Six Months Later


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by Karen J. Kruger
April 2024

October 7 began with the expectation of a full day of celebration ahead of us. There were grandchildren to see and dance with, as the traditional celebration of Simchat Torah was to begin. Later in the evening, I was going to attend a prayer meeting with Arab and Jewish women who had come to love, respect, and pray together. I was even to give the teaching. Such were the plans.

We all know that nobody in Israel experienced the day they expected, on that black Sabbath day in October.  Early in the morning, terrorists infiltrated the peaceful towns surrounding Gaza, and the resulting savagery has been widely known and shown to all. 

It is almost six months later. Everyone has changed. Everyone is suffering. Everyone continues to be in a state of shock, grief and pain as the war continues. At the time of this writing, 133 hostages remain tortured in the dungeons of evil, and many mourn for their dead.

In a heartbeat, my two sons, my son in law and my daughter in law were all wrenched from their lives and sent to Gaza. The fear and worry was, and continues to be, palpable. Many of our precious soldiers did not return home.  Many more have been seriously injured.

We, in Israel, live with an existential threat, while world opinion astonishingly turns against us. Our people are divided in how we perceive the government, the methods of warfare, and to how we envision ‘the morning after”.  As a mother, grandmother and teacher, I know that I must present an example to those around me.  It is important that we do not fall into a pit of despair as we walk through this painful time. 

Victor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor and psychologist, wrote in his classic book, “Man’s Search For Meaning”  that “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of human freedoms- to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”  Let us remember, he wrote this during and after his experience as a survivor of a Concentration Camp. Victor Frankl went on to write books, and to have a significant influence in the field of psychology as he was an example of human fortitude.

We, in Israel, have seen an incredible outpouring of love, support and initiative by the citizens of our land. Overnight, food and support became available. It appeared that everyone was involved in organizing some kind of help for families in need and soldiers. Hotels opened their doors to the displaced and food trucks were dispatched.  We received many calls from abroad, almost all of them asking what could be done to help. The resiliency of Israeli society, and, for a brief time, the comradery, was a wonderful thing to witness and to be a part of. In our own congregation, there were so many who showed up to make sandwiches for soldiers, that we were bumping into each other. Everyone wanted to help. 

As the whirlwinds of devastation, fake news and trauma continue to swirl about, I would like to propose an acronym that helped many of us stay sane, reasonably focused and strong. This acronym is TRUTH and I will discuss each letter in turn.

T is for talk. We all talked about the massacre, the devastation, and our fears all the time and with whomever would listen.  This was important and necessary in the early days. We were all traumatized and needed each other as a point of reference, a safe place and to know we weren’t alone. Attendance at our synagogue dramatically increased as we came together to pray, grieve, and find what comfort we might, as well as to discover how we might help. We could, in fact, do little but talk about the war. We found we were all in the same proverbial boat. All were suffering, frightened, angry and in shock. We found comfort in being together and talking about the tragedy.

The” R” in TRUTH is for resiliency. We, as a people, have been through suffering and triumph throughout our history. This disaster, though enormous in scope, is not something unfamiliar. We have lived in this part of the world long enough to have had sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, and friends in the army and serving in wars. We, as a people, have survived. Though there have been far too many casualties, we are still here. We have learned to be strong because we have had no other option.  After a terrorist attack occurs, it is astounding to see that the glass is swept up, the stores are reopened, and life continues. In many parts of the country, most people live their lives outwardly undisturbed. We are resilient. We go on.

U is for Understand. I thought I knew what was needed to make peace with our neighbors. So, unfortunately, did many of the people in the Kibbutzim surrounding Gaza. However, we did not understand the depth of the hatred nor the fanaticism propelling the massacre. It is important, I believe, to change one’s mind when presented with facts that are clear. This is the essence of growth and maturity. I believe that many of us had a fundamental miscomprehension as to the nature of our enemies. Our naiveté has been shattered. Peace activists were slaughtered. Many Palestinians who joined the attack were “friends” who had been invited to work and to eat at the tables of various members of the community.  I believe we need to rethink our assumptions. I want to make this point clear. I am not speaking about Arabs in Israel, nor most Arabs in the territories. I am speaking of those who support Hamas and what this means. There can be no coexistence with such people, though I do believe that coexistence can and will be possible, in the future, with others.

The second T in TRUTH is to tell. With all the misunderstanding, fake news and victim bashing that is prevalent today, there is little more important than to speak out and tell the truth. As I mentioned, my sons were in Gaza and I know, from those very reliable sources, that much of what we had been told, much of what we had believed, and much of what we had assumed is and was wrong. For example, there is no genocide in Gaza. There is, in fact, a very concerted effort by the Israeli Defense Forces to minimize civilian casualties. Does this mean that innocent people are not suffering? Of course they are. However, words like “Colonialization”, “Apartheid”, “Genocide” and “Occupation” have real and concrete meanings and cannot be thrown about randomly to villainize Israel. In fact, many of our precious soldiers are being killed and hurt as we attempt to root out and destroy Hamas, and not to hurt civilians. One of my own sons helped to build a humanitarian corridor for the Gazans. Another worked on a peace initiative in which clean water was made available to the citizens of Gaza.  Those water pipes were dug up by Hamas and used to make rockets. Therefore, TRUTH is vital in this propaganda war designed to further weaken Israel. 

Last, but certainly not least, we come to the H in TRUTH which is HOPE. It seems almost counter intuitive to HOPE during these horrific days. As I write, one of my sons who had served in Gaza has now left his wife, three small children and job as he has been deployed to the North. Tensions are building there, and it was necessary for him to go. However, I see the trajectory of history and things can and do change.  Less than 100 years after the Holocaust, Germany is now a staunch ally of Israel. No one would have believed, during WWII, that this can and would happen. Additionally, the Nazi party is outlawed in Germany. Things change. 

Japan, after their defeat, transformed from an imperialist society into one in which peace and prosperity are now available to many. Things change.

“Intractable conflicts” change.  The fundamental message of history and of faith is that foundational beliefs, that cause suffering and anguish, can and do change when faith is applied to will. The power of education, along with the power of God and the dedication to truth can not be underestimated. We do have a future and hope. We, and the Arabs who seek to live in peace, have a destiny that is intertwined. There will be a reason to rejoice, in time to come. I have seen nations change, people change, entrenched beliefs shatter and hope emerge from the darkest times. Talking to each other, resilience, understanding of our enemy, telling our story and hope will get us through the hardest times. 

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” 
Jeremiah 29:11

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3 Comments on “Six Months Later
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  1. Thank you.Very clear and concise. Though it seems otherwise to those of you suffering through this, God sees and is still sovereign. I pray for all in Israel.

  2. Thank you for ‘TRUTH’!

    I pray for Israel and her people! Being a citizen of the USA, I can only imagine what you speak of with sadness and sorrow in my heart! I know all hope is our Father in heaven and the plans He has for you (us).

    Though you may realize this I want to encourage you – The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is walking with you through your sorrows, fears, and pain. You are not alone!

    Shalom

    Joseph Christiano

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