The time is now to support our fellow Jews
Photos: Courtesy Peter Adelman
At a BBQ near the Gaza border, Peter Adelman pitches in with two Israeli volunteers who cook at army bases March 28, 2024.

By Peter Adelman

As I sat on the plane from Tel Aviv to Newark, I kept trying to put my feelings and experiences from the past five days on paper. How do I capture the trauma, heartache, agony and devastation but also the bravery, resilience, camaraderie and heroics in words? Every day was a roller coaster of emotions: cries to laughter, fear to hope, anger to love. I was emotionally, mentally and physically drained after less than a week. The strength of the Israelis who have gone through so much more is truly remarkable. As much as I came to Israel to show support and to help where I could, I needed this trip more. It was a reminder that Israel is not just the government or the war. It is people wanting to live their lives freely without the threat of rockets and attacks. My friends are having babies, raising kids, getting engaged, switching jobs and trying to live normal lives. Being back in Israel reminded me that we are on the right side of history. The trip reinforced that I am proud to be Jewish. Proud to support Israel. Proud to see Israelis refuse to be victims and not live in total despair. They are deeply traumatized but living life.

Oct. 7 shook me to my core as I watched the massacre unfolding, the news constantly being updated, not believing what I was seeing. How could this happen? I could never have imagined the sadistic torture, rape and butchering that was being done to Jews inside of Israel. Surely the world will finally understand the barbarity of Israel’s neighbors and stand beside her to root out this evil. But no. Many in the Western world saw this as an opportunity to say that babies, children, women, grandparents were deserving and it was somehow their fault. The undertone of antisemitism was uncovered and people felt free to speak freely of their Jew-hatred. Remember, the pro-Hamas rallies across the United States, Europe and Australia started Oct, 8 and 9, before Israel had finished eliminating the over 3,000 Palestinian terrorists who were still inside Israel.

While there are so many misconceptions about Israel, it’s important to remember that this war isn’t about politics or inequality or any other lens we in the Western world try to put on it. Israel is trying to save 134 innocent civilians currently held hostage while protecting itself from a death cult that has vowed to attack again and again. These hostages include 1- and 4-year-old brothers, 18 young women and six Americans. Most are not soldiers; they did not live in occupied land. They were sleeping in their homes or enjoying a music festival when they were brutally attacked. 

Peter Adelman visits with a wounded soldier at Sheba Medical Center March 27, 2024.

Impactful experiences

While there were many moments of the trip that stood out, here are a few: 

•Visiting a woman who runs a Jewish National Fund resilience center (they refuse to call it a trauma center) whose kibbutz was attacked on Oct. 7. She was born in the Sinai. Her family left the Sinai when Israel gave it up for peace with Egypt. Her family thought they would be the last generation to serve in the army. Then in 2005, they left Gush Katif (a kibbutz in Gaza) to make peace with the Palestinians. Now her kibbutz, in undisputed Israel is on the front lines of rocket attacks. Before Oct. 7, rockets were consistently fired and her kids were used to running to bomb shelters. This was somehow normalized.

•Hosting a BBQ for 300-plus reservists who were in Gaza in November and December and just called up to go back in. One guy I spoke to had daughters ages 6 and 3 (roughly the same age as my girls). I asked him why he volunteered for another round and he said he can’t allow his daughters to grow up in a world where Hamas can strike again (which they have vowed to do). Another soldier had just gotten engaged the week before. (Admittedly, I started to tear up talking to him and he asked what was the matter. I said the smoke from the grill had gotten in my eye.)

•Meeting a man and his son whose brother/uncle is still held hostage in Gaza. Their nieces/cousins were brought back from Gaza in December and they are home but not the same after living through hell. Their plea was for only one thing: “Bring them home. Let us live in peace.”

•Countless people asking me the same question: “Is it true they hate us on college campuses?” I didn’t know how to answer. How can it be that the most progressive people in the U.S. could support a terrorist organization over a democracy?

•Being at Hostage Square, where for 24 straight weeks they’ve held protests. These protests aren’t calling for the annihilation of another people but rather begging to release family and friends that are held hostage. Of all people, these family members have every right to be filled with rage and call for the destruction of Gaza. But, all they want is to bring families/friends home. My Hebrew isn’t great, but I understood a wife saying her husband hurt no one, was never mean to anyone. He couldn’t be more peaceful. And hearing akshav over and over again (meaning “Now!”). Not once did I hear that the war was to “get back” at Palestinians. It’s to get back the hostages and ensure this can never happen again. 

•Being at lunch with my former boss and his 8-year-old son. At lunch his son asked me if everywhere has war and rockets.

•Going to Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv, where hundreds of soldiers are recovering from gruesome injuries. Seeing wives, siblings, parents and friends visiting these heroes.

•One community in the south that wasn’t impacted turned every building into a makeshift school for the whole region. Kids from all over come to this community to try to get back to normalcy.

Takeaways

If you have the opportunity, go! There were 80,000 tourists in March 2024 compared to 375,000 in March 2023. The country needs tourism. People feel isolated. The amount of people that said to me, “Thank you for coming,” frankly embarrassed me. The least I could do was show up. I was showered with a huge amount of gratitude that I’ll never be able to repay. I thanked all of them for showing Jews around the world what it means to be strong. Come show them support. No one is asking you to go fight. Go to the beach, go to dinner, shop and if you want, volunteer. The needs are endless. Help evacuees, soldiers, rebuild communities, help on a farm, host a BBQ. Say you care. If you need help organizing or have questions, please reach out. I am happy to help.

If you have the means, donate. There are so many places in need. You can find something that resonates with you. 

Become educated. Read/watch more than just CNN, The New York Times or the BBC. Read Israeli news in English (Times of Israel, Ynet, Jerusalem Post). Remember, moral judgments and opinions are easy to make in the safety of our Western homes. Try and understand the perspective of people living with the consequences of these decisions.

Be an upstander. Too many people are silent. Yes, it may be uncomfortable to call someone out, but if you hear something that shouldn’t be said, speak up! If you read an article that is biased, write to the editor. Don’t rely on others to combat lies about Israel and Jews. It’s your responsibility.

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