The past couple of months have been difficult in Israel. With arbitrary attacks, and deaths of innocent people, it has been an unnerving and unsettling time. Combine the horrible reality with the disgraceful way that mainstream media frames the narrative of the conflict, and you get an absolutely enraging situation.
Jewish people in the Diaspora have been sitting on the edge of their seat throughout all this, anxious to check the news and learn about the latest attacks. Paradoxically, international Jewish unity tends to be at its strongest during troubling times. It often takes the worst to happen for Jewish people of all levels of observance to put their differences aside and stand up for the common goal: to advocate for and to protect Israel as best we can.
But that’s just it. What all of us – students in particular – tend to struggle with is determining how we can best defend a land we all love and care for so much without physically being there. We are fortunate to live privileged lives in Canada, focusing our efforts towards our education, work and personal lives. All the while, our friends, our brothers, our peers are out there sporting a beautiful shade of green, putting their lives on the line in order to protect Israel and (all of) its inhabitants.
So how can we, as students, do our part in defending Israel?
I love Israel. I visit whenever I can. I studied at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and my younger brother is serving as a Golani solder within the Israel Defense Forces. I am very much connected to the land, and I want to do my part in defending it. However, I am also the first to admit that the army is not for me. I don’t respond well to taking orders, and I feel as though my advocacy efforts could be better served in working with and educating those who are less familiar with the ongoing situation in Israel.
There are so many ways that we can help Israel and do our part in making a difference, both collectively and individually. A few weeks ago, for example, Rabbi Chaim Boyarsky of the Chabad Student Network led a short, yet meaningful service along with a very peaceful rally, on the steps of the University of Ottawa library. Many students came together, shared their thoughts, and displayed Jewish unity and support for Israel.
As Jews, each of us is an ambassador of the Jewish people. How we speak to others, what we say to others, what we teach others, reflects on ourselves, and on the Jewish people.
As Jews who are supportive of Israel, our narrative of the situation there goes a very long way for some. I feel as though I make the biggest difference and contribution to Israel whenever I speak with a person who
has little or no connection to the land or to Jewish people.
I absolutely love talking with people who openly admit they just blindly follow the media and have never actually looked into Israel or examined all sides of the conflict with the Palestinians. I am most rewarded when, at the end of the conversation, I am told by the other person that they would now be interested in reading a book about the conflict, in further educating themselves, or even in visiting Israel someday. It is amazing the power that conversation has, and how one just conversation can begin to transform someone else’s worldview and knowledge.
So, although we may not be members of the Israel Defense Forces, or are not living in Israel, we can all contribute. We are all capable of making a substantial difference. We all have a voice, and we all have access to various platforms allowing our voices to be properly heard. It is up to us to use the tools we have in order to best help Israel from the Diaspora.