Israeli flags were in abundance at a rally in San Francisco's Union Square on Monday, Sep. 18, 2023. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)
Israeli flags were in abundance at a rally in San Francisco's Union Square on Monday, Sep. 18, 2023. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)

Rise, recover, reimagine: A Jewish response to the terror of Oct. 7

We have been living a nightmare since Oct. 7. In Israel and across the world, Jews and their true friends are suffering terribly. We are engulfed in a toxic cloud of horror, trauma, grief, incredulity, anger, fear, shame and, yes, a sense of abandonment.

Many, if not most, of us know someone whose loved ones were murdered, maimed or kidnapped. The survivors — our families, friends and students — are numb with pain and anxiety.

How could this have happened in Israel, a country that was created to ensure that something like this could never happen? How do I keep my family and my community safe from Hamas’ calls for global jihad? How do we, as Jews, wake up from this nightmare and begin the long process of healing?

For me, a Jewish response to Oct. 7 can be captured in three words: rise, recover, reimagine.

To rise is to regain our agency and composure. We snap out of the daze, pick ourselves up from the floor and reorient ourselves in a world that just punched us in the face. To rise is to quickly confront — as fully and as rationally as we possibly can — what just happened and to begin to mobilize all of our resources so we can respond with clarity.

To rise, in a Jewish way, is also to resist the instinct to lash out in anger. The monsters who came for us want to drag us down into their cesspool of hate and indifference for human lives. We won’t let them.

After we rise, we can begin to recover. Recovery requires answering urgent short-term needs and then turning to longer-term ones. For now, let us focus on the urgent and the manageable. In the coming few weeks and months, we must concentrate our resources on five main goals:

1. Provide immediate relief to the thousands of Israeli families — and orphans — who have lost their loved ones and their homes.

2. Demand the safe return of the hostages and find anyone still missing.

3. Help ensure that American leaders at all levels continue to stand solidly behind Israel, diplomatically, financially and, if need be, militarily. And don’t forget that there are 2 million civilians in Gaza who’ve been brutalized by Hamas and Islamic Jihad. They too deserve compassion. While the ultimate humanitarian goal will be to free Gaza from Hamas, we must call for every reasonable measure to minimize civilian suffering.

4. Push back against antisemitic propaganda and disinformation campaigns on university campuses, in the media and on social media. These are designed to legitimize Hamas’ brutality, dehumanize Israel and intimidate us into self-doubt and self-recrimination. It’s political and psychological warfare. Don’t fall for it. Counter it through education and active media engagement.

5. Stand together in support of our synagogues, community centers, Jewish schools and college students. Draw closer every single Jew. Comfort and support one another.

Not every one of us can act in every one of these five areas, but each one of us can contribute meaningfully to at least one effort of recovery.

Rising and recovering are crucial, but they are not in themselves sufficient Jewish responses to the tragedy of Oct. 7. We must also reimagine the future.

One response to death will be to bring forth abundant new life. Over the coming year, thousands of Jewish babies will be born in Israel, and some of them will be named Be’eri, Nir-Yitzhak and Nir-Oz in memory of those shattered communities. Others will fulfill the eternal Jewish promise to maintain and remember (“shamor v’zachor”) the dead, injured and the kidnapped in different ways.

Another response to destruction is creativity and innovation. We will rebuild the kibbutzim and communities and ensure that Sderot, Netivot, and Ashkelon continue to grow and thrive. We will create 10,000 new startups that will save millions of lives around the world and enrich the lives of billions more.

Our response to an intolerable security and political reality will be to reimagine our reality and then work tirelessly to achieve a more secure, free and happy one. We will win this war and then reconstruct Israel and the Middle East. Against the axis of chaos, poverty and misery, we will build an axis of stability, prosperity and hope.

Out of the horror, grief and failure of Oct. 7, we will rise, recover and reimagine.

This piece is presented in partnership with the Z3 Conference, coming up on Nov. 5 in Palo Alto. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of J.

Amichai Magen is the inaugural Visiting Fellow in Israel Studies at Stanford's Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (Photo/Courtesy-Amichai Magen)
Amichai Magen

Amichai Magen is a visiting professor and fellow in Israel studies at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University.