/ 15 May 2024

The salvation of God comes in the blinking of an eye

Israel Hamas Conflict Reaches Six Month Mark
A family visit the marker of Noa Farage who was killed on the October 7 Hamas attack at the Nova music festival. marks six months since Hamas led an attack on Israel. (Photo by Amir Levy/Getty Images)

I have contemplated submitting an article on a Jewish perspective on God, but I have been very blocked. There are multiple Jewish perspectives on pretty much any issue, so homing in on one Jewish perspective was never going to be easy. Ask two Jews get three opinions, goes the old adage.

To write about God, no less. What a massive topic. I have been genuinely struggling. Where does one start? “Save me”, I thought, while of course praying to God.

The Jewish people generally are in need of salvation. The world has become an increasingly hostile place for Jews. As a young man, I once walked into a café in London with a couple of Jewish friends. We were wearing kippot and were visibly Jewish. “Get out!” said an anti-semitic customer. “Go back to Israel, where you belong”, he said somewhat inhospitably.

Not long after that, I found myself living in Israel, where apparently I belong. 

In recent years, there is a hateful chorus, which has risen to a crescendo, broadcasting to the world that us Jews are colonists who have no place in Israel. Of course, as Jews we know that it is our spiritual and ancestral homeland, to which we have longed to return. But that does not make the hateful chorus any easier for us to stomach.

It can sometimes seem to us that we are welcome in the world, as long as a) we don’t live outside of Israel, and b) we don’t live in Israel. Never before has the moon seemed such an obvious safe haven. 

As a people, though, we do not want to live on the moon. We would like to be able to live either in our spiritual homeland, and perhaps in other parts of the world, as well. This to us, does not seem like too much to ask, but the hateful chorus says “no”. 

We Jews, and our many friends, need salvation from the hateful chorus.

Small as the Jewish people are, we have been a fractured people. Within the Jewish world there are wildly differing views on most topics. (Although, of course, some of my Jewish friends would disagree with me.) 

Sensible debate is always positive, however there have been times when the existence of different views within the Jewish world has, unfortunately, not stopped at the adoption of different debating positions, but has spilled over into animosity. 

There was a brief lull as the Jewish world absorbed the terrible shock of the 7 October massacres, and in the face of the absolute evil we were confronted with, we remembered that we are one people. As we moved from “shock mode” to “processing mode”, unfortunately, divisiveness has once again reared its head. 

As a people we need salvation from internal schisms.

The Jewish world is in great pain. More than ever before, Israel is stigmatised as “immoral” as it tries to defend itself. 

Jews face a brutal enemy, in the form of Hamas, supported by Iran. Ismail Haniyeh and Ghazi Hamad, high ranking Hamas officials have stated publicly they would like to repeat 7 October massacres again and again. We now know they mean it. 

Even those of us, who had naively hoped in the past, that this talk from Hamas was just bravado, and that Iran only sought nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, have been forced to reconsider. It was so tempting to believe that. But now we know it is simply not true.

Having actual enemies who want to kill you, comes with consequences. It means you need to try and ensure the next massacre does not occur.

For thousands of years, we were unable to do so, with awful consequences.

Now, Jews are able to defend themselves, and much to the consternation of our enemies, and with God’s help, we are able to do so, very well.

The strategy of those who do not like us, has therefore shifted. As we search in deepest Gaza, for our captive brethren, some who are mere infants, our detractors make an incredible claim. They claim we are genocidal. They claim we are Nazis. They claim we are immoral.

We know we are moral. 

We know we are not out to destroy a people. 

We do not understand why some anti-Israel protesters shout violent chants about us if they truly want peace.

We do not understand why most anti-Israel protesters fail to call for the release of Israeli hostages, which we feel would be the easiest way for hostilities to decisively end.

There is so much we do not understand.

But beyond the lack of comprehension is the pain. Even when we know we are moral, it is still a source of immense pain to be maligned as immoral. It really hurts.

