As I sit down to write this edition of Minute with Moshe, I have a heavy heart.
Today marks five years since the deadly shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh – the deadliest act of Antisemitism in our nation’s history. We are also learning today that in response to the devastating massacre of October 7, Israel is beginning the second stage of the War against Hamas with intensified ground and air operations into Gaza.
The tragedies of the Simcha Torah and Tree of Life attacks shattered the hearts of the Jewish people. Communities were devastated, leaving behind survivors and families who will never be the same.
On October 7, 2023, we were reminded that regardless of our affiliation or level of observance, our enemies viewed us through the same lens, namely as Jews. Our enemies don’t distinguish between philosophy, belief, or lack thereof, in Hashem; they just know that they hate us and want us dead. Imagine what a world it would be if in response to their hatred of us we decided to love our fellow Jews unconditionally. It doesn’t mean that we would agree on all issues, but it would mean we would disagree respectfully, and treat others as we want to be treated.
As many of you know, I came to the United States at the age of 23 after serving in the Israeli army and settled with my family here in South Bend. Aside from one aunt here in South Bend, the rest of my Israeli family remains in Israel. Despite the distance that separates us, Debbie and I have always maintained a strong connection with our Israeli family and friends. While here in South Bend, we have been a host family to the many Shlichim that have come to this community. This added another layer to my family’s connection to Israel. My love for Israel is shared by my children, who have all traveled there multiple times. Emily was fortunate to spend her entire summer doing an internship in a Tel Aviv hospital. This gave her the opportunity to strengthen her connection to the country.
The deadly unprovoked cross-border attack on Israel by Hamas on October 7th is just one of several attempts by the terror organization that rules Gaza to sabotage the hopes for peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors. The bloody history of Hamas that is backed by Iran is the key to understanding the tragic events that we are now seeing in the news.
In 1993, Israel signed onto the Oslo Accords that created the Palestinian Authority. As a result, Israel withdrew from the major cities of the West Bank. It was a time of great euphoria, and the hopes for a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians were real.
An uncomfortable calm permeates the terminal. Future passengers, on their way to vacation destinations or business conferences, seem not to care at all about the war going on in my home. And why should they? But I can’t shake the feeling, the unease, as if I am walking in a parallel universe, a different plane of existence in which I can see them, but I am invisible to their perception. My heart feels as if it beats audibly, but they walk by smiling, drinking their hot coffee, rushing to visit grandma, and pay it no mind.
I never thought that one of my most important missions as an Israeli emissary would come so fast.
As you know I only arrived here one month ago. My heart breaks for those people who are now left with a hole in their heart, one that they will never be able to fill.
An experience from the Israeli army can show us how our community can come together to help. One of the first challenges I experienced as a combat soldier was in boot camp. Before the army you are an individual person who is interested in different topics. You have your own opinion about politics and your own perspective and world view.
I can’t fully concentrate. No matter what I do, some part of my mind is always thinking about the situation in Israel. I find myself wanting to check the news to see if there are any updates. Very often. I wonder if more rockets have been fired. Has the situation escalated even more? Is there any news about the hostages? Oh, the hostages! I can’t stop thinking, worrying, and praying about the hostages. I have to stop my mind from wondering what sorts of horrors they are faced with. I have to stop my mind from wondering if they are all still alive. It hurts too much to let my thoughts stray in those directions.
On the evening of October 2, 2023, we arrived in Israel with great anticipation of being with our kids, experiencing Sukkot, Simcha Torah, the 2nd birthday of our granddaughter, and the impending birth of another grandchild.
My son, Nick Clayton, has wanted to be an Israeli citizen and protect Israel and her people since he was 13. His love for Israel has never wavered. He is a lifetime member of Young Judaea, when starting at 13, he attended Camp CYJ in Wisconsin, and then Camp Tel Yehuda (TY) in New York. This culminated in spending a summer and then a gap year in Israel before college.