Letter to the Jewish Community of Michiana
A message from Karin Wasserman, former Israeli emissary to Jewish Michiana
My Dear South Bend Community,
I am writing to you on the 36th day of the war against the Hamas terrorist organization. I want to express my gratitude for you reaching out to me. I appreciate your love and support in these hard days.
On Shabbat morning, October 7th, my boyfriend Ran and I stayed at his parents' home in the center of Israel and woke up to the sound of sirens, like everyone else, at 6:30 AM. We initially thought it was a mistake and never imagined what was about to come.
October 7th will forever be a cursed day, marked by death and deep sadness.
Hamas chose to brutally murder children, babies, the elderly, men, and women. Non-Jews, including Arabs, Bedouins, and foreign workers, who also fell victim. Over 1,200 people lost their lives in a single day, making it the most significant tragedy for the Jewish people since the Holocaust. Additionally, 240 people were kidnapped to the Gaza Strip, and currently, 38 children remain there, many orphaned and exposed to unimaginable trauma.
Ran, my boyfriend, joined reserve duty on the same day as an officer in the Artillery Corps, undertaking significant actions to help rescue lives. He is a staff officer in the Gaza division. Since that day, I've been filled with worry and shock. To preserve my soul, I decided to volunteer in various capacities. I couldn’t sit in front of the news on TV and do nothing.
In times of crisis, the resilience of the Jewish people shines through. Numerous civil society organizations didn’t wait for the government to act. They assisted with housing for residents around Gaza that got destroyed, organized donations of clothes, food, and other essentials for people and soldiers across Israel. Groups of protesters against judicial reform (like Brothers in Arms) quickly redirected their efforts to support the war needs, providing rides to soldiers in dangerous places, protecting villages and neighborhoods, aiding people during rocket attacks, and even rescuing animals and pets in the ruins.
Personally, I participated in collecting donations and assisting in clearing shelters in my hometown of Haifa. I helped the elderly prepare their safe rooms and established an emergency special staff in my neighborhood, including a first aid team, fire aid, self-defense in shelters, and more. I also attended Nihum Avelim (condolence visits) for families who lost loved ones in this massacre.
The disaster impacted me not only at a national level but also on a personal level. I lost a friend. Ilan Moshe Yaacov, a friend of mine from university, was brutally killed in the dance party in Reim. He was a kind person who enjoyed life, worked with at-risk youth in Tel Aviv, and was a social activist. May his memory be a blessing.
Another friend of mine, Liron HaCohen, is a survivor of the massacre in Kfar Gaza. These are her words:
“I am hurt, and I am furious. During those terrible hours, my entire family was in Kfar Gaza. My husband and I spent 20 hours hiding in a room, while our dear and beloved were murdered, and their homes looted. They showed no mercy, sparing no one. Only death and murder in their eyes.
I am shouting out to you! Wake up! The senseless killing of innocent children, women, men, and elderly who have done no harm should shock every human being. My neighbors' house was set aflame along with them - parents and children. Fortunately, they survived, but the trauma, will stay there forever. We waited in fear for them to get to us, with no way to defend ourselves. My husband's brother, Yahav Viner, was ruthlessly murdered after saving his wife and one-month-old daughter. All we ever wanted was peace, but instead, we received evil and violence. I shout the cry of the murdered and the cry of the kidnapped who are still in Gaza!”
I was worried for Liron and her family and I’m heartbroken at the thought of Shaya, Yahav’s daughter, will never know her father.
My dear lovely community, I’m also worried about you and the rising wave of antisemitism in America and all over the world. I listened to the sermon of Rabbi Angela Buchdahl, the Rabbi of the Central Synagogue in Manhattan, for Rosh HaShanah eve just a few weeks before the disaster.
Rabbi Buchdahl compared the relationship between the Jewish American people to the Jewish people in Israel. She said:
“If we want to test whether the Jewish people is still one body, we must test how one hand responds to the suffering of the other. They said that in every crisis there is an opportunity, and I think that what happened showed, and reminded us, that we, all the Jewish people, are one body, one soul, and one nation. When one hand is suffering all the body feels that too. In my eyes, this is valuable and will create stronger connections in the next decades.”
This war, coupled with the surge in antisemitic protests globally, brings us back to the fundamental Zionist principle - the right of the Jewish people to defend themselves- and live an independent life in the sovereign State of Israel. It is disheartening to witness protests against Israel and denial of the Hamas massacre. In these times, unity becomes paramount. We must stand together as one people.
I pray for better days and the return of the Israeli hostages in Gaza.