I’m writing this in the final moments of our downtime before we head to dinner and the airport. I have no clue what day of the week it is, and the last few days are a jumble, but I wanted to get this reflection out before I got on the airplane.
Today was filled with information, one of those days where keeping it all straight required copious note-taking. Last night ended with the Executive Director of Honest Reporting reminding us that this is not a war of Arabs and Jews, this is a war of terrorists and civilians. It was the perfect lead-in to our hour with Libby Weiss, a Portland native, PJA graduate who made aliyah, and now a spokesperson for the IDF. Her talk gave us context for what we’ve witnessed and heard on the news. I want to share all of the data, statistics, and information that she shared with us, and at the same time, I’m still processing.
The question that was the most thought-provoking and upsetting: “Have you noticed no one calls for Hamas to stop their rockets? No one is calling on Hamas to release the hostages outright?” Instead, the world is calling for Israel to stop, to use restraint. This lack of accountability for Hamas implies that Hamas has no agency of their own. Lest we forget, Hamas is a recognized governing body, elected in Gaza. Hamas has agency, and we must demand that they use it.
Another haunting question: “Why don’t we have numbers of the number of casualties of Hamas militants? How is it possible that in urban warfare only civilians are dead?” The world must reconcile their thought process in order to truly understand the larger context of this war.
When you call for restraint from Israel, know that they’ve sent over 5 million calls and texts to the residents of Gaza, warning them where strikes will take place. Israel is literally sharing their military strategy with Gaza and Hamas to minimize civilian casualties and putting themselves at an operational disadvantage to spare civilian lives.
From this talk, we went to Hadassah Hospital on Mt. Scopus to meet with a survivor of the October 7th massacre. He and his sister were walking home from checking on their brother-in-law when the sirens went off. They ignored the homefront command rule to immediately duck and cover, and instead crossed the street to take cover. Thank God they did, because the rocket landed where they had been standing. They both sustained multiple shrapnel injuries. A group of yeshiva boys came out and saw them, got their rabbi who was a medic, and saved their lives. In the words of this 23-year-old, “There is a creator because otherwise, I wouldn’t be alive. A movement left or right and I would have been killed.” Amen.
Hadassah trains doctors all over the world in mass casualty trauma response. Take that in. They do this so often that they train the world on how to react. Of all things to be well known for, I wish it wasn’t this.
Next we engaged in a day of alphabet soup: the Jewish Agency for Israel, the Joint Distribution Committee, and then United Hatzalah. Each organization doing what they can to protect, support, and sustain life in Israel at this moment. The recurring theme: psychological care is exceptionally important and where resources are being pushed right now so that there can be a healthy future.
Finally, the Kotel. That old, strong, protective wall that plays a part in the holiday of Hannukah we begin Thursday night. A prayer for hope, for healing, for the strength of stone, and the gentle smoothness of time.
This is the hope, that nation will not threaten nation, that we can each do our part in speaking up for justice, accurate reporting, love, light, and above all, peace.
More to come once I’ve slept.