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A Time for Unity | שַׁבָּת שָׁלוֹם Shabbat Shalom | 19 Cheshvan 5784

By Doron Krakow

A Time for Unity

Kibbutz Ma’ayan Zvi was founded in 1938 by members of the Maccabi youth movement. High above the Mediterranean coast, it was built not far from the village of Zichron Yakov. Over the years, Zichron has grown, and today Maayan Zvi is practically part of the town. Practically, but not exactly. From the moment you pass through its gates, you’re in a typical kibbutz—this one with a population of fewer than 800 people.

Maayan Zvi has a wonderful market—flowers and produce; homemade, prepared meals and baked goods; local wines. Together with a dear friend, I went there this morning to do some shopping ahead of Shabbat. I’ve been to many kibbutzim over the years, and the lush, green settings, the sounds of children’s laughter, the smells and sights of the farms and gardens have always warmed my heart, a ready reminder of the pioneering spirit of Israel.

But this time was different. This time my first thought was of other kibbutzim—those in the Gaza envelope, the ones that bore the brunt of the slaughter on October 7. Nahal Oz. Kfar Aza. Netiv HaAsara. Holit. Be’eri. And too many others. Ma’ayan Zvi is a lot like those. At least it used to be. Until that day. This time, every person, every house, every vehicle, every bit of the landscape took me to the terrible images of the devastation wrought by the terrorist butchers. To the heartbreak I have experienced in every interaction I’ve had with friends and colleagues who lived through it and who are still living through it. Every face a seeming victim—tortured, raped, mutilated. The setting, the people, all so much the same I can’t get the images out of my head. I can’t forget.

For Israelis and so many others across the Jewish world, the horrors are still fresh. The open wounds are a chilling reminder of the real threats to the modern State of Israel in contrast to the issues that were perceived as real threats in the days preceding October 7. And so the country has come together in a manner I have never before seen. Everyone here has experienced loss and is in pain. Every family has a son or daughter at the front. And everyone knows there are no alternatives to the destruction of Hamas and the elimination of the threat. From left to right. Religious to secular. Citizens of Israel of every stripe. The country is united in its resolve and determination.

The time will come when Israel reckons with the failures that left so many of its citizens exposed to the nightmare of October 7, and those responsible will be held to account. But not yet. Not now. Now is a time for unity and an unequivocal commitment to achieving victory in a fight no one wanted, a fight whose cost in blood grows by the hour.

There is remarkable strength and power in unity—particularly in the face of adversity. It is that kind of unity that is called for across the North American Jewish community as well. For reasons that defy explanation, the slaughter of innocents in Israel has unleashed a torrent of ugliness directed not at the perpetrators but at Jews. For too many, it is not a pivot from outrage over Israeli victims to concern for civilian casualties in Gaza but rather an immediate embrace of the butchers of Hamas and, altogether too often, accompanying calls for attacks on Jews.

We would do well to learn from the coming together in Israel. In the days and weeks ahead, the Jewish community will be tested. Israel’s leadership has made clear that this war will be long, and owing to the necessity of urban warfare, bloody. Its military has made every effort to urge, guide, and encourage civilians in Gaza to evacuate the war zone and take refuge in the south. It has enabled the provision of humanitarian relief through Gaza’s border with Egypt, and it has called upon neighboring countries to provide a temporary safe haven for those desperate to get out of harm’s way.

Sparing Palestinian civilians, however, is not on the agenda of Hamas, whose propaganda machine requires more blood—the blood of these same civilians it forcibly prevents from escaping. Nor, it would seem, is it on the agenda of Israel’s neighbors—not one of which is offering a safe haven of any kind. With much of the Hamas terrorist infrastructure purposefully located within and beneath the most sensitive civilian targets—including hospitals and schools—the terrorists are ensuring the deaths of countless civilians. Make no mistake, that is exactly what they want. And, with Hamas firmly in control, short of their complete and total defeat, that is precisely what they will get. And all that blood is also on their hands.

There are growing calls for a humanitarian cease-fire to enable relief supplies to reach Palestinians in need—but it should be clear that everything delivered into Gaza is delivered into the hands of Hamas and used for its nefarious ends. Everything. Any interruption in Israel’s offensive will provide Hamas with the opportunity to regroup and strengthen its position, which invariably will result in more Israeli blood and an even longer war.

During the Second World War, America and its allies understood that nothing short of the total defeat of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan—and their unconditional surrender—would restore safety and sanity to the world. Calls for a cease-fire today are akin to such calls having been made after D-Day. Although civilians in Normandy also suffered terribly following the Allied landing, it would have been folly to give the Nazis a chance to regroup. And so it would be folly today—as Israel battles the new Nazis.

I look to my colleagues across the JCC Movement and to Jewish leaders in every corner of our community and urge that we remain united in the face of this evil. United in the face of rising antisemitism on our shores. United in our support for Israel as it prosecutes this war. Every call for a cease-fire, irrespective of any good intentions, weakens our ranks and hinders our ability to advocate for American, Canadian, and international support for Israel’s fight against this evil. Every single call.

Im ein ani li, mi li? | ?אם אין אני לי – מי לי | If I am not for myself, who will be for me?

Israel will make its way through this terrible war by standing together, even as it continues to bury its dead and prays for the safe return of the more than 242 captives now held in the dungeons of Gaza. We have an obligation not to forget them. The captives and the slaughtered. We should see their reflections in the eyes and faces of our own children and our own families. The Jewish world will only overcome the haters, the antisemites, the lovers of Hamas by standing together.

Stand up. Stand proud. Stand together. Stand with Israel.

Am Yisrael Chai | עם ישראל חי

Shabbat shalom | שבת שלום

Doron Krakow
President and CEO
JCC Association of North America

JCC Association of North America stands in solidarity with Israel and encourages support of Jewish Federations of North America’s special campaign to help the country meet its many needs at this difficult time.


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