothing quite like the horror and the sorrow that grips the country right now.

It is also hard to shake the sense that things are about to get a lot worse.

Being here for a short time during this crisis helps me feel connected to the Israeli people and is pushing me to consider what responsibilities we bear right now from far away. The vast majority of North American Jews understood the magnitude of Hamas’ massacre and leaped to attention. We rallied with tears for our losses, and showed up with significant philanthropy to supply Israeli soldiers with their vast wartime needs and to support Israelis in the south whose lives and homes were destroyed in the rampage.

In this respect, we mirrored the unique ability that Israeli Jews have and are displaying right now to set aside political differences, even in a time of extreme polarization, to stand in solidarity with our people.

I fear, however, that what is coming will be substantially harder for our community and especially for our leaders, and I fear that we will misunderstand our responsibility. If North American Jews cannot figure out how to stand with Israelis right now — to determine the right balance between solidarity and criticism amid a dangerous and polarizing war — I fear that we will pave the way for the deterioration of the long-term relationship between North American Jews and Israel to a point beyond repair.”

Read the full article on The Forward

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