Rabbi Chapman from Tel Aviv Israel…

Posted on May 29, 2024

Dear CBS Family,

For the past few days I have had the privilege to be in Israel on a solidarity mission with JUF. Along with leaders from Chicago’s Jewish community (including some Beth Shalom members!) I am here to see firsthand the impact that Oct. 7 and the subsequent war has had on the country. I have walked through the heartbreaking wreckage of Kibbutz Nir Oz, visited hospitals and community centers, met with families in Hostage Square, and heard from experts and government leaders. I will share my reflections in more depth after services this Shabbat (June 1) but in the meantime I want to offer a few preliminary words.

While it is always a blessing to be in our homeland, this has been a heavy visit. Although it has been eight long months since Oct. 7, the wounds are still raw. “Healing” (if it will even be possible) is far off. And of course, new wounds keep coming. Hundreds of Israelis have been killed or wounded since the war began, thousands are still displaced, and the ripple effect of the war’s disruption — on the economy, the healthcare system, civil society, and so on — are still coming into focus. Even if the war were to somehow end tomorrow (May it be so), it will take a long time to recover.

And that’s not even accounting to the rifts in Israel’s social fabric brought out by the war. Oct. 7, as we know, came after a summer of social division. And even before that, there have been decades-long unresolved disputes between different factions in Israeli society.  Add to that the feelings of betrayal, anger, confusion, and anxiety we have heard expressed, and yes, distress over the suffering of innocent and displaced Gazans including due to the airstrikes near Rafah in recent days … These rifts run deep, and no one knows what Israel (or the region) will look like “the day after.”

Of course, the war has also highlighted an incredible (and inspiring) sense of shared purpose, volunteerism, civic engagement, and patriotism. You could tell a story of Israel just based on the posters, graffiti and bumper stickers one sees around the country. By far the most common are ננצח ביחד – We will win together and עם ישראל חי – the people of Israel live!  And as I sit here at 7am, on the Tel Aviv promenade, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and seeing the crowds of Tel Avivians enjoying the beach or heading to work, I’m reminded and heartened by the many נקודות אור – points of light – we have also seen on this visit.

I look forward to sharing more with all of you on Saturday, June 1 at 1:00 pm in the Kamensky Sanctuary.

With blessings from the holy land…

Rabbi David Chapman