Parallel universes

JULIAN RESNICK writes from Israel

I write these words very far from all of you, assuming that you read these words in Cape Town, possibly Johannesburg, maybe even in Toronto or Sydney.

What is equally important is that I write these words very far away from home, from Israel, in Birmingham Alabama. “Of all places!” I imagine you saying to yourselves.

My past 2½ months have included an equal amount of time back home in Israel, on my little oasis, Kibbutz Tzora, and time in South Africa and now Alabama. I have been out of the country partly for work, guiding a Jewish Journey in South Africa, talking about Israel in presentations in Cape Town and now in Birmingham (next week in West Hartford in Connecticut and a gig in Long Island, NY), and visiting my son, daughter-in-law, and four of my wonderful grandchildren all here in Birmingham because of my son and daughter-in-law’s ongoing medical training.

And I need to talk about parallel universes, as this is what it feels like. I have spent some of my time with people who care desperately about Israel: the people I guided from North America in South Africa; members of the Jewish community in South Africa and here in Birmingham; allies of the Jewish communities; the petrol attendant in the filling station in Constantia; the lady at the checkout counter in Target in Birmingham. Many, many times as I move through these far off spaces, people have shown empathy with what we are experiencing in Israel.

And yet, the feeling is basically one of being in a parallel universe. People are not living lives filled with pain; there is not an existential anxiety permeating everything; lives are lived largely in a normal way.

We, Israel, are in the news, and often in the minds of those around me, but in a different way.

Very few people turn to their computers at 5am to check whether, God forbid, a soldier has fallen in battle (and then do the further check as to whether they know him or the community he is from); few writhe in agony at the words spoken or written by a rabbi from a pre-army Yeshiva academy legitimising the killing of children in Gaza (which I read, horrified by the words on Ynet just 15 minutes ago at 5.15am); nobody is asking the question as to when tourism will begin again in Israel, when we will be able to hike in the Golan, swim in Ashkelon, watch the sunrise or sunset in many beautiful places in the north and south of our tiny country.

And the media…

For the large part the media has forgotten October 7th. So how come for us it is the crux of the past almost six months? The defining date in 21st century Jewish history, as the world focuses on the tragedy of the Palestinian people in Gaza right now (and make no mistake: it is a tragedy and, for that, as well as for the tragedy of October 7th, Hamas is responsible). Israelis murdered? Raped? Taken hostage?

For much of the world I have encountered these horrific facts have gone, and the only relevant fact is a huge number: 30 000. The story for most of the people I encounter begins on October 10th; and here I am still trying to figure out how I cope with life after having lived through October 7th.

Many of the talks I give are titled “An insider’s view”. And yet, I think these past two and a half months have given me a unique perspective and the talks should be called, “An insider’s view from both the inside and the outside”.

The experience of being away from home during these tough days has done a number of things to me. It has caused feelings of intense guilt. (How can I be away from the pain? How can I even think of enjoying the early morning game ride in Motswari or the glorious views of The Cradle of Humankind?). It has brought on feelings of being alone in this world. (Where did all my fellow travellers disappear to?). It has made me appreciative of those who have remained as allies, often paying a price for their commitment to us (and I thank each and every one of them for this).

I return home in a week from tomorrow, to reclaim my normality (what a word to use right now), but only for two weeks, and then it will be a week in Berlin, to once again guide a group of people on a Jewish Journey, and I ask myself, what will Sachsenhausen, the concentration camp where all the senior leadership of the concentration and death camps were trained, feel like now, as opposed to the many times I visited there prior to October 7th?

Israel, Cape Town, Israel, Alabama, Israel, Berlin, Israel

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 April 2024 issue – Click here to start reading.

• To advertise in the Cape Jewish Chronicle and on this website – kindly contact Lynette Roodt on 021 464 6736 or email For more information and advertising rate card click here.

• Sign up for our newsletter and never miss another issue.

• Please support the Cape Jewish Chronicle with a voluntary Subscription for 2024. For payment info click here.

• Visit our Portal to the Jewish Community to see a list of all the Jewish organisations in Cape Town with links to their websites.

Follow the Cape Jewish Chronicle: Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here