(Published October 7, 2023)
by Jewish Lifelong Engagement Director, Geri Garfinkel-Gershon
Rabbi Nachman’s Prayer for Peace
May it be Your will,
Holy One, our God, our ancestors’ God,
that you erase war and bloodshed from the world
and in its place draw down
a great and glorious peace
so that nation shall not lift up sword against nation
neither shall they learn war any more.
Recently, I stood in the Judean Desert with my JCC Association Martin Pear Israel Fellowship cohort. Turning in one direction, I could just barely make out Jerusalem. In another, I could clearly see some towns in the West Bank. And over the next hill, I knew there would be goats nibbling whatever they could find in the desert landscape. It was a powerful moment, both ancient and modern. It’s fair to say that at that moment my newly evolved relationship to Israel was solidified. I use the passive voice because it just happened. Despite my questions, doubts, and political confusion, with my critical thinking quieted, I was suddenly settled. Meet my new friend Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel.
Then this morning I woke to news of war in Israel. At the time of this writing, the conflict has already taken more than 400 Israeli and Palestinian lives. The news is reporting that Hamas shot more than 2,000 rockets into Israel, and infiltrated the country with paragliders and through checkpoints. On this, the anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, it is safe to say that Israel has not seen such an attack in 50 years.
As Jewish Lifelong Engagement Director at the Asheville JCC, and as part of the first cohort of the Martin Pear Israel Fellowship, it is my role to educate and engage members and folks from the community at large about Israel. I’m often worried about stirring up arguments and controversy. Today, rather than reticence, I feel sadness and outrage.
I am filled with questions. How can I put myself into the shoes of the Israelis who are hiding in their household safe rooms? How does it feel knowing that strangers have infiltrated their villages and homes and taken hostages? How can Israel reclaim and protect its liberal democracy in the face of this attack? These events only strengthen Prime Minister Netanyahu’s hand, forcing a hawkish and devastating response from the government and military.
And suddenly for the first time in my life, I understand the urge that so many young American Jews felt in the first days of the Yom Kippur war, to defy their parents’ wishes and put their safety at risk to hop on planes to Israel to help out in any way they could. This is a pull to preserve and protect the only Jewish nation on Earth. And whether or not I support the current government or stand with the protesters, I too, feel the need to defend and protect Israel and her citizens.
And what of protecting Jews here in the diaspora? Conflict between Hamas and Israel usually spills over to North America, where we see acts of anti-Israel sentiment and antisemitism erupt into bullying, vandalism, and even violence. Protecting ourselves and each other is of immediate importance. We may not have bomb shelters in our homes, JCCs, and synagogues, but we still need to create safety from those who would harm our bodies and souls in response to the conflict in the Middle East.
And so, I end as I began: with a prayer of hope that we may all lie down in peace, secure in G-d’s protecting love, with the shelter of peace spread over us, over all the peoples and land of Israel, over Gaza, the West Bank, and over the world. May we as humans work to grow understanding and respect, to learn to see each other’s perspectives and to spend our tax payer and governmental monies on projects of education, community and peace.
And let us say, amen.
The Asheville JCC stands with the people of Israel. (Published October 10, 2023)
We offer our prayers for the safety of everyone affected by the Israel-Hamas War. If your heart moves you to action, please consider participating through the organizations listed below.
Israeli Organizations responding to the crisis:
- Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon which is dealing with many of the wounded.
- Friends of the IDF which is a non-political, non-military organization that works closely with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to provide for the well-being of its soldiers, veterans, and family members.
- Groups Create a Neighborhood, Sderot is an organization of social workers and teachers supporting the most vulnerable communities and working on peace projects in the Gaza envelope.
- Jewish Federations have opened a fund to support Israel. The link to donate is here.
- Magen David Adom Israel’s Ambulance Service which is very overstretched at the moment.
- Soroka Medical Center which is dealing with many of the wounded.
- The Michael Levin Base for Lone Soldiers helps provide for soldiers that are not native to Israel
- United Hatzalah of Israel the preeminent volunteer ambulance service in the world.
Find emotional or therapeutic support through the following organizations:
- Healing Solutions Counseling at Jewish Family Services provides professional counseling to anyone in the community seeking support in a confidential setting.
- Wellness Resources for the Situation in Israel
- PJ Library Resource for “How to Talk to Kids”