A battle plan for American Jewry – opinion
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The Jerusalem Post 08.11.2023
A battle plan for American Jewry – opinion
As Shabbat ended this week, I felt the noose tightening. I dreaded hearing about more of our brave soldiers dying in this awful war Hamas triggered.
Indeed, I woke up Sunday to news that Yonadav Levenstein, the beloved 23-year-old grandson of two cherished friends, Connie and Haim “Chuck” Solomon, died defending Israel and Western civilization.
The facts capture his heroism and the horror. Married, September 7. Fighting fearlessly in Nir Oz , October 7 – saving many from unspeakable fates. Then, entering Gaza with his Givati brothers to crush the criminals responsible. Friday night, just weeks before he planned to leave the army and travel the world with his wife, Hadar, he died in a hail of Hamas gunfire from a supposedly cleared building.
Each eulogy celebrated Yonadav’s life and values, his loves and his love. He met Hadar volunteering in the City of David, that sacred spot illustrating Jews’ multilayered connectedness to Israel. Their shared love of Judaism and Zionism reinforced their romantic bond.
I trembled when Yonadav’s older brother Elnatan recalled being ready to solve this Gaza problem in 2012 – then bristled with his soldier buddies as the government kept canceling incursions. This delay proved costly, as Hamas amassed weaponry and dug tunnels, exploiting “humanitarian ceasefires” the world kept imposing on Israel. And I wanted to cheer – despite Mount Herzl’s funereal silence – when Elnatan demanded that this time, the government must crush Hamas, without time-outs to refuel and regroup – even if the world objects.
American Jews: time to step up!
Israelis understand our moral obligation to defend ourselves by winning this war. Sadly, it will cost more beautiful souls. Still, some reservists are getting antsy, the voluntarism is ebbing, donations are drying up. In this “ein breira” war, Israelis have no choice but to persevere patiently.
A long war challenges our Diaspora friends, too – especially American Jewry. Time to step up! If you’re still maintaining business as usual, you’ve betrayed Yonadav and 350-plus other martyred soldiers, 1,000 murdered civilians, and 242 captives.
Diaspora Jews need a five-part battle plan:
Learning: The occupation preoccupation still has many American Jews seeing Hamas’s massacre through West Bank prisms. But Israel withdrew completely from Gaza in 2005 – and Gazans decided to try destroying our state, not build theirs. That’s why Hamas raided Israeli villages within the Green Line, the 1949 armistice lines. That provides moral clarity – especially because no one deserves to suffer what Israel’s civilians endured.
Lobbying: American Jews have spent years accumulating social capital, political capital, sheer goodwill. Start spending it – challenging friends, co-workers and political leaders in the mainstream media, on social media, and in Washington. Ask where they stand on this struggle, which President Joe Biden frames as good versus evil, of Western civilization versus ISIS sadism.
Supporting: This war will cost at least $50 billion. If Israel isn’t your top cause this year – make it now. If you haven’t given till it hurts – give some more. And while funding established organizations, give guerrilla-style, too. Text your favorite Israeli restaurant or café or store, especially in the North and South. Put in a standing weekly order you can afford to feed or comfort soldiers, first responders, those displaced. Find friends or strangers whose breadwinners are mobilized. Offer to pay for babysitting tomorrow or this week’s food bill or next month’s rent. Send newlyweds or massacre survivors to your favorite hotel. Be creative and generous – the love is even more important than the cash.
Resisting Jew-hatred: Reframe Jew-hatred as a non-Jewish problem, not a Jewish one; it’s the Jew-hater’s disease. Join Natan Sharansky’s million-person march against bigotry. Teach Jews to defend themselves. Test friendships appreciating the win-win: invite non-Jews to patrol outside synagogues, respond to threats, sign petitions. Either they surprise you by agreeing – or you learn who your true friends are.
Saving the hostages: Every morning, I wake up shocked to live in a world with Jews languishing in dungeons, simply because they are Jewish. The Gilad Schalit debacle and the need to defeat Hamas as it holds hostages confuse Israelis. But Americans should press America’s government, the media, the international community relentlessly. There’s no “other side” regarding the hostages.
Give the hostages American citizenship
Tearing down posters supporting these innocents is unacceptable. Israelis worry that Palestinian captors are torturing or sexually enslaving some captives. Every Western leader must warn Hamas that the suffering must end today – even before all are released – or the Western powers will hunt down every kidnapper. If Sen. John Fetterman can fill his doorway with 17 posters – you can, too. We need daily vigils at the UN, on Capitol Hill, hassling every human rights organization and the Red Cross – get in their faces. Let’s say: the first humanitarian pause in Gaza we must see involves freeing the hostages. It’s already a month too late.
The Constitution gives Congress the power naturalize strangers. Congress should pass a law declaring that anytime a group of people is kidnapped, if even one American is involved, everyone gets American citizenship. Then use American muscle to get all 240 home – as Americans deserving America’s protection.
Yonadav’s cousin, neighbor, and best friend, Yishai Ende, said “You win wars with broken hearts.” It’s a profound democratic and Zionist paradox. Unlike our soulless enemy, unlike these merchants of death, our hearts can be broken but can also be repaired. So, yes, we will win this war with broken hearts – and with patience at home and close friends from abroad united in sorrow, love, and hope.
A Distinguished Scholar in North American History at McGill University currently living in Jerusalem, Gil Troy is an award-winning American presidential historian and a leading Zionist activist. He is, most recently, the editor of the new three-volume set, “Theodor Herzl: Zionist Writings,” the inaugural publication of The Library of the Jewish People ( www.theljp.org ) . Two years ago he co-authored with Natan Sharansky Never Alone: Prison, Politics and My People, was published by PublicAffairs of Hachette. Recently designated one of Algemeiner’s J-100, one of the top 100 people “positively influencing Jewish life,” Gil Troy is the author of The Zionist Ideas , an update and expansion of Arthur Hertzberg’s classic anthology The Zionist Idea, published by the Jewish Publication Society and a 2019 National Jewish Book Award Finalist.
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Prof Gil Troy · 20 Derech Bet Lechem · Apt 2 · Jerusalem 9310925 · Israel