October 20, 2023 | For Immediate Release:
Throughout Israel – from the El Al pilot, to TV news graphics, to bumper stickers – the slogan that represents Israel in this moment is יחד ננצח – Yahad Nenatze’ah – Together We Will Prevail. The Israel that we experienced this week is a different Israel than existed two weeks ago. As Rabbi Amy Levin, president of the Israel Region of the Rabbinical Assembly, put it, “Two weeks ago, the flags that drape from bridges over the highway were meant as a symbol of the protest movement and the divisions in the country. Today, they represent the patriotism of a united Israeli people.” After the horrific terror attacks, the organizations that sponsored democracy protests pivoted immediately to use their networks to organize volunteers and donations to support the families of those who were murdered, the cause of those who were kidnapped, and mobilized soldiers and their families.
We were honored to serve this week as representatives of our Conservative/Masorti Movement to the emergency mission of the Conference of Presidents to Israel. We can’t begin to describe the full range of our experiences and emotions. We met with families of hostages, wounded soldiers, and those who have been displaced from communities in the south of Israel bordering Gaza. We listened, with empathy, offered words of comfort, said prayers with them, and promised them our ongoing support.
We met with government officials and military experts, including President Herzog and Prime Minister Netanyahu. With every encounter, our message as your representatives was clear: “We are with you today, and we will be with you always.”
We encountered individuals and a society still emerging from shock, deep grief, feelings of anger and betrayal, and inspiring determination and resolve. There are over 200 individuals being held hostage, with no word to their loved ones. Bodies are still being recovered and identified, with terrible news delivered, and dozens of funerals every day. “Red alerts” are still a regular occurrence in parts of the country. Close to 400,000 reservists have been mobilized.
There is a sense that the government and the government will only regain the trust of Israeli society if it eliminates the Hamas terrorist threat. We heard repeatedly that this will likely require a protracted military campaign with tremendous effort and sacrifice. Hamas terrorism is just one branch of a greater Iranian threat. No one knows if this is a war with just one front or many. And Israelis are determined to win this battle.
Our Movement is engaged in every way. Our Masorti communities in Israel are supporting their own members and their surrounding communities, providing food and childcare. Our Movement sponsors a daily moment of prayer with the families of the hostages. Our rabbis are officiating at funerals, answering a hotline with questions about bereavement rituals and comforting families, and supporting soldiers and their families. The Jerusalem Fuchsberg Center is hosting over 100 displaced families – many of them grieving loved ones or worried about captive family and community members – covering their costs, arranging for their basic needs, and providing children’s activities. Our Nativ gap year students are continuing their studies and strengthening their bonds as a group.
For those living in Israel, our message is, “We are with you.” For those living outside of Israel, here’s what we must do:
Advocate – stay abreast of what is happening, read the news critically, and tell Israel’s story to anyone who will listen. There is no justification for the murder of 1,400 people and the taking of babies, women, and elderly Holocaust survivors as hostages. Full stop. Israelis deserve to live without the threat of terrorism. There shouldn’t be a different standard for Israel than for every other country when it comes to self-defense. Demand the return of the hostages.
Donate – There are so many needs. Our Movement is supporting the Jewish Federations of North America joint campaign. You can donate through your local Federation, or here for US donations or here for Canadian donations. Masorti Israel has already received an initial allocation. You can also donate directly to the Masorti Movement in Israel.
Support – Reach out to anyone you know in Israel to let them know you are thinking of them. We heard over and over again how meaningful it is for Israelis, even if they don’t have the ability to reply, they very much appreciate it.
Be Proud – The current struggle includes a rise in antisemitism outside of Israel. While individuals and our communities need to take appropriate security measures, we should be proud of our people and our support of Israel. Participate in our movement’s Solidarity Shabbat in your home community, and keep Israel and Israelis in your prayers. And plan to find strength by joining us in December for our Movement Convening.
Each of us will share additional reflections in the coming days with our organizations, but during our trip, we came to understand that “Together We Prevail” must also mean the unity of the Jewish people in support of Israel and Israelis.
Together we pray, “Adonai oz l’amo yitein, Adonai yevarekh et amo vashalom – May God give strength to the People of Israel, and may God grant us peace.”
Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal, CEO, USCJ and The Rabbinical Assembly
Sarrae Crane, Executive Director, MERCAZ USA
Rabbi Harold Kravitz, President, The Rabbinical Assembly
Julia Loeb, President, Women’s League of Conservative Judaism
Andy Schaer, President, USCJ