In helfman

By Rabbi Jordan Helfman.

As a Jew living in Canada, do you feel more Jewish than you did two months ago, before the kidnapping?

Though missiles have not been directed at us, though our stores have not been set aflame, many of us have been privy to the battlefield of the internet.

There have been op-eds flying back and forth, articles shared without regard for the target. Angry comments have been shot out with machine-gun like typing, hitting their mark with increased stress and raised blood pressure.

The war on the ground is incomparable to the war happening online.  Yet in many ways the winner may not be decided in the Gaza Strip, but in the commentary and talk-back that surrounds the debate.

Casualty numbers are spun, nightmares are shared, detailing about what would happen if kidnappers made good with plastic handcuffs and tranquillizers found in the tunnels.  Video is shared without regard for whose projectile caused the carnage.

Some of us have chosen to be vocal supporters of Israel: sharing, commenting and de-friending like soldiers on the front line of a battle.  Others, myself included, have been quiet supporters, reading and liking the words of others.  And still others are unsure – when did this war invade my peaceful life here in Canada?  Why is that friend from third grade I haven’t spoken to in 34 years sharing that map, and shouldn’t I let someone else inform them how slanted it is?

This war is happening around us in new and challenging ways.  It make us, good Canadians, feel Jewish.  We have many identities – friends, professionals, parents.  And suddenly, for many of us, this conflict is reminding us that in a very public way, we are Jews.  This conflict is showing us that, regardless of our relationship with our religion, with our God, we have a relationship with the People of Israel and the State of Israel.  We have friends and relatives currently under attack.  We have friends and relatives either making us proud or embarrassing us in the war of public opinion.

For some of us, the war is all to personal; our friends have shared images of their friends, now dead, enjoying a drink at a bar, hanging out with a girlfriend. Some of us have Palestinian friends sharing how distraught they are over this current conflict and its spillover into the West Bank, wishing for peace.

No matter how public we are with our support, Israel and our Israeli friends and family are in our hearts.  This war has made us feel, on a different level this connection.

For those interested in furthering their education into different nuances of the conflict, Israel Committee has been collecting insightful articles, which can be found here.

I will leave us with the very personal words (shared with permission) of my friend, Noa Marom, who trains Shlichim for the Jewish Agency:

These past couple of months have been extremely difficult for me:

Not just because I have had to run for shelter during missile attacks on my home and loved ones…

Not because I have been volunteering to help my girlfriends who are left alone at home with little babies while their husbands have been called for duties weeks ago leaving them to hold up the fort with very little contact with their loved ones and little children asking where their fathers are..

Not because I have had to run a training program for over 180 shlichim who are not focused and are waiting to hear updates if their loved ones are safe, injured or dead…

Not because I’m trying to study for exams to finish my degree and the last thing I can do is open a text book..

Not because of the daily parade of names of young soldiers who are dying to protect my home..

And not because of the sickening stories coming out of Gaza and the high toll of innocent civilian lives perished in this endless battle…

What is difficult for me is the discourse of hate that is being legitimized on both ends of the political spectrum in Israel.. With the over exposure of social media in this current time it doesn’t feel safe to express any opinion. And yet I’m exposed to so much hate and fear from both sides, it makes me really worry how will we be able to move on??

I haven’t lost hope, and I believe that there is good on both sides… But right now I’m afraid..

I’m not sure what I’m more scared of: that I will be attacked for my opinions or that I will be attacked for my nationality and Religion.

I believe that Peace is attainable, I believe that we have a partner in the citizens of Gaza. I don’t believe in hate and the politics of fear. I believe Israel has the right to defend its citizens, but I also believe we have a responsibility for the people of Gaza.

I am proud that the IDF has field hospitals helping the citizens of Gaza, I am proud of the love and support given to our troops. I cry for the children of Israel and I cry for the children of Gaza.

I can only hope that once there will be a ceasefire we will find the right people to move us forward towards a better future for the entire region.

*Shlichim are Israeli Emissaries sent to help us outside of Israel build our relationship with Israel.

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  • Debra Bennett

    Thank you Rabbi Helfman. You articulate beautifully what many of us are feeling and experiencing.

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