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The tragic war that brought us together



On 6 October 2023, the relationship between diaspora Jewry and Israel was quite fragile. As I travelled to communities around the world and hosted delegations in Israel, I heard many populations that felt distant from Israel:

  • Non-Orthodox denominations that didn’t feel at home in Israel;
  • College students who weren’t at ease with some of Israel’s policies; and
  • Young Jews who didn’t see Israel as being relevant to their lives.

One rabbi told me that his temple offered him a contract for employment which included a clause that he couldn’t talk about Israel from the pulpit! Many college students who grew up in Zionist homes were shifting to support the anti-Israel groups on campus.

On 7 October 2023, all that changed in an instant. Diaspora Jewry, without hesitation, was galvanised to help Israel. The amounts of money that were sent, the numbers of duffle bags filled with goods for soldiers and evacuees that people brought, and the size and frequency of solidarity missions to Israel have been historic in their scope.

In the first month of the war alone, the Jewish Federation of North America, made up of mostly non-Orthodox leaders and donors, sent half a billion dollars to help Israel. No vote had to be held. No-one questioned religious and state controversies. Israel was in need. And they jumped to help.

My organisation, Yad L’Olim, has been instrumental in working with customs at Ben Gurion Airport to help get the duffle bags loaded with donations into Israel. We’re talking about tens of thousands of bags, with everything ranging from sophisticated equipment for commandos to diapers for babies who were evacuated from their homes. The outpouring from diaspora Jewry has been nothing short of inspiring.

Then there are the college students. Jewish students have woken up, and are standing up in massive numbers as proud Jews and in support of Israel. They are doing so with bravery and courage in very challenging, and sometimes dangerous environments. Interest in learning more about Zionism and Israel is on the rise among younger Jews as they seek to understand why the world around them has suddenly turned on them.

I must also mention the acts of solidarity we’ve witnessed worldwide. A skydiving group in California jumped out of an airplane and formed a Star of David in the air. A person in Pennsylvania flew their plane with an app that shows the route on a map, and drew the words “Bring them home” via the flight path. A former all-star Jewish baseball player, Ian Kinsler, wore an Israel jersey as he threw out the honorary first pitch before an audience of millions at a playoff game. Minnesota Vikings placekicker Greg Joseph wore blue and white cleats which featured the Star of David and the words “Am Yisrael Chai.” Of course he kicked the game winning field goal for his team!

And then there are the rallies. Whether it’s 300 000 people in Washington or 10 people on a street corner in Johannesburg, the public displays of support for Israel have given Israelis a major boost and have served as a remarkable reminder of our joint peoplehood and destiny in spite of the oceans that divide us.

The Hamas massacre and the ensuing war have been devastating and painful. The losses are difficult to fathom and process. But this tragedy has also brought us together as a nation – both within Israel and internationally.

The Israeli-diaspora connection has never been stronger. May it always be this way.

  • Rabbi Dov Lipman served as a member of the 19th Knesset, and is the founder and chief executive of Yad L’Olim, a non-government organisation that assists, guides, and advocates for olim from around the world [].

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