Rabbi calls for wisdom to cope with war

Feldmann says situation challenges Jews everywhere

Mourners attend the funeral of May Naim, 24, during her funeral in Gan Haim, central Israel, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023. Naim and at least 260 more Israelis were killed by Hamas militants on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023, at a rave near Kibbutz Re'im, close to the Gaza Strip's separation fence with Israel as the militant Hamas rulers of the territory carried out an unprecedented, multi-front attack that killed over 1,000 Israelis. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
Rabbi Roberto Feldmann

Rabbi Roberto Feldmann’s wife Yael barely escaped the chaos just as Hamas was attacking Israel and the Temple Beth El leader says the war that Israel subsequently declared “is a bitter, tragic time for Israel and for the Jewish people everywhere.

“We are confronted with terrorism, death, cruelty and evil in its worst,” Feldmann said in a Monday email to his Temple members. “Yael is still in Israel. She went from the U.S. to visit her daughter, was having the most wonderful, happy days and went alone over the Sabbath to the city of Safed, a lifelong dream of hers, and she was in a pinnacle of joy.

“Then the Sabbath morning came. She is safe. She has returned (it wasn’t easy) to Greater Tel Aviv where she is with her daughter.”

Feldmann said the tragic events had rendered him virtually speechless.

“There’s nothing wise that I have to say,” he said. “To say is to risk failure. Not to say is a sure failure. I prefer the first.

“Of the few things that can be said confidently even in this horrible hour of fog, darkness and warfare is that there was a massive, almost supernatural, multiple failure by the Intelligence bodies in charge of preventing this as well as with the military in charge of reacting swiftly. No judgment here, just the raw, inevitable assessment.”

Feldmann said he was unqualified to draw a detailed comparison to the Yom Kippur war a half-century ago.

“I am nobody to enter into comparisons with the situation unfolding and the Yom Kippur war,” he said Monday. “But this one involved civilians more than soldiers. More than 700 Israelis have been murdered and more than 2,200 wounded and counting.

“And the nightmare of nightmares — an undisclosed number of Israeli civilians as well as soldiers, children, women, men and elderly people kidnapped and taken to dungeons inside Gaza under Hamas.”

Feldmann said the Palestinian terrorist group “passed from a semi-tolerable neighbor to an intolerable one that must be confronted to the bitter end.

“Half-measures won’t help,” he said. “It’s human to want peace and tranquility and it’s very human to fall asleep in that wish. We have been awakened in the most brutal way.”

However, as disturbing as the attacks are, the rabbi was sure that Israel would prevail.

“But we need to be honest,” he said. “Internal rifts, tectonic plates and polarized world views within us are threatening us no matter what our personal convictions are,” he said in apparent reference to the months of mass protests that Israel had been seeing concerning Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s push to strip the Israeli Supreme Court of much of its power.

“Maybe to be less stubborn, to be less stiff-necked is a wise way to breathe through the hell we are having to walk through in the coming days, weeks, months,” he said.

“Since the Holocaust no single day had seen so many Jews killed. Let’s be with our brothers and sisters in Israel now. Let’s send aid, love, prayers, compassion. Let’s be strong.

“Despite being heartbroken, let’s be united in mutual responsibility and generosity,” Feldmann said. “Let’s find in the feelings of this hour what we couldn’t find when we were not confronted with this bitterness.”