Fighting for life

By Joshua Yudkin

Since the attack by Hamas, I have felt an irreparable and ineffable loss. A loss of security, trust and life. I have been in shock at the extraordinary brutality and inhumanity that took place against innocent civilians on Oct. 7 in Israel. I have been equally shocked by the verbal and physical attacks that accompany hateful rhetoric and tropes justifying these attacks and continued attacks on Jews across the globe. Ignorance globally seems to only increase.

While mourning for loss, worried about friends and family still living under daily rocket attacks and concerned about our own communal physical, mental and emotional security, we trudge ahead, often pretending we are fine while hurting inside.

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to join a Zoom call with young leaders from Jewish communities around the world. We had the chance to learn about the situations and unique considerations in each of our respective countries and communities. We had the opportunity to ask questions to Jewish professionals and soldiers in Israel. We were courageously vulnerable and shared how this past month has affected us personally, what steps we have taken to protect ourselves and how we try to begin to heal. Each time warning sirens interrupted during the call, Israeli participants abruptly left to run to the air raid shelter; their absence was felt across the world.

Toward the end of the call, someone expressed how they felt that the Israel Defense Forces are not just soldiers for the citizens of Israel but for global Jewry, now more than ever. Touched, an Israeli participant said that, in many ways, they felt that we, in the Diaspora, are on the front lines fighting for our right to exist. After a rich discussion about whether it is more important to be in Israel or here in the diaspora, there was a unanimous understanding that the most important place to be is together.

The Hebrew word for unity is ahdut, which incorporates the Hebrew word ehad, one. The individual is literally part of the collective. During the call, it was asked, “Who is protecting who?” Are Israelis on the front lines of the battlefield protecting Jews in the diaspora or are Jews in the diaspora on the front lines fighting antisemitism protecting Israel? After a rich discussion, it became clear that, united, we collectively protect the individual in the same way the individual protects the collective.

“Kol Yisrael arevim zeh bazeh,” or all of Israel is responsible for one another. Transcending all divisions, we are one people made of a beautiful mosaic of diverse individuals and communities with a shared history, tradition and moral compass. As Jews, there is nothing holier and more precious than life. We are united — fighting for life. The fabric of Jewish society is based in community — we pray, celebrate and mourn together.

Since Oct. 7, we have witnessed how Hamas’ terrorist attacks in Israel and hateful ideology ignited and incited deep-seated hatred to come to the surface — attacking and killing civilians, Jews and non-Jews around the world. The inhumanity that the world witnessed Oct. 7 and its continued reverberations continue affecting every aspect of our well-being — mental, physical, emotional and environmental. We are not okay. We, as Jews, Americans and humans. We cannot be OK when inhumanity is condoned.

As I wrote in an article last year, “antisemitism, like all forms of hate, is a symptom of a deeper societal disease of intolerance that is, most often, brought on by ignorance.” Hatred’s viral contagion masterfully oscillates between lysogenic and lytic stages at the will of mankind. Since Oct. 7, hatred has returned to its lytic stage, spreading, primarily, through ignorance and fueled by disinformation campaigns and lackadaisical reporting that perpetuates misinformation.

We must continue to combat hatred by embracing our Judaism — to show that we embrace life, love one another and value both knowledge and critical thinking. As Jews, we believe, fight and die for shalom (peace and well-being, in Hebrew) for all. Our love for life and for our fellow humans will always be stronger than hate.

Fifty years ago, my parents sat in their synagogues on Yom Kippur and learned about how Israel was convergently attacked on one of the holiest days of the Jewish calendar. Fifty years later, terror again desecrated the land and another holiday sacred to the Jewish people and their traditions. I pray that in another 50 years, our reality will change from one of hate and loss to shalom, peace and life.

Dr. Joshua Yudkin currently serves as an executive committee member of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas Community Relations Department and works at the intersection of community building and public health.

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