Josh Kaplan

Jews shouldn’t let October 7 change us for the worse

Our collective New Year’s resolution should be to keep an open mind and give benefit of the doubt


TEL AVIV, ISRAEL - DECEMBER 30: Israelis perform during a rally calling for the remaining hostages to be released outside The Museum of Modern Art known as the 'The Hostages and Missing Square' on December 30, 2023 in Tel Aviv, Israel. Israel's PM Netanyahu announced an intensification of the fighting in Gaza whilst facing internal pressure to save hostages. Israel indicated 129 people remain unaccounted for after they were taken as hostages to Gaza during the October 7 attacks by Hamas. (Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images)

January 05, 2024 10:20

January 1 is an arbitrary date. It has no significance beyond the nets of context we have woven for it. It should be a totally unremarkable grey day in a grey month in a dreary part of the year.

But sadly that is not the reality. Each year we have to pretend that it’s a time for growth, maturity and self-reflection, where we cast off the past versions of ourselves to emerge better and brighter than before.

Resolutions are almost by definition a non-starter. Lose weight? Bore off, you won’t do it without Ozempic. Get a new job? Who are you kidding? You’ll be where you are for ever. Go to bed earlier? Why even try? We live in a golden age of TV and someone has to watch it.

It’s inevitable that you will fail miserably at keeping your resolutions, probably at some point in January.

With this in mind, I’d like to humbly suggest some things that the Jewish community could do instead of trying and failing with their personal growth.

Things have changed in the Jewish world since October 7. In the immediate aftermath we witnessed a display of Jewish unity unlike any in my lifetime. But as the war has gone on, and the suffering prolonged, there are things we would do well to un-do in the new year.

First, I think we should, where possible, be open-minded towards our critics. Yes, the cesspool that describes much of social media swims with antisemitic cranks and people dedicated to the violent murder of Jews. Equally, not every single person who disagrees with the mainstream Jewish opinion on Israel wishes us all dead. There are good, normal people with critical views of Israel. If we assume those on the other side in the West are always monsters, it diminishes something in us and ensures that the debates around the Middle East will only get more poisonous and all-consuming. Moreover, when the war is over, we will have to interact with people with whom we disagree on Israel. That’s life.

Our second resolution should, I think, be to save the fight for the battles that really matter. Being Jewish can sometimes feel being an individual ambassador for Israel, making sure that every falsehood, no matter how minor, is demolished with the lifeforce of Eylon Levy’s angry eyebrows.

It’s a noble intention. But unlike Eylon Levy and his eyebrows, we’re not paid for our advocacy. We are concerned individuals fighting for people and a country we love, but firefighting a million tiny fires against people who do not care if we live or die is not a productive or useful use of our life. Staring into the void of Twitter/X and trying to beef every single troll, bot or antisemite is no way to live, and it’s also not going to make a difference.

We should save our anger and our action for people with platforms, people who are actively filling minds with lies, not random Twitter eggs with four followers and no profile picture.

Third, and finally, I think we should remember that while it may not always feel like it, there are things in the world other than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There’s a world beyond Gaza and Hamas and the IDF that has been neglected in the last few months. Being Jewish, being a friend of Israel is about so much more than war. There are expressions of faith, of solidarity, that have nothing to do with the war, and which are enriching and vital — especially now.​

The effects of October 7 on the Jewish community have been overwhelming and there is no shame in letting your advocacy and your passion be the reason you get up in the morning.

But for many of us, it’s just not sustainable. If we’re not careful, the hate we’re throwing at those who hate us will rub off. And if Jews become harsher, colder and more closed off, that would be another tragedy that the world doesn’t need.

January 05, 2024 10:20

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