I am writing this column while sitting in a shelter as an air raid siren is blaring outside my father’s home in Jerusalem. It is just over a week since the Simchas Torah Massacre. I need not describe what happened. You have no doubt read about it elsewhere. What we need to understand clearly is that what Hamas did on Simchas Torah is what they would do to you and your family given the opportunity. The fight is your fight.

All of us would like to see Hamas eliminated in a short war with minimal casualties, the hostages safely returned to their families, and Israel to be hailed by the entire world for crushing a major terrorist organization. We never stop believing in or praying for miracles, but we are told not to rely on them. Achieving any one of those objectives will be extremely difficult. What is needed to attain one of them can undermine the chance of achieving another. The road ahead will be difficult, and heart-breaking decisions will have to be made.

You have a role to play in the fight. T’shuvah, T’filah, and Tz’dakah can overcome the evil decree.

In my roles as an aide to various public officials and Executive Director of the Queens Jewish Community Council, I have organized many rallies and written many speeches in support of Israel. Over the years, the attendance at those rallies shrank dramatically. Many in the Jewish community became complacent. The younger generation, which did not live through the Holocaust, the formation of Israel, and the Soviet Jewry movement did not feel the same sense of urgency that their parents and grandparents did. Some of them even bought into the leftist propaganda that is especially pervasive on many college campuses – that Israel is to blame for the oppression of the long-suffering Palestinians.

Last week was different. The Simchas Torah Massacre was a community-wide wake-up call. From Dag Hammarskjold Plaza to the Kew Gardens Hills Library, you came out in large numbers to show support for Israel. Thank you to my former colleagues at the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York and the Queens Jewish Community Council for making your voices heard. The outpouring of support and love for Israel and concern for the fate of Jews around the world is greater than it has been in over 30 years.

When the cameras and the press reported Jewish children being murdered in front of their parents and parents murdered in front of their children, young Jewish people gunned down at a concert, Jewish women raped and paraded as trophies through the streets of Gaza, much of the world responded with sympathy.

But the reports of the atrocities are already being replaced with pictures of bombed-out buildings and concern for the “humanitarian crisis” in Gaza. To be sure, there is a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. It is caused by Hamas. But many will blame Israel for responding “disproportionally.” The real danger is not from those who justify Hamas. They will be clearly seen by people of good faith as the anti-Semites they are. Of more concern are the people, many of whom are well-meaning but misguided, who deplored the Simchas Torah Massacre but who are now expressing concern for the “humanitarian crisis” in Gaza. They will call for ending the killing on both sides, equating Israel’s self-defense with Hamas’ murderous rampages.

The criticism of Israel is already becoming louder and more pervasive. As memories of the Simchas Torah Massacre fade, sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians and pressure on Israel to end its offensive before the objectives have been achieved will mount. That is when we, in Israel, will need the support of our brothers and sisters in Queens and throughout the world more than ever. You are manning the battlelines in another front of the war.

There were 1,300 Jews murdered by Hamas in the Simchas Torah Massacre. That is approximately the same number of Jews who were murdered on the average day between January 30, 1933, when Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, and April 30, 1945, when he committed suicide. What Iran and Hamas seek is a second Holocaust. But this time is different. We now have a State of Israel and the Israel Defense Forces, which are fighting back and taking the battle to the other side. Yet we need help from another source. I received an email earlier today asking for volunteers because the IDF is requesting tens of thousands of tzitzits for its soldiers. It was heartening to see that the IDF realizes that for all its prowess, it is Hashem who protects our soldiers and will ultimately determine the outcome of the war.


We know that t’shuvah means repentance, the process of drawing closer to G-d and making ourselves better people. It involves taking accountability for what we have done wrong in the past, making and living up to a sincere commitment to do better in the future, and reconciling with those we have hurt and/or hurt us. It is not a time to look for who is to blame for the polarization that endangered us. It is time for each one of us to look in the mirror and to ask where we have gone wrong and what we can do to make things right.

The Hebrew word t’shuvah has another meaning, as well: “an answer.” As the media and the colleges pontificate about “the plight of the Palestinians,” it is our responsibility to answer. Our elected officials respond to public opinion. Public opinion is shaped by the media. You know the facts, but most people don’t. Their views are shaped by the media and academia. Don’t just get angry or complain about negative coverage of Israel; do what you can to set the record straight.

Here are some of the common arguments in support of the Palestinians and the facts to refute them.

The Claim: The homelessness of the Palestinian people and the failure to grant them statehood is the cause of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

The Truth: The Palestinians have rejected numerous proposals for a two-state solution. In 1937, the British Peel Commission recommended a Jewish state in 17% of Palestine along the coast of and in the Galilee. A narrow strip between Jaffa and Jerusalem covering eight percent would have remained a British mandate. So, 75% of the land would have gone to a Palestinian Arab state. The Arabs rejected the plan so long as it included a Jewish state in any part of the Land of Israel.

