When we look at our calendars – especially that darkest of recent days, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023 – it’s hard to imagine that that now-infamous date is part of a millennia-long continuum.
About 2,200 years ago, the Maccabean revolt against the Greeks controlling Judea succeeded in the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. From this ancient victory, we celebrate Hanukkah, lighting candles over eight nights to honour our brave ancestors then and those who have followed.
Now, more than two millennia later, we call on the Israeli Defence Forces to protect Israel from Hamas who, on Oct. 7, murdered more than 1,200 (mostly) civilians, injured more than 5,400 and abducted more than 240 elderly women, men, children and other civilians. Since that day, 200,000 Israelis have had to flee their homes and all in the entire country are living under constant threat of thousands of indiscriminately fired rockets launched by Hamas from Gaza.
Operation Iron Swords is the Israeli response fighting for the safety of its people and, in fact, for its very existence. Is it Israel’s right to defend itself? Yes. But it’s much more than that. It is Israel’s obligation to its citizens, as it would be any country’s that wants to call itself a state.
This operation, so necessary and yet so treacherous both on the ground and in the world of public opinion, has been used as an excuse for a disgusting surge in anti-Israel and – let’s be truthful – anti-Jewish rhetoric, threats, anarchy and vandalism. We’ve seen this before, in the May 2021 Gaza War and its aftermath, and we are seeing it again, only now the campaigns are emboldened and expanded by years of online Jew-hate that has made its way from the fringes to the centre.
What can we do? As descendants of the Maccabees – and generations more of intrepid survivors – we can rally, finding strength and comfort in our collective calls for civility, tolerance and bedrock Canadian values.
We can stay informed and stay connected.
We can, as thousands young and old across Canada have done already, donate to our local federation’s emergency campaigns supporting Israelis. How proud we can be that Canada’s diaspora has already raised more than $100 million in response to the emergency. Federations have already sent millions to support victims of terror, evacuees and those in need.
We can say something if we see something. The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs tracks hate-based incidents at cija.ca, under the Get Involved link. If you witness an antisemitic incident, report as many details as you can remember and, if it’s safe to do so, take pictures. If there is a threat or a crime, contact your local police. Many have officers specializing in this kind of report.
Just as we honour our forebears who protected our lives, our culture and our values, we will honour those who were injured or died on Oct. 7. We will keep the Canadians who lost their lives in our hearts and remember their bravery in saving the lives of others.
At CIJA’s Antisemitism: Face It, Fight It conference in mid-October, most among the 1,000+ attendees were Jewish. But hundreds were not. We are not alone in fighting antisemitism.
As we light our hanukkiyah candles this year, let us celebrate the courage of those who went before us, of those who served us in sacrifice over thousands of years, and let’s ensure that those protecting Israel now feel our support and our gratitude. Let us be the light!
Wishing you and yours a joyful, meaningful Hanukkah.
Judy Zelikovitz is vice-president, university and local partner services, at the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.