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#TefillinAgainstTerror campaign turns on the light



In times of darkness, it’s easy to fall into a pit of despair instead of fighting for the light. The murder of South African Eli Kay was one such tragic moment, and the world seems a little darker since this bright soul was taken so senselessly this week.

One can feel almost paralysed by the sadness and injustice of the world, but it’s exactly at these times that one must take action to show our humanity. This was what motivated Michael Kransdorff and Rabbis Ari Shishler and Eitan Ash to start a campaign in defiance of terror and in honour of Kay.

They are asking Jews around the world to wear tefillin and share a photo on social media with the hashtag #TefillinAgainstTerror. The campaign will include lighting Chanukah candles and other mitzvot for men and women.

“Like most in the community, I was shocked to hear the news on Sunday about Eli’s murder,” says Kransdorff. “I didn’t know him personally, but felt so connected to his story, his commitment to serve Israel, his love of the land, and passion for Jewish history and people. I was also extremely frustrated that the South African government was refusing to condemn this vicious act of terrorism.”

He spoke to Shishler and other Zionist activists “about something positive we could try to do in response. Of course, this is a personal tragedy for his family and friends. But it’s also an attack on the right of the Jewish people to pray at the Kotel. Eli was killed with his tefillin in hand on his way to morning prayers. His murder requires a response, to say we won’t allow terror to intimidate us. We will continue to pray as Jews. So we decided to launch the Tefillin Against Terror campaign.”

Kransdorff hasn’t put on tefillin in years, “but I have committed to doing it for 25 days for the 25 years of Eli life. Today, [24 November] is really day one of the campaign. The response has been amazing. It’s catching on all over the world and building momentum. It’s on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. People are sending pictures on WhatsApp of themselves as well.”

Kransdorff is chairperson of the Jewish National Fund, and “we’re supporting this campaign, but it’s a grassroots campaign – it’s not about organisations. We want as many people as possible to take part. Tefillin is the first leg of the campaign. It’s Chanukah on Sunday night, and this is also when shiva ends. We are hoping to dedicate Chanukah candles to Eli. In fact, there are lots of parallels with the Chanukah story. The Greeks tried to deny our rights as Jews to pray in the temple, and we responded with lighting the chanukiah. Hamas and our enemies today have the same intention, and we will respond to their darkness by creating light.

“I know the community is shocked and traumatised about Eli’s death and the lack of condemnation from the South African government,” says Kransdorff. “Now is the time for a united response in Eli’s memory, and to say, ‘Am Yisrael Chai!’ We think the #TefillinAgainstTerror campaign and Chanukah lighting does that in a powerful way.”

Follow the campaign and share a photo of yourself at @TefillinAgainstTerror on Facebook and Instagram, or @TefillinforEli on Twitter, using the hashtag #TefillinAgainstTerror.

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