What's Happening Right Now in Israel, and How is it Affecting all Jews Around the World?

October 12, 2023
Camelia Schwartz

Alameda, California, United States

Class of 2026

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To get some different perspectives and answers on this question, I interviewed several different people and asked them two questions about what's happening in Israel and how it has affected their day-to-day lives, I found that after asking several Jewish teens the common census was that none of them were comfortable publicly voicing their views on such serious and crucial matters. Differently, after asking just one adult the same two questions, they were eager to give me a detailed and well-thought-out response. 

So why is it that teens, especially in today's day and age, don't feel comfortable publicly talking and sharing their views on such serious matters?  

We can develop reasons as to why this may be all we want, but the cold, hard truth is it’s because they're scared. It's hard to publicly stand up and voice your thoughts, especially on such difficult and seemingly controversial matters. It's even harder for teens who also have the pressure of going to school and fitting in. On top of having to worry about how the world and our society will take what we say, we also now have the additional worry of how our peers will react to us speaking out against these atrocities. Will we be canceled? Is it too controversial and sensitive to speak out about?  We may very well be. It's terrible and not at all how it should be, but it is. Since the beginning of time, we (the Jewish people) have been discriminated against, and we have persevered and come out stronger. However, not without having people within our community touch on and voice their thoughts/views on matters. Yes, this is an extremely sensitive issue, and it is very complex, pretty much anything but black and white; the one thing that's clear is that this fear and need to fit into society is what's preventing teens from speaking out. Their fear and the worry of what others might think about them is silencing their voices, leaving the silence louder than ever.

Here’s what some people who prefer to remain anonymous have to say:

“Looking into the future, it’s safe to say that we’ll be paranoid for a good while. Everyone I’ve talked to is just so scared. This is not an issue that can be resolved overnight. This is a war that we will be fighting our entire lives, not just with Hamas. Every day, we see on social media that people will take any excuse to put down the Jewish people. We’ve grown up constantly looking over our shoulders. These losses during this time will live on with us and will be something we will never forget.” - Anonymous teen

“I think I have a firm understanding of the situation going on, but I’m not 100% educated, and new things are happening so often that I don’t want to say something that might turn out to be untrue or might change. I also don’t feel that I know enough to be able to speak for such a large group of people.” - Anonymous teen

I interviewed Jacqueline Palchik, age 39, a close family friend in the Bay Area, about her feelings toward the current situation unfolding right now in Israel.

Q: How do you think that this war will impact Israel and the Jewish community as a whole’s future?

When tragedy strikes Israel, the mourning process is complicated and lonely. The first wave is grief for the loss of human life, the awareness of trauma that our friends and family in Israel are enduring day to day, and the pain that, yet again, the Jewish community has been targeted.  On the first day, the world will sympathize with us. But by the second day, the second wave of grief begins as public opinion turns against Israel. The victim blaming and rationalization begin. News stories will focus on what they consider to be a disproportionate response by Israel or what political action Israel took that justifies the actions of terrorists. The New York Times referred to Hamas as a 'political organization.' The kidnapping, rape, and murder of civilians while they slept in their homes didn't make it into the news past day two. That's when it feels lonely to grieve for the loss of Israeli life. 

Q: Do you feel you have a voice in this war, and do you feel that actively speaking out is making a difference within your community?

In day-to-day life, some of us feel hesitant to express anything about the tragedy for fear of backlash from neighbors and colleagues. It's somehow controversial to be worried about our family and friends in Israel. For my children, every relative they know (except their parents) is in Israel right now with doors locked and bomb shelters prepared. My 11-year-old has seen videos of sleeping civilians dragged from their homes but doesn't feel comfortable talking about it at school because the situation is "complicated." I was proud of Anne Bakar, my company's CEO, for sending an unequivocal email of sympathy regarding the loss of life in Israel and sad that others could view that as controversial. Even among the Jewish community, people feel compelled to nuance their pain for Israel by making it known that they are critical of its government.

So why is it important, especially in times like these, more than ever to come together? We, as a Jewish community, are so small yet so strong. And it’s important for all of us to know that we are not alone. Many of us share the same views that get drowned out in the bigger community, but when we come together in the Jewish community, we can feel heard and empowered.

Camelia Schwartz is a BBG of Oakland BBG #2 from Central Region West and loves to ski.

All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.

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