We’ve been down this road before. For every exciting world event, there is always a uniquely “Jewish” impact.
The euphoria of the “Arab Spring” of 2011 is no exception. While the world watched and cheered as people rose up against dictators in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria and other countries, newly-emboldened activists started cutting Egypt’s gas lines to Israel, cutting off energy supplies to the Jewish state.
Then on August 18, 2011, the terror escalated. Over a dozen terrorists, originally from Gaza, some wearing Egyptian army uniforms, walked past an Egyptian police checkpoint, entered Israel from Egypt and started murdering Israelis. (It seems their goal was to kidnap, echoing the 2006 kidnapping of 18-year-old Israeli Gilad Shalit, who is still in captivity.) Seven Israelis died in the attack.
Egypt and Gaza have exploded in anger at Israel. The proximate causes are the actions that Israel has taken to defend its citizens. (In the ensuing fight on the Egyptian border, three Egyptian police officers were killed, and in Israel’s subsequent bombing of terrorist sites in Gaza, according to Hamas, 10 terrorists and two innocent bystanders died.)
But the outpouring of fury speaks to a deeper, long-seated hatred of the Jewish state. (Egypt is, after all, the country where the smash hit “I Hate Israel” by Egyptian crooner Shaaban Abdel Rahim has been a favorite song for the past decade.) In Egypt, people have flocked to the center of Cairo to burn Israeli flags and shout for “death to Israel.” The Cabinet Committee that governs Egypt right now announced its intent to withdraw Egypt’s ambassador from Israel. And Egyptian presidential candidates are vying to outdo each other in condemning the Jewish state.
Meanwhile, Hamas has unleashed a barrage of attacks on Israeli cities from Gaza. Over 80 rockets from Gaza landed in Israel in the day after the attack on the Egyptian border. An Israeli toddler, a 9-year-old boy and others were injured when their house in the town of Ofakim was hit. Boys studying at a yeshiva in Ashdod were wounded when their school was hit. And 38-year-old Yossi Shoshan was killed in Be’er Sheva as he raced home to check on his pregnant wife, while that major Israeli city was deluged with rockets.
How to Help
This is such a dark time for Israel and its supporters. How shall we stand with Israel now? What can we do?
Here are seven ideas to connect with Israel today, both practically and spiritually. Try to focus on one suggestion each day, for a week of connection with the Jewish state.
- Perform a mitzvah
There is a strong mystical belief in Judaism that we can elevate our state of national protection by performing Jewish commandments. Resolve to take on one additional mitzvah today. You might want to experiment with keeping kosher, or light Shabbat candles.
- Study some Torah
Jews traditionally undertake to learn a portion of Torah in order to strengthen our connection. Make a decision today to read one extra Jewish-themed work this week, in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Israel, and in memory of those who have died in terror attacks.
- Stay informed
Many news outlets try to compete by reporting news in sensationalist ways, which can make it hard to figure out what is really going on. Keep informed by including some Israeli news sources in your reading. (www.jpost.com, www.israel21c.org) Also, keep an eye out for unbalanced or distorted coverage through sites such as www.honestreporting.com .
- Find a connection to Israel within yourself
Israel is such a diverse, exciting place, there is a way for everyone to connect. If you are an art aficionado, check out Israeli museums on the internet. For sports, start cheering for an Israeli team. With social networking sites, making connections with people in Israel is as easy as a mouse click, and can lead to rewarding, long-lasting friendships as well as a feeling of kinship with the Jewish state.
- E-mail your political representative
Get to know the name and e-mail address of the politicians who represent you in your local and national politics. Contact them to tell you how you feel. If Israel is important to them, let them know. You don’t need to know all the ins and outs of pending legislation; just let your representative know that you care about the Jewish state.
- Say a prayer
Jews have always turned to prayer in times of danger. You can recite prayers in your own words, or experiment with more formal prayers. (Many people recite Psalms in difficult times; Psalm 119 is one that many people recite specifically in times of risk.) Alternately, you can write your own prayer and have it placed in the Western Wall, the remnant of our ancient Temple in Jerusalem. It can be exciting to know that your own prayer is in such a sacred place.
- Give of yourself
Donate your time to a Jewish cause. Contribute your efforts to help the Jewish community. Pledge tzedakah to a Jewish or Israeli charity to help make the world a better place. In Judaism, giving of ourselves to improve our community and our world is one of the most profound ways to connect. Particularly when we are worried about Israel, worried about our fellow Jews, this is a powerful way to introduce some light into the darkness of current events.