in the garden
March 14, 2024 — By elsa

catastrophe: parts unknown

…previously in this series Catastrophe: Part 3, women and universities Catastrophe: Parts Unknown – October 160th (March 14, 2024)   ALLIES Allyship is a pivotal part of any movement against hate. An ally is not someone you have enlisted into your army. Allies don’t have to believe in your cause they have to believe in your humanity. An […]

…previously in this series Catastrophe: Part 3, women and universities

Catastrophe: Parts Unknown – October 160th (March 14, 2024)  


Allyship is a pivotal part of any movement against hate. An ally is not someone you have enlisted into your army. Allies don’t have to believe in your cause they have to believe in your humanity. An ally doesn’t need to argue with you when they don’t share your opinion. Be discerning. Do not let your own fear turn an ally into the enemy.

It took allies to get us to a better place in this country and those allies didn’t look like us. It was Jewish allies that were murdered in Mississippi trying to help us get the right to vote. 
-Tyler Perry 

(from a Billboard magazine article referring to the murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner)

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Dear GD

What?!!! Why?! SERIOUSLY WTF was Oct 7th all about? Unspeakable un-nameable horror. Terror. A mass traumatizing. Is Catastrophe one of your names too? 

Even the Jewish atheist knows intimately the Gd they don’t believe in. 
-Vincenza Angela Osmond

In October 1994 Nachshon Wachsman (age 19, a dual citizen of Israel and the US) was abducted by Hamas from a junction in central Israel and held hostage for six days. Hamas was yet again trying to disrupt the peace process. For Nachshon’s freedom they demanded the release of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin (the Hamas leader) and many others from Israeli prisons. Nachshon’s parents pleaded with world leaders. And the whole of Israel held a prayer vigil for his safe return. In the rescue attempt, he was found shot in the throat and chest at close range, three gunmen were killed, two taken prisoner, 23-year-old Captain Nir Poraz leader of the Israeli team, was killed, and nine other commandos were wounded. At the request of Nachshon’s father Rabbi Mordechai Elon gave the eulogy. “Just as a father would always like to say ‘yes’ to all of his children’s requests, sometimes he must say ‘no’ though the child might not understand why. So too our Father in Heaven heard our prayers, and though we don’t understand why, His answer was ‘no’.”

Sometimes Gd says NO.


Jews who declare themselves anti-Zionist are enjoying tremendous democratic privilege. Without the existence of the State of Israel, no matter what you might believe, there’s no way you’d be free to express such an opinion. Please stop endorsing the destruction of the Jewish State …חַס וְשָׁלוֹם. Anyway it’s absurd to imagine you can take Zion out of a Jew.

The anti-Zionist is a vivid illustration of the indestructibility of the Jewish soul… Being Jewish can’t be dropped. It is a Jew’s deepest identity. Whether you love it or hate it, it will always be there. No conversion can change that. And so, in a twisted way, they express their Jewishness by being …anti-Jewish. (And become) an accomplice in (their) own persecution. -Rabbi Aron Moss

I seem to have come through a passage of deep identification. A love different than any I have felt before. A love for my beloved chosen people and country, and a love for the Gd of Israel. It has been an experience of connection within disaster. A deep comfort. A clarity. Then a few Sundays back, I watched a 60 Minutes report on Gaza with my husband. I hadn’t missed the destruction, the loss of life, the starving children. I felt played, not because it was an other-sided documentation, which it was, but because it was another assault on my heart. My own Jewish guilt preying on me. In the words of someone (maybe Golda maybe not), When peace comes, we will perhaps in time be able to forgive the Arabs for killing our sons, but it will be harder for us to forgive them for having forced us to kill theirs. Peace will come when the Arabs love their children more than they hate us. Peace has not come. Maybe we are just not made of the same stuff. 

A time for love and a time for hate, a time for peace and a time for war. – Kohelet

Like the brother who hits you and then when you hit him back runs to your mother saying you started it. It really doesn’t bear trying to make any more sense of it. It is what it is. I am just sort of furious with myself for my ability to empathize. This should be a good sign of my own humanity. Yet it’s a treachery. A miserable kind of no-man’s-land, being forced spiritually to hold both sides, something better reserved for those with no skin in this game. As I must consider the starving children of Hamas, so I ask you to consider this, the youngest baby murdered on October 7 was Mila Cohen. She was shot in the arms of her mother, Sandra, who was seriously wounded but managed to survive. “How in the world can you even defend those who are capable of executing a 10-month-old baby girl?!” – Yoseph Haddad. I waver again I cannot care more about the children of Hamas than Hamas does, can I?

Faced with an outrage, anger is the price we pay for paying attention. It is the rage that ought to come out, because, when faced with an outrage, it is a sin not to be angry.
-Allen Dwight Callahan

Andrew Sullivan recently wrote: It is simply not human to experience a rape that violent and remain altