As a tefillin-wearing Jew, I have had the task of having to wrap in many airports throughout my life. Now, wrapping on an El Al flight or a JetBlue terminal in LaGuardia or JFK is one thing, but many times, it’s not so simple. It’s hard enough to achieve the proper kavana in general, yet how much more so when many people are staring at you, often with a look of confusion or disdain.
Recently I had my first opportunity to wrap in an airport since the October 7 massacre, only this time it was different. Videos of Jews being attacked in an airport, along with the overwhelming amount of antisemitism erupting worldwide, suddenly put me on alert.
Then, in the corner of my eye, I spotted him: a bearded man with a tallis. Usually, I find a corner and pray by myself, but I decided that there is safety in numbers and immediately bee-lined towards him, and within minutes, another guy joined us. Only this time, unlike my previous experiences, I felt an immense sense of pride. It was the first time in my life that I felt proud praying in public rather than feeling embarrassed. What was different?
The very fact that I now clearly see what we stand for. I saw it before, but for some reason, since October 7, rather than feel ashamed to be a Jew, I feel even prouder.
Prior to the Six-Day War, when the Jordanians ran the Old City and the Kotel, it was overrun and looked like a dumping ground. The Jews seized control of it and today, it is one of the most beautiful and holiest places in the whole world. The nations can’t stand the fact that we turn shmutz into gold. We take a normal Saturday and turn it into Shabbos. Bread into challah. We turn a desert into an oasis!
Last week, I went to a lecture by a resident of Kibbutz Nir Oz which was brutally attacked. One man showed a photo taken from his backyard of thousands of gorgeous sunflowers when suddenly, as if a line was literally drawn in the photograph, all of the color stopped to reveal a very gray, dismal, and flowerless Gaza. The difference between the Israeli side which was full of life and color as opposed to the Gazan side in the same photo was palpable.
How, then, can I not feel proud to be part of a small nation that represents the powers of good, that literally stands alone with G-d? In fact, I think that it is this very dynamic that empowers me, along with so many others.
My daughter’s friend Sheri recently mentioned that after October 7, she was enveloped by a renewed sense of vigor to be in Israel, and is in fact making aliyah soon. I told her that I also felt an immense sense of Jewish pride that I haven’t felt in a while. Not only to be part of the Jewish people, but an appreciation for the sacrifices every citizen in Israel makes. I have pride knowing that many of my friends flew to Israel to help and assist anyone they could by showing support, giving money and supplies, picking vegetables, and cooking meals. There are dozens of restaurants that turned kosher to prepare meals for IDF soldiers. How can we not feel pride when a neighbor spends $25,000 for supplies, flies to Israel and delivers them, and spends his free time doing Hazalah work? Over 50,000 Jews have committed to putting on tefillin and keeping Shabbos, and our Jewish connection has never been stronger.
How many reservists are putting their lives on the line when they don’t have to, simply because they care about their fellow Jews? I’m extremely proud of the fact that many of our fellow Jewish soldiers are going to battle like true tzaddikim, praying, singing, saying Tehillim. Our soldiers have no interest in holding a gun, let alone shooting one, but that does not stop them from defending our country at any cost.
When Bibi, the IDF Chief spokesman, Naftali Bennett, the President of Israel, and even courageous righteous individuals such as Patricia Heaton, Jon Voight, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Bill Maher fiercely defend Israel and Jews, I feel pride.
290,000 Jews and friends of Israel all coming together to support Israel. Mi k’amcha Yisrael!
The choice is ours to make. We can identify with the victim mentality, wallow in our pain, and embrace hopelessness. This is precisely what the powers of evil would prefer. Of course, we can also choose to see ourselves as victors, knowing we are part of a very unique nation, fulfilling our ultimate calling: to be a light unto the nations. Sure, it’s lonely at times, especially when most of the world wants you eliminated. But remember that G-d knew this when He created Klal Yisrael. Sure, we are few in number but let us remind ourselves that gold and diamonds are very rare commodities and that quality always beats quantity. So let the haters hate, because we’re not going anywhere.
And why do they hate us? Because we bring order and wholesome goodness and light into the world. They bring Hamas, which according to Ohr HaChaim, is the umbrella term for evil in all its different manifestations, including robbery, sexual misconduct, killing, idol worship, and more. They pretty much fit that bill. The fact that we know exactly what we represent, G-d and His Torah, and that they represent evil, is empowering. Given the choice, practically every Jew would rather die as an innocent person than live as a Nazi murderer.
So the next time we feel alone and alienated, let us remind ourselves that Hashem chose us, and it is actually a true privilege and honor to be part of this exalted nation. As the words in Bamidbar declare: “Behold, it is a nation that dwells apart; among the nations it does not reckon itself.”