Thanksgiving is tomorrow, as time in any Costco parking lot will tell you. But this Thanksgiving season, I am gasping for breath, torn in different directions.
It’s been a busy few weeks in my own personal life. I popped my fourth kid out a month ago. She went back to the hospital. Hurricane Sandy hit hard, leaving us powerless for two weeks. But in all the stress of living with a newborn and three other kids without power for two weeks–and as you may remember, I’m a semi-spoiled girl who likes her epidurals, so imagine how I feel about electricity!–it was nothing compared to how my friends in Israel are now living.
“You guys had a much harder time with Hurricane Sandy,” a friend of mine in Tel Aviv told me over Facebook chat yesterday. No, I correct him–that sucked, sure, but our fears were fears of salmonella from no refrigeration, not of death by missile.
My chatting friend lives with his wife and their four daughters under five years old in Tel Aviv, where just today, an Israeli bus was blown up by a terrorist in the first attack in that city in six years. Tel Aviv is not at the epicenter of Hamas’s missiles would-be hits, sure. But they’re close enough for the windows to rattle and to hear the boom every time the miraculous Iron Dome does its job.
My friend and his family of six don’t have a safe room to go to when the siren sounds, even though they live on the top floor of their apartment building. They have a walk-in closet. When the sirens go off and they have to get all the girls in there, he says, he and his wife call it “hide and seek.”
“They haven’t asked who is seeking yet,” he notes.
Why should my friend have to tell his daughter, if she asks, that the “seekers” are people who want her dead–that they are people who will stop at nothing, because they believe anyone who is Jewish in the land of Israel is not an innocent? That these “seekers” rejoice when one of their own blows up a bus full of Israeli civilians, shooting rifles in the air in celebration and sending out Tweets saying things like, “We told you #IDF that our blessed hands will reach your leaders and soldiers wherever they are, ‘You opened the Gates of Hell on Yourselves'” (that’s the military wing of Hamas, the AlQassam Brigades. Feel free to follow them on Twitter!).
Why is it that we, Americans, live in a country where our main news organizations equate the deaths of a Hamas terror mastermind with that of a 25-year-old Israeli religious woman raising three children? (See the cover of last week’s New York Times, in which photos of both funerals were laid out side by side, as if to say that the two lives were exactly the same, despite how they were spent.) Why is it that we live in a country where many of our friends, Facebook or otherwise, feel this conflict has nothing to do with them, or that “both sides are really at fault”? Why is it that our bodies are in the West, but our hearts are in the East?
How can we be thankful as others are suffering?
Weeks stretch on in Jersey Shore and the Rockaways, where so many have lost everything and shiver in the cold winter. Nights stretch on in Israel where parents tuck their children into bed, not knowing if they will have to wake them in the middle of the night and run to the “safety” of a walk-in closet.
This is a Thanksgiving where we are keenly aware that we are surrounded by suffering. But regardless of the state of our electricity, we are not powerless.
We can be thankful that we have the power to help. With the power of charity, we can send much-needed supplies to those affected by Sandy. With the power of our words, we can inform our friends about what is really going on in Israel. We can reach out hands of love and compassion, virtually or otherwise, to those here and abroad who need such hands in these trying hours.
We cannot singlehandedly change Hamas’s rockets into garden tools; we cannot singlehandedly shelter everyone who needs it. These things that we can do are not enough, but they are a start. As Rabbi Tarfon, the ancient sage, said long ago, “It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, but neither are you at liberty to desist from it.” Another sage, Hillel, said, “Where there is no person, and a person is needed, strive to be that person.”
We have the responsibility, and the power, to do something. And now, we must. And now, we can be thankful that we have the power to begin.