Rabbi Dee: 'People need to understand why Israel is fighting this war'

Israel's special envoy for social initiatives says that the memory of his murdered wife and daughters continues to inspire him


Rabbi Leo Dee, who's two daughters were murdered in a terror attack a few days ago, holds a press conference in Efrat, on April 10, 2023. Photo by Oren Ben Hakoon/FLASH90 *** Local Caption *** ???? ?? ??? ????? ?? ????

Exactly six months to the day after terrorists in the West Bank shot and killed British Rabbi Leo Dee’s wife, Lucy, and daughters Rina, 15, and Maia, 20, on April 7, the Hamas attack of October 7 occurred. 

That morning, on Simchat Torah, Rabbi Dee was in Efrat reading the book of Genesis with family when news broke. Talking to the JC, Rabbi Dee says the attack and ongoing retaliatory war, which has seen international support for Israel wane, has “successfully pointed out those who are willing to stand up for what’s moral, and those not.

“Like in Genesis, we’re in a new world, in my opinion, to the world that existed before October 7,” Rabbi Dee said. “Many have this postmodern approach, where truth is relative and there is no good and evil. But there is good and evil; it’s that straightforward.” 

Rabbi Dee was appointed a special envoy for social initiatives by Israel’s Foreign Minister Eli Cohen in September, a role that has taken him across the UK to talk to politicians, the media, communities, educators and students about issues concerning Israel and rising antisemitism. 

In talking with the mainstream press, Rabbi Dee says he has discovered that many “don’t fully understand why we’re doing this [war] or why we need to.  

“To Israelis, it’s clear. Most Jews probably know, but for the wider public in Britain and America, it’s not as clear. And because the world forgets very quickly why we’re fighting - if they ever knew - the message must be communicated through new and innovative ways and campaigns.” 

Students, Rabbi Dee says, who face antisemitism both on campuses and on their social media feeds, are often a “driving force of creativity” in the worldwide struggle against Jew-hatred. “British students, who are English-speaking, informed, and social media-savvy are especially well placed to combat [antisemitism] online.” 

Rabbi Dee encourages particularly those students feeling “lost or anxious” about the war to get involved and volunteer their time to pro-Israel and Jewish causes. “The benefits are twofold,” Rabbi Dee says. “Firstly, it will stop you scrolling [social media] with dread, and secondly, when you look back on this dark period, it will show you what it inspired you to do, and you can be proud.” 

As for the anti-Israel marches occurring in British cities weekly, which two weeks ago, drew a crowd of some 300,000 in London, Rabbi Dee says he would rather focus on reaching the “60 million who don’t show up to the marches”. 

Rabbi Dee’s travels have also recently taken him to Vienna, Austria which he says now has a “growing Jewish community, two religious Jewish high schools, partly funded by the state, in a place where one-third of Jews were massacred. 

“I’ve seen a country that can do an about-turn, which is now a great supporter of the Jewish community. It took them 80 years, but it’s very possible that such change can happen in a short amount of time if there’s will, and that gives me hope.” 

The memory of his wife and daughters continue to inspire Rabbi Dee, giving him “hope as well as pain”. 

In May, just weeks after their murder, Rabbi Dee said that it was “through showing the Arabs we love them as fellow humans”, that peace would come. He still stands by the statement, though he admits that Hamas has “damaged prospects of peace and put it back 10 or 20 years”.

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