A Word From Our Chair - Unity and Resilience

Profile picture for 60847
|April 17, 2024
A Word From Our Chair | Gail Adelson-Marcovitz

I completed this message late last week and submitted it before Shabbat and then, like all of you, was horrified by the unfolding events in the Middle East. We watched, paralyzed with fear as a barrage of more than 300 cruise missiles, suicide drones, and ballistic missiles were launched directly from the Ayatollah-led Islamic Republic of Iran toward Israel.

As we awaited the projectiles to reach Israeli airspace, we witnessed a truly unprecedented feat as virtually all were intercepted by Israel’s aerial defense systems or by fighter jets from Israel, the U.S., and the U.K. – with help from France and Jordan. This represented a first-ever international coalition and sent a clear message to our enemies that they cannot effectively threaten Israel’s security. And, for those who had been in doubt, it was made abundantly clear that this war is not about Gaza, it is about Iran.

It is now more than 180 days since October 7, 2023, and it is almost impossible to comprehend the truly existential changes in Israel and around the Jewish world in the aftermath of the barbaric, inhumane attacks perpetrated by Hamas, an Iranian proxy.

The horrific events of that cross-border rampage are forever seared into our collective memory. They have challenged the very essence of Israeli society, and they have changed our Jewish world dramatically and forever. There is hardly a Jew in the world left untouched.

And yet, here we are, six months later, witnessing a collective global amnesia about the events that catapulted us into this war, the plight of our hostages, and the degrading and inhumane treatment they are suffering at the hands of Hamas. Every day in captivity is torture for them and a living hell for their families who suffer intolerably, suspended in agony.

Western countries legitimately voice their concern and outrage for the humanitarian crisis created at the hands of Hamas and now facing Palestinian civilians in Gaza, but they barely reference the remaining hostages. For the world, October 7 is yesterday’s news, best forgotten, a footnote in the war in the Middle East. But, for the families of the victims and the hostages, for all Israelis, indeed for the entire Jewish world, October 7 was yesterday.

In these last 180 days, as the battle to defeat Hamas and free the hostages has raged on, it has become clear that anti-Zionist rhetoric is merely a euphemism for Jewish hate. We have all been shocked by the increased antisemitism in our streets. We watch the protests and demonstrations that have weaponized freedom of expression as a tool of aggression, intimidation, and incitement to violence.

The protestors cover their faces, but you can still see the hate in their eyes. They target Jewish hospitals and claim ignorance. They target Jewish neighbourhoods and claim coincidence. They chant antisemitic slogans and yell messages of hate and claim misunderstanding. They have blockaded our Jewish institutions and University campus buildings. They have threatened and intimidated our students and excluded them from campus life.

Recently, as part of a CIJA contingent, I had the opportunity to travel to Geneva and Israel. In Switzerland we participated in the International Summit for a Future Beyond UNWRA presented by UN Watch. We heard from experts, including Einat Wilf, Ritchie Torres, Chris Smith, Dennis Ross, and, of course, the incomparable Hillel Neuer himself. They provided credible evidence that 12 UNRWA employees participated directly in the attacks of October 7 and that UNRWA staff regularly promote antisemitism and support jihad terrorism. Yet, despite the documented abuse and corruption, the Canadian Government has since reinstated UNRWA funding. And, while I think we all appreciate the necessity of delivering humanitarian aid to the civilians of Gaza, this decision – one of many that have not been particularly supportive of Israel – felt like a slap in the face. Viable alternatives were not considered, and documented abuse was simply overlooked.

From Geneva we travelled to Israel. After we had taken our seats on the plane, Ayelet Samareno, whose son Yonatan was kidnapped by an UNRWA staffer (she had given testimony at the summit) boarded the plane to return home. With visible emotion, we jumped up to embrace and thank her. With notable irony, it was she who tried to comfort us, saying “don’t worry, it will all be ok.”

And those few words encapsulated the spirit we felt everywhere in Israel. We met with Brigadier Generals and soldiers just returning from Gaza, with IDF spokespeople and military strategists, with political and thought leaders, and with Bougie Herzog himself, all of whom shared similar messages: first, appreciation for our unwavering and consistent support; and, second, that Israel is resolute in its united determination to achieve two goals – destruction of Hamas and freedom for the hostages. Far from wavering, they demonstrated resilience in the face of adversity and global condemnations.

It was clear that the spirit of Israelis had not been broken. Not by a horrific terror attack, not by months of war, not by tremendous sacrifices and even losses of loved ones. And not by worldwide headlines targeting the democratic state rather than the terror group it battles. Israelis were not just resilient. They were united. They were strong. And they demonstrated the same perseverance as our ancestors throughout history. It was inspiring, it was healing, and it was restorative.

As we approach Passover, we, of course, reflect on the exodus from slavery and the lessons of courage and determination we must summon as we continue to face the rampant anti-Zionism and antisemitism now permeating our daily lives.

And the words of Ayelet resound: “We will all be ok.”

We will persevere, we will fight back, we will remind Canadians that hate, racism, and antisemitism are not the values of our country. We will hold our government and our leadership accountable. We will take legal action where appropriate. We will remain loud and proud. We will insist that our democratic Canadian values be upheld, and we will never concede.

Our community has endured much suffering throughout history, and we have always emerged stronger. It is that perseverance in the face of adversity that will always be a testament to the resilience of the Jewish spirit. It is a reminder that, even in the darkest of times, there is always hope, and there is always a path forward.

Despite the challenges of the past months in bilateral relations between Canada and Israel, as well as statements and decisions by governments here and abroad that appear more focused on Israel’s defence than Hamas’ terror, these are important reminders that, as a community, we must continue to engage in constructive dialogue and education about the complexities of the situation, and to advocate for peace and understanding.

So, as we gather around our Seder tables, let’s draw strength from our history and commitment to our shared values. Let’s reaffirm our dedication to combating antisemitism and promoting understanding and peace in our communities, and let’s discuss current issues, for which we have created Four More Questions, designed to provoke informed, creative discussions about the issues of the day. May this Passover be a time of reflection, renewal, and resilience for us all.

Thank you for your continued support and dedication to our collective cause. Together, we will overcome any challenge that comes our way and emerge more united and resilient than ever.

Chag sameach, 

Gail Adelson-Marcovitz
National Chair

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs is the advocacy agent of Jewish Federations across Canada | Le CIJA est l'agence représentative des Fédérations juives du Canada

Stay In the Know!

Get all the latest information from our newsletter, "This Week in Canadian Jewish Advocacy."

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) is the advocacy agent of Jewish Federations of Canada-UIA, representing Jewish Federations across Canada. By clicking "Sign up," you consent to receive periodic updates from CIJA. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Le Centre consultatif des relations juives et israéliennes (CIJA) est l'agence de représentation de Fédérations juives du Canada - UIA, représentant les fédérations juives à travers le Canada. En cliquant sur  «  Sign up , »  vous acceptez de recevoir des mises à jour périodiques de CIJA. Vous pouvez vous désabonner à tout moment.
Profile picture for 60847
About CIJA
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs is the advocacy agent of Jewish Federations of Canada-UIA, representing Jewish Federations across Canada.