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Episode 102: One Month Later [Transcript]

Nahanni: Hello, Can We Talk? and Jewish Women’s Archive community. It’s Nahanni Rous. Today, November 7, 2023, marks one month since the Hamas attacks on Israel, when 1,400 people in Israel were killed.

A month has passed, which feels both like a lifetime and like one long, terrible day. This tragedy is present and raw and still unfolding. Close to 250 Israelis and foreign citizens are still being held captive in Gaza. At least 30 Israeli soldiers have been killed in Gaza. The Palestinian health ministry says that over 10,000 Palestinians have been killed. Israelis and Palestinians and people all around the world are in mourning.

Rabbi Ayelet Cohen is dean of the Rabbinical and Cantorial Schools at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. Last week, she spoke at a vigil for Israel in Manhattan. We’re going to share her words now, and end with a moment of silence, like the one observed today in Israel.

Ayelet: Since October 7, we have been stuck in גיא צלמות (in the valley of the shadow of death). That morning, some of us were on our way to synagogue. It was Shabbat, Shmini Atzeret, when we say Yizkor to remember those we have lost even as we prepare for the celebration of Simchat Torah. As the horrors unfolded, with every bit of information we learned, our dancing turned into mourning.

Hamas terrorists, intent on causing as much pain and death and destruction and defiling of Israeli and Jewish life, meticulously planned and yet indiscriminate, cutting down the lives of soldiers and civilians, children and elders, ambulance drivers and medics, Jews and Muslims, peace and human rights activists and right-wingers, Bedouins and revelers, people from Thailand and Nepal who wanted a better life, and all of the beautiful people who wanted simply to live, murdered as they fled the dance floor, or with the sleep still in their eyes, or hiding in safe rooms and shelters trying to protect their families. Going for a morning run or feeding their babies breakfast or defending their kibbutz to their last breath.

And those who were taken…

We know that there is enough suffering and trauma and grief and rage to go around. We wonder if there is enough compassion or enough hope to carry us through this time.

We cling to our humanity in a time of dehumanizing violence and voices who would erase the value of these lives, those who would erase the truth: that every death of an innocent is a tragedy.

Here, across the ocean, we carry the grief and the fear close, every moment. We are afraid for ourselves, for our loved ones; we are afraid for the future.

Day after day, funeral after funeral.

And for the hostages and their loved ones, every day is a nightmare in a landscape of nightmares. As the days turn into weeks, our hope flickers like the flames of these candles, but it does not go out. We will not look away and we do not stop calling for their release.

Can we find our hope and our humanity amongst the ashes and the bloodstains and the terror and the trauma and the rage?

We ask ourselves, will our grief and rage and fear drown out our humanity and our empathy? Or will it awaken them?

Does the grief of another mother for her child cancel out my grief?

Or is the ocean of our tears deep enough for each of us to grieve all of those we have lost?

Will we turn on each other or will we turn towards each other?

Hagar, cast out into the desert with her son Ishmael, cannot bear to see him suffer, and so she turns away from him.

Hagar must confront her despair and reach out to her child in order to reclaim her ability to hope. Then God opens her eyes. When she remembers to hope, her eyes are unclouded and she can find the well of water.

Each of us can do that. We need to turn towards each other so that we remember that we can choose hope, and help build a different future.

Nahanni: Thank you, Rabbi Ayelet Cohen. We now encourage you, wherever you are listening, to pause and observe a moment of silence with us.

[Low tone]

Nahanni: Thank you for joining us. Let’s all work, hope and pray for better times.


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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Episode 102: One Month Later [Transcript]." (Viewed on December 9, 2023) <https://jwa.org/episode-102-one-month-later-transcript>.


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