One Congregant’s View on Gaza War

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Photo by Haley Black on

When I drive by my synagogue and see the “We Stand By Israel” sign, I wince. The sign presupposes unanimity of viewpoint, obscuring the mind-numbing complexities of what’s happening in Israel and Gaza. As such, it glosses over the psychological tumult experienced by Jews like me who feel love for Israel but also profound distress for the devastation visited upon Gaza by Israel.

Now in my early 80s, I was raised to be proud of being Jewish and to cherish Israel. Woven into my identity as a Jew, Israel was family, to be protected, loved, and respected. And I pretty much did exactly that for decades, even when I strongly opposed Israeli policy and actions.

My kinship to Israel deepened on October 7 when Hamas launched its brutal attack. I was filled with rage that such an atrocity had been perpetrated against my Israel. But as the weeks and months passed, I became horrified by Israel’s relentless retaliatory bombing of Gaza. Pain and suffering were everywhere, with no end in sight for the Palestinians, just the knowledge that more of the same awaited them. Soul sick, I felt shame about Israel’s actions and, by extension, a kind of guilt about being Jewish.

Sharing these corrosive feelings with Jewish friends and family of my generation, I discovered that some of them felt as I did. On one hand, we felt deeply for Israel and were angered by the media’s relative inattention to the atrocities Israelis endured on October 7, to the suffering of the hostages and their families, to the painful dislocation of hundreds of thousands of Israelis. On the other hand, we felt grief, compassion, and outrage for the grave suffering inflicted by Israel on Gaza. The images and accounts of Palestinian misery took a heavy psychological toll on us.

I wonder. Has the profoundly complex Israeli-Gaza situation caused other Jewish Sacred Aging readers to experience their own painful interior whiplash?

If so, Jewish Sacred Aging encourages readers to share their comments in the comment space below this essay. You can also send them to An honest, respectful sharing of viewpoints may help ease the emotional and cognitive dissonance many of us now feel. It’s certainly worth a try.  


  1. War is awful, always. But I do not think that Israel is retaliating in the sense of revenge. I do agree with destroying Hamas’ weapons and infrastructure and changing the government leadership in Gaza. Hamas has vowed to attack Israel again. What Hamas did in Gaza, making that tiny area a fortified terrorist base with 400 miles of tunnels was evil and put the people of Gaza in extreme danger. So sad for the children of Gaza. The Palestinians must decide their own future. Either they build a peaceful society, or they keep fighting Israel. You know, I stayed in K’far Aza in 2005 when Israel was withdrawing from Gaza and I saw that the people of Sha’ar HaNegev were for peace with Gaza. They wanted normal relations with their Gazan neighbors. The woman I stayed with in 2005 lost her oldest son on October 7 as he was killed by Hamas.

    • Thanks so much, Regina, for your respnseo to my article. What tragic news about the son of the woman you stayed with in Israel. The loss on both sides of this devastating war is unfathomable.

  2. Thanks, Judy, for posting this article. You are not alone. This is all so complicated and so hard. I would love to have coffee with you and have a chance to talk.

  3. I share your ambivalence. Grief and anger at the atrocities of October 7 and the suffering of the hostages, but also sadness, compassion, and outrage for the suffering and deaths in Gaza. I’ve seen military experts on the news asking why Israel is using non-targeted bombs in Gaza when smart bombs would cause fewer casualties, so I wonder about that.

    • Yes, Beth. I too wonder about the use of the non-targeted bombs.The unnecessary destruction they wreak deepens my anger at and disillusionment with Israel.

    • As a veteran i can appreciate the fact that Israel, like other militaries does not have an infinete supply of expensive smart bombs and they mist be used judiciously. Also, many situations do not warrant more sophisticated weaponry. We, in the safety and comfort of being far away from the danger should not indulge in the irresponsible luxury of being “armchair generals’ without being in command of the facts.

  4. Judith, any rational person would feel compassion and grief for the pain and loss of life being suffered by the people of Gaza. This must be tempered by the realization that Israel is thrust into an impossible situation. If Israel is to survive, let alone flourish in a rough neighborhood, it is imperative that Hamas be not only defeated but destroyed. Hamas, as we all know, uses civilian infrastructure, inclusive of schools, hospitals, mosques, etc. as both miliary positions to plan and carry out attacks, and to store the weapons of war. If this was not appalling enough, Hamas uses the civilian population as human shields, with terrorists embedded among them and below them. Indeed, they see mounting civilian death totals as one of their prime weapons to win over world opinion and erode support for Israel. Both of these tactics are prohibited by the Geneva Conventions and are in themselves war crimes. By embedding themselves and their weaponry, civilian homes and intrastructure lose their protected status ands are legitimate military targets. My sympathy for the people of Gaza is also tempered by the near universal joy and exhilaration that broke out all over Gaza after the attrocities of October 7 came to light and the fact that Hamas retains wide support among the populace even after the disaster and immeserable suffering that they brought upon them.

    • Thank you, Cary, for your carefully reasoned response to my piece.  I feel as you do about many of the points you make. One additional thought—among the many that concern me—is the way the destruction, suffering, and loss of life in Gaza have contributed to a worldwide rise of antisemitism—as well as to increased tensions in the Jewish community here and abroad. What painful and unforeseen consequences of this horrific war.

  5. Judith, I don’t think that the war related destruction in Gaza, dutifully shown to viewers each night by the BBC, CNN and other news outlets have contributed significantly to anti-Semitism. The sad and scary fact is that it has been there all along, lurking below the surface, looking for a way to “legitimize” itself. Feigning concern for the people of Gaza provided an “acceptable” outlet to bring anti-Semitism into the open.

  6. Does anyone know what G-d allows antisemitism, continual wars, holocausts, and the nations of the world voting to destroy Israel and the Jewish people? What are the Jewish people doing that causes G-d’s wrath?

      • Theodicy (Definition: In the philosophy of religion, a theodicy is an argument that attempts to resolve the problem of evil that arises when omnipotence, omnibenevolence, and omniscience are all simultaneously ascribed to God.) is a difficult if not impossible question to answer and has kept theologians and philosophers busy since Leibniz. As a humanist and a Spinozan, I can only suggest that we may be asking the wrong question. Instead of demanding an answer to “Where was Gd?”, we must demand “Where was man?”

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