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Blue Sky

Your Jewish Friends Are Also Not Okay: Everyday Magic, Day 1087

Updated: Jan 27


I am an American Jew in love with the beauty of the world. I am a human in anguish over what others of my species are doing to one another 11,000 miles away. There is so much horror across the panoramic of this time, rooted in trauma x trauma to infinity. There is so much beauty in the generosity of the living earth.


Note: I don't intend in any way to add fuel to the fire with this post. Yet it felt like a sin of omission for someone who regularly writes about what she's experiencing and witnessing not to speak of something so close to home.


There is so much I could say but what would it matter? There is so much I can't say because I don't want to be attacked for my words (and who knows if what I think is even correct or what "correct" means). There is too much I don't know, especially when it comes to any peaceful way forward in the Israeli-Hamas war. I grieve for what I know of the suffering.


Dear reader, your Jewish friends are not okay. Obviously, neither are your Palestinian friends. We are all damaged by children of all ages woken up and terrorized by bombs falling. We are all diminished by generations of fear, loss, damage, agony, and so much more I don't have words to name but I sense in the sinew of my bone.


Every Jew I've been talking with is torn and shaken right now. At my congregation, in my long phone calls with friends in Vermont or Colorado, through emails with my cousins who live in the Golan Heights, over lunch with a Jewish professional, we cry or rage or go numb. We gather in the commons of pain. Some of us have specific opinions of what needs to be happen or not happen -- ranging from a cease fire now to doing all that's necessary to defeat Hamas. Many of us are waking at 3 a.m. in fear, uncertainty, despair, not to mention worry about the ramped-up anti-Semitism around the world (just last night, I read about Russians storming an airport tarmac to attack Jews when a plane from Tel Aviv landed


It is an existential crisis for all involved. It's a crisis about whether people get to exist, to survive this. It is a mess hundreds and hundreds of years and lives in the making.


I could tell you that I believe the state of Israel should continue. I could say I'm horrified when I see images or hear stories on the news of people in Gaza starving, parched, terrified with nowhere to go and so little medical infrastructure left that I heard a report of a woman wounded in the bombing undergoing an emergency C-section by cell phone light. I could land on the words of Israelis in agony about their dead or kidnapped beloveds, including the families begging their government for a prisoner trade.


I could remind people that Israel and Jews (as well as a people as its government) aren't the same, that American Jews as well as Israeli ones (and others around the world) do not believe in one monolithic take on this situation. We embody a wide spectrum of ideas, beliefs, understandings about what's happening, as do most people who have studied it.


There are so many opinions, including ones don't account for the complexities of thousands of years and layers of pain, loss, dislocation, wounds that can never seem to heal. There is so much to learn about the history of this region, the violence and occupation of Gaza for hundreds of years by the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and yes, the untenable conditions in recent decades because of Israeli policy, because of Hamas governance or the lack of, because of so many explosive decisions and deeds.


My heart hurts for Palestinians. My heart hurts for Israelis. I don't see any comfortable strategy or rhetoric on which to perch. Of course, there are millions of possibilities for what could have been done.


Meanwhile I am safe (or so I think) in a place, like all places not destroyed, with its innate beauty. The sun illuminates the tips of thousands of grasses in the tallgrass prairie. The maples I drive under glow with all shades of a sunset. The furnace goes on automatically when the temperatures dip into the 40s. I can easily cook a luscious dinner of scalloped potatoes and creamed spinach. The cat stretches out on the hassock and sleeps the afternoon into evening. And I am exceeding grateful for my friends and family members who "get it" about this time and situation.


There are so many more specific images of suffering -- in Israel, in Gaza -- and so little wisps of possibilities (so it seems) of a path to any kind of peace that endures. So I keep returning to one phrase, even if it comes from the new testament: "the peace that surpasses understanding."


(This comes as close as anything I've read about the situation: "Israel in 600 Words or Less" by Etgar Keret.)


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Susan Shepler
Susan Shepler
Nov 02, 2023

Your words are right, of course. They’re human. They‘re real words, words that come from the heart — they’re words of concern for people who live with bullets, bombs, hunger, thirst, and all manner of suffering, children. Toss in your sleep—it’s all you can do.

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