Jerusalem. 8 Oct 2023 | 24 Tishrei 5784 

This is hard.  

The numbers will be out of date by the time you read this.

But, as of now,  – Sunday afternoon, 8.30pm-ish,  – more than 700 are dead. More than 700 people. Almost all of them murdered in their homes, or in their little communities – men, women, little children, babies, old people.  Or soldiers and police, trying to defend those communities. Killed, mostly, one-by-one. Shot, randomly, for the accident of living their lives in the south of Israel, or serving to defend this country.  (Not a few of them, by the way, living there because they had left their homes in northern Gaza when Israel withdrew fifteen years ago.)

Aharon Ariel Lavi – whom many of you will know; who has led Adamah’s Hakhel program since its beginning – lives 2 km from Gaza. His wife and kids are ok, physically at least. But he spent yesterday tending the injured. Today he went north to join his army unit in the Golan.

The schools are closed and the streets are quiet. What’s App groups are filling with people volunteering to help. Everyone here is one degree of separation. The twentysomethings have been called up, and most of the thirtysomethings also. I’m renting an apt from dear friends, and they have four daughters and two sons. All six boys – the two sons, the four sons-in-law – have been called up. Another friend has four out of five kids called up – three in intense units, which is to say risking their lives in the coming hours and days. Someone told me yesterday about someone who had been called up in the morning – and was dead by the evening. And all these young mothers, coping alone with kids, illness, food,  – fear.

In all of this, I see a tragic classification underway here right now.

Those mourning the dead – that’s one group. Grieving, intensely, for the more than seven hundred people who’ve been murdered. The funerals will soon start. The stories are starting to be told.­ Someone taking food to their nephew – both his parents killed. People killed outside their home, defending a child. And so on.

Those fearing for kids who have gone off to serve, some of whom will die – that is a second group. Hundreds of thousands of people, fearing for their kids and grandkids, their friends, their siblings, their husbands. The soldiers leave their phones on the base, so the parents have no idea where they are, if they’re ok, if they’re not.

And then the third group… those who don’t know where their kids are.

It is not just kids – many people have been kidnapped to Gaza. It will be some while until there is clarity on all the details. But from the sukkot desert rave alone, at least dozens of young people are missing.

Can we even begin to get our heads around this?

Where are these young people right now? In what condition? Treated how?
Terrified, for sure.  And with what prospect of ever again seeing freedom?

And their families? Their friends and families?

The level of grief and shock that kicked in today was at a whole new level. People’s voices cracking in conversation. Tears, many tears. A sense of indescribable shock.

As a friend pointed out to me, this is an almost epigenetic trauma.  The scale of the bloodshed, the determination to kill people, simply because they are Israelis, simply because they are Jews… it is hard to fathom.

And – yes – for sure there will be a reckoning. But it is too early for that, right now, here.

For me…  personally I’m fine. I’m ok. I’m not personally endangered. No-one in my immediate family has been hurt.

But in a wider sense… I am in grief, deep grief – the utter impossibility of that situation, the grief, the absence of an end-game…. The families.

And of course, it is a tragedy for the Palestinians too. I do feel for Israeli Palestinian friends whom I have more in common with (by far) than with Jewish extremists. (Including Tareq Abu Hamed, from the Arava Institute, whom I had breakfast with last week, and texted with today. He and they remain a beacon of hope in all this.) I feel for Palestinians in the West Bank who don’t want all this. For that matter I feel for the (however few?) Palestinians in Gaza who surely don’t want this – and for the Iranian people, also, oppressed by their own evil regime.

But mostly, today – forgive me – I feel simply for Israel (including its non-Jewish citizens), and for the Jewish people. This is a shiva – a mass shiva. If you’re in the US or the UK or elsewhere, treat it as such. A catastrophe that happened to neighbors, or friends of friends, close cousins or distant cousins. Reach out if you can. Read the news. Yes, give money, but even more, just have empathy. Try to imagine what this is like. Don’t try to solve this. Don’t retreat into politics and formulas and left and right. Be human. And whenever you feel able, it will be time to visit and to offer support in person.

For now, from me: I’m wracked by grief, but feeling deeply part of this country and this people. Grateful  – despite everything – to be part of a generation blessed not to be impotent; to suffer awful setbacks, but to have the resources to bounce back.

And most of all: love to those whose family members have been kidnapped. My heart goes out to you. I send love. I send a hug. May your kids, your parents, your siblings – may they be ok.


If you want to reach me, best is What’s App +1 917 742 9979 /

4 thoughts on “Jerusalem. 8 Oct 2023 | 24 Tishrei 5784 

  1. Thank you, Nigel.
    Crying with you, personally in a current haven of safety with my family, may we all be so blessed.

  2. Nigel I send you and your family, friends, loved ones my strongest virtual hugs and prayers of support. We met in NYC a while back, and I received this blog through Rabbi Mark in Boulder. Thank you for what you wrote. I have no words but deep feelings for what Israel in its broadest sense is going through, and I can only imagine a smidgen of that.
    My deepest feelings of support, solidarity, love go out to you all.

  3. Nigel, thoughts and prayers are with you and our Israeli sisters and brothers at this dark time. Am Yisroel Chai. Randall

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