The response to what happened cannot be silence, indifference, or justification

Posted on October 11, 2023

In a country on the other side of the globe, two terrorists walked into a building and murdered 11 people. It was a hateful crime, which was immediately universally condemned. As a show of solidarity people began posting the country’s flag on their social media accounts, and there was even a slogan of camaraderie that was widely shared as together the world offered a unified voice condemning hatred and terrorism.

I am sure that most of us remember the terrorist attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine office in Paris in 2015. And I am sure that many of us did post the French flag, the words “Je suis Charlie” (I am Charlie), or another message of support for the victims. That’s how we’re supposed to respond in the face of evil – we stand together, we show solidarity, and we condemn the crime.

Just over a week ago, in a country on the other side of the globe, Israel, hundreds of terrorists crossed over the border and murdered almost 1,000 men women and children (that we know of at the time of writing), they injured many thousands more, and they kidnapped over 150 hostages. The terrorists rampaged through people’s homes indiscriminately killing the elderly, women and children, anyone they could find. At an outdoor music festival, where young adults were celebrating together 260 of them were murdered in cold blood.

And while the Jewish community has spoken out against this atrocity and governments have thankfully stepped up to condemn terrorism and the terrorists – there is a frightening silence from far too many people. I don’t see posts across social media standing in solidarity with the victims, the flag of Israel is not being shared and there is no slogan that people are uniting behind – there is too much quiet.

According to estimates there are about 16 million Jews around the world; that’s about 0.2% of the worldwide population. And there is only one Jewish State that is part of the family of nations. When you’re part of a small minority in the way that we are, there is a connection that you feel with each other that . You’re part of a global family and community – which means that this terrorist attack didn’t feel like an attack on them, it felt like an attack on us. And in a country with a population the size of Israel, when almost 1,000 people are murdered – virtually everyone is connected to at least one of the victims.

To share my family as an example, on Saturday we were glued to our phones – we followed the news, we scoured social media for messages from friends, we reached out to the people that we know and love in Israel. We exchanged text messages with a young woman who had been a counselor at the summer camp our daughter attends; while she was safe many of her friends were missing as they’d been at the outdoor music festival. I reached out to a dear friend whose in-laws were hiding in their safe room as terrorists rampaged through their Kibbutz. And I could go on.

Across social media there have been a number of posts that essentially offer a similar message: your Jewish friends are hurting, they are scared, they are mourning. And the silence from friends and neighbors just adds to the pain that is being experienced. I know that the situation in the Middle East is complicated, I know that the situation is not black and white, I know that there are victims on all sides. But, in the face of a coordinated terrorist attack such as this one, an attack that targeted the elderly, women, and children – the response cannot be silence, indifference, or justification.

When we held a community gathering and vigil for Israel on Sunday evening I was able to hold my emotions in check until my friend Reverend Dr. J. Anthony Lloyd from the Greater Framingham Community Church stood up to speak, and I started weeping. His words were powerful, but his presence, the fact that he showed up, was what truly mattered. He did what all of our religious traditions teach us to do – he visited a friend who was suffering and in pain. So please reach out to your Jewish friends and neighbors, check in on them, ask them how they are doing – it matters more than you could know.

I am concerned about what the next few weeks and months will look like; unfortunately, this terrorist attack will inevitably lead to more violence and bloodshed, more people will die and there will be more suffering. I continue to pray for an end to violence, an end to war and bloodshed – I still pray for peace. But for now, I just want you to know that the Jewish community is hurting and in pain, we are suffering, and we need to know we’re not alone.