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“Why I Am Going to Israel Right Now (on Sunday Night),” Rabbi Zecher’s Shabbat Awakenings

March 1, 2024 | 21 Adar I 5784

Welcome again to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection as we move toward Shabbat. You can listen to it as a podcast here.

The events of October 7 are a nightmare lived out every day. We could not have imagined the devastation that Hamas brought with their brutality and savagery. The land cries out with the blood of those they murdered, raped, and injured. Tears run deep into its soil.

I know that the people of Israel remain traumatized and yet the children still enter their classrooms for learning; the cafes are filled, as are the movie theatres. People go to their jobs, living while they mourn. No one is untouched. They told us to be patient with the people we meet. The hurt lies just beneath the surface.

The people of Israel are suffering and I want to bear witness. I want our presence to communicate in whatever minuscule way that is possible, that we see them and what they have endured.

I don’t travel there to interact with Israel’s government. They have no interest in what matters to me. I’d tell them if they would listen. I don’t think they are helping the situation with their decisions and actions. As much as Israel surely has the right to exist and to exert self-determination, it is not clear to me how much the government is responding to its own people’s desire, as Donniel Hartman has argued about Israel “to constantly question ourselves, encourage internal criticism and embrace the imperative to fight a just war justly. Doing so requires significant changes in policies.”

As we will travel down to the Gaza envelope, as it is called, visiting a Bedouin town on our way, standing on the site of the Nova Festival massacre and walking through Kibbutz Kfar Aza, all places experienced in the killing and deaths wrought upon their communities by Hamas, my lips will speak the prayer that the memory of their lives will be carried by the wind into eternity. I will also pray and talk of the violence and destruction of innocent Palestinians. Our cries for them are in the wind as well.

I will also have in my mind’s eye the hostages whose faces don the wall of our museum. Some have the word, “released” across them like a huge sigh of relief, while others have “z”l” which means zichronam livracha, זכרונם לברכה. May their memories be a blessing. And still others, more than a hundred souls, held hostage holding on to hope for whom we have only their picture. We can only hope for their release too. We will see more of the pain in hostage square in Tel Aviv where families continue to gather.

Though we have a full itinerary, there is still so much that is unknown, unfathomable, incomprehensible as we board our plane on Sunday night.

I carry with me this poem by Eli Eliyahu, entitled “Night”:

We are now on the dark side
Of the planet, my daughter. Yet maybe
Something can be said about the world—
Half of it is dark and half lit up.

So are human beings,
So are human beings.

I’ll write on my way home next Friday morning to share what darkness and what light we experienced.

Shabbat Shalom!

I continue to value the many comments you exchange with me through these Shabbat Awakenings. Share with me what you think here. Your email goes directly to me!


  • We welcome musician Yoni Battat tonight at Qabbalat Shabbat at 6:00 p.m., onsite and online. Register here to join on Zoom or log on via Facebook Live, or our website
  • Torah Study gathers onsite and online at 9:00 a.m. Register to join on zoom or log on our website We begin with a short Shabbat service and Torah reading followed by an engaging study and conversation. All levels and abilities are welcomed!
  • Thank Goodness It’s Shabbat gathers onsite at 10:00 a.m. No registration necessary.
  • Gather online to say goodbye to Shabbat with a lay-led Havdalah on Zoom at 8:00 p.m.

Rabbi Elaine Zecher