On November 29, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly, meeting at Flushing Meadow Park in Queens, voted to partition Palestine into a Jewish and Arab state, with Jerusalem as a UN Trusteeship. The Jews accepted the plan and proclaimed the rebirth of the State of Israel on May 15, 1948, the day of the termination of the British mandate. The Arabs rejected the plan and invaded Israel with seven armies.

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was founded in 1964. During the 19-year period when the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem were in Arab hands, no attempt was made to form a Palestinian state.

In 2000, at Camp David, then Prime Minister Ehud Barak agreed to President Bill Clinton’s proposal for a Palestinian state in almost all of the West Bank, including much of East Jerusalem. Yasser Arafat walked away and launched the Second Intifada.

In 2008, Mahmoud Abbas walked away from then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s offer of 94% of the West Bank, with Jerusalem as the shared capital of Israel and Palestine.

The Claim: The Palestinians are the indigenous people. The Jews are colonialist settlers.

The Truth: The Jewish connection to the Land of Israel goes back more than 4,000 years and is well documented in the Bible, other historical works, and archeological finds. Through 2,000 years of exile, Jews never stopped praying and working to return. The land on which Jews settled in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was purchased.

The Claim: Israel is an apartheid state.

The Truth: Arabs make up 20 percent of the population of Israel. They vote in elections, and they serve in the Knesset and as judges in the courts. They are physicians and professionals.

The Claim: The Israeli occupation has turned Gaza into an open-air prison.

The Truth: Israel withdrew all of its soldiers and dismantled all of its settlements in Gaza in 2005. It is Hamas that has transformed Gaza into an open-air prison. Instead of using the billions of dollars in aid for creating jobs, developing housing, and building infrastructure, they used it to make weapons and dig tunnels to attack Israel. The reason Gaza lacks water is because Hamas failed to maintain its water infrastructure and cannibalized the pipes to make rockets to attack Israel.

The Claim: Israel is committing “genocide” and is responsible for the deaths of thousands of civilians and children.

The Truth: Israel makes every effort to avoid civilian casualties. Hamas uses civilians as human shields and fires rockets from schools, hospitals, and mosques. It is Hamas that is blocking the way of Gazans trying to escape.

We need to engage in social media, whether it is on Facebook, Twitter (X), or YouTube. When you see something positive about Israel, like it and share it. When you see something negative, write a comment to expose the lies and promote the truth. Tell your friends and co-workers how the Simchas Torah Massacre has affected you and why you are so passionate about supporting Israel.

So far, our elected officials have been very strong in their support for Israel. This is no time for criticizing our friends. We need support for Israel to remain broad and bipartisan. Contact our elected officials. Thank them for their support and encourage them to remain steadfast in their commitment.


This is a time to be storming the gates of heaven with our heartfelt prayers. Many shuls are saying Avinu Malkeinu and reciting extra T’hilim. If your shul is not yet saying the Mi SheBeirach for the IDF, it’s time to start.


If your inbox is anything like mine, you are being inundated with requests for donations. All of us want to help but you should do so with caution. There are people who take advantage of crisis situations to set up fake charity funds to collect money for themselves. Cybercriminals are sending out e-mails supporting Israel to get people to click on links that will give the hackers access to their cell phones, computers, credit cards, and bank accounts. Be extremely careful in clicking on links in emails from people you don’t know personally. Donate only to organizations with proven track records that you are familiar with or through your shul or community organization.

Some of the organizations I have been supporting include:

Friends of the IDF (FIDF.org) – This is the most direct way to provide soldiers with equipment and accessories that they need.

Leket (lekelt.org/en/) – They distribute food to families in need throughout Israel. They are now focused on providing food to the families most directly impacted by the Simchas Torah Massacre.

United Hatzalah (israelrescue.org) – 6,500 volunteers on motorcycles who will be ready to care for the wounded.

Magen David Adom (mdais.org) – Israel’s ambulance system and blood bank.

There are many efforts to collect clothing and equipment for soldiers. You should participate in these efforts through your shul or a trusted community organization.

Over the past year, I have found great fulfillment from my job as a guide for the Western Wall Heritage Foundation. It may be a long time before I lead another tour of the Kotel Tunnels. But I will close with the same words I use at the end of most of my tours. “The connection of the Jewish People to the Land of Israel in general, and Jerusalem in particular, goes back almost 4,000 years. We are not here because of 1948. It’s not about 1967. It’s not even about the Holocaust. It’s about 4,000 years of history. And it’s not just about our past; it’s about our future. We have come back to the land where we became a nation, where our kings ruled, our prophets preached, and our sages taught to write the next great page in the history of the Jewish people.”

Of one thing we can be certain: There will be a next great page. The one we will all write together. Because “Netzach Yisrael Lo Yishaker – the Eternal One of Israel will never be false.”

By Manny Behar