We so need the world to understand that there really are people calling for our destruction, and that we really cannot let down our guard. We so need the world to understand that Israel does not target civilians. We so need the world to understand that there actually are powerful players in the Middle East, who target civilians. Oh, how we need salvation. 

After the outpouring of sympathy back in October, it seemed to us recently that the world’s sympathy was short-lived. 

Revulsion over Hamas’s behaviour on 7 October turned to casualty fatigue, as the world grew weary of the images coming out of Gaza. We know the grisly images are a direct cause of Hamas indifference to Gazan casualties, but visuals are hard to explain away.

With the United States abstaining from voting when the anti-Israel Security Council vote was held at the UN, we have been left wondering.

We feel alone. We need salvation.

Many people believe in God. Theoretically. But there is a disconnect. 

We often strip God out of the equation. We rely on an army for defence. On our jobs for sustenance. On our governments to provide utilities. (This one is for the non-South African readership.)

But who is ultimately in control? Who determines if the army will succeed, if you will hold down your job, or if the reservoirs will run dry?

We forget that God runs the world. We need salvation.

The salvation of God comes in the blinking of an eye. This is an ancient Jewish belief. From the bleakest and unlikeliest of places, God can bring salvation.

On Saturday 13 April, the world learned that Iran had launched a drone and rocket salvo indiscriminately targeting millions of Jewish, Christian and Muslim civilians on an unprecedented scale. This was in response apparently to a precision attack by Israel on seven high ranking members of the Iranian military.

Hundreds of explosive laden drones, and tens of ballistic missiles were launched by Iran, from sovereign Iranian territory, aimed at sovereign Israeli territory. 

The fact that celebrations around the world erupted, as this was happening, broadcast to us clearly, that for some people out there, the knowledge of this barrage of destruction making its way towards Israel, a country which 10 million people call home, was very exciting. We know about them.

For many others, the lethal salvo would have been reason to shake their heads disapprovingly and roll their eyes, as they went to sleep.

For us Jews and our many friends, this darkest hour proved to be the most powerful expression of Godly salvation we have witnessed in living memory. It was truly a modern day “splitting of the sea”.

Never could we have imagined that 99% of drones and missiles would be intercepted, and that there would be no fatalities.

Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine that Iran’s pernicious actions could result in such multilayered salvation.

The “hateful chorus brigade”, who claim the Jews have no place in Israel, have received a modern day reminder that someone up there is watching over the Jewish state, and might indeed be a fan. Diaspora Jews too, are walking around this month feeling that bit more self-assured of their place in the world. Salvation! We do not need to move to the moon.

The internal schisms issue, which sometimes plagues the Jewish world was obliterated as Jews around the world watched, hoped and prayed. 

The moral stigma to which the Jews have been subjected in recent times now rings particularly hollow. As commentators around the world are forced to confront the reality that Iran is the bad guy, Jews feel a slight sense of relief that Iran and its proxies have shown their true colours. This all paints us rightly in a most favourable light. The moral stigma has disappeared.

There are morally upright nations who came to our rescue. The US, the United Kingdom and Jordan all stepped up to the mark and assisted militarily. We do have friends and that is a source of great comfort. Salvation. The Jews are not alone.

(We would love it if South Africa too wanted to befriend Israel too. Do South Africans really want to throw in their lot with Iran?)

Jews have utterly reconnected with the God factor. There are no atheists in foxholes. I, and thousands of Jews around the world, prayed like never before that Saturday night, that the number of casualties may be minimal. Salvation. We have remembered that God exists.

And as for me, and my quest for a topic to write about. Salvation. Modern day miracles make really great topics.

As Jews around the world celebrated the festival of Passover which commemorates our salvation from ancient Egypt and our transition from slavery to freedom, we prayed that God will bring salvation and moral clarity to any place where the need exists. And that is what we will continue to pray for.

Daniel Beider is a former investment banker and turned his attention in recent years to the nonprofit sector, particularly in the Jewish community. He is frequently invited to share his opinions on ChaiFM and SAFM.