It is time to sow

JULIAN RESNICK writes from Israel

The Chronicle’s regular columnist writing about Israel, Julian Resnick, visited Cape Town during February. We were thrilled
to host him for a talk one evening while he was here, and there was enthusiastic interest in his talk among our readers. 

We asked Julian to keep this month’s column to the topic of his talk so that more of our readers have access to what he spoke about.

I write this in a very different and complicated space right now. Those of you who have read what I write in this column might be surprised when I use the term “complicated space”, when all it means is outside of Israel. But being away from home is very hard when your home is on fire, and in many ways the metaphor works.

Israel is a range of intense emotions right now: guilt, anger, regret, determination and, more than anything else, intense pain. Allow me to share with you some of the words my cousin Shiri Gavish Twito (granddaughter of the late Menashe and Molly Golshevsky of Woodstock) shared at her son Eyal’s funeral. Eyal was killed fighting in Gaza a short while ago, defending us in Israel:

Once a great love cut my life in two.

The first part continues to flutter somewhere else like a torn snake… (Yehuda Amichai)

I replace the word love with the word bereft, I feel my past life in its death throes somewhere else…

And sometimes during the shiva, while people talk to me, I disconnect and dream dreams of life before you fall in battle, my hero…

I dream of you, my love, and feel the pain in my womb; the womb that carried you for nine months. I feel the pain in my arms that held you as a child when you got a knock, and you ran towards me for a hug. The arms that opened when you came home, on vacation from your shlichut in Baltimore, the arms that opened when you returned from basic training in the army, the arms that opened when you came home after advanced training, the arms that opened when you came home after officers’ course. And these arms now remain open, not holding on to anyone, up in the air, empty. There is no Eyal to come into my arms for a big, long, loving hug…

My Eyal, we are broken, we hurt, you left a hole, you left a huge space. I love you my Eyali, I love you until it hurts, I love now and forever. Ima

We are no strangers to PTSD in Israel. In my 47 years of living in Israel, we have been through many traumas, but never have we experienced anything like this. With the wry humour so characteristic of Israel, people are asking when will we get to the ‘post’ part, beyond the terrible trauma we are in the midst of right now. It continues to be October 7th in Israel. The day is still with us in so many ways. The media is still filled with reports from that day. With gruesome stories too awful to share; with stories of extraordinary bravery; with stories of the massive failure of our leadership, both political and military. As I watch and compare the news items and stories out of Israel with those in Israel, I uncover two parallel universes. 

In one we are attacked, brutalized by a genocidal enemy, prepared to sacrifice their own people as they butchered, maimed, murdered, and raped our people on that terrible day, October 7th.

In the other there is no October 7th. The story begins a few days later and, as the perpetrators of the attack on children, women, old people, and some soldiers, hide behind their own women and children, so as to create the appearance of an unwarranted attack on civilians, the world joins in a chorus of naïve protest. Mouthing words and slogans, getting off on the rediscovered joy of Jew hatred.

But not everyone has joined the chorus. I am filled with warm feelings as I discover that we still have numerous allies, often not plainly heard behind the shrill screams and chants of those who appear thrilled by the notion of driving us into the sea (as between “the river and the sea”, there is clearly no room for me – or my wife, children or grandchildren – a chilling thought).

It is not only a pain-filled society right now. It is also a society which is responding in ways which make me intensely proud to have made the decision to move to Israel 47 years ago. The level of caring, of solidarity, can be only called extraordinary. Thousands of meals being prepared for soldiers; mobile showers taken to the front lines with clean socks and underwear, in addition to the soap and shampoo and towels; young people volunteering to work with the displaced children; social workers and psychologists volunteering their time to help those women who suffered from sexual assault on the 7th. The list goes on and on, and includes our friends from abroad, Jews and Gentiles alike who have come to help us in this hour of need.

I go home in a few days to Israel, to the place I love, to my home; a place filled right now with pain, but a place that once again will bloom and grow, will flower, but only if we are able to look beyond this pain and anger to a different reality, the joyous one we dream of, the one we have to continue to work for, now more than ever before. 

“Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.”
Psalm 126

It is time to sow.

Julian Resnick was born in Somerset West and grew up in Habonim Dror. He studied at UCT, and made Aliyah in 1976. He’s conducted numerous shlichuyot and educational missions on behalf of Israel, to Jewish communities in England and the USA. He works as a guide in Israel and around the world (wherever there is a Jewish story). 

He’s married to Orly, and they have three children and seven grandchildren and is a member of Kibbutz Tzora.

• Published in the March 2024 issue – Click here to start reading.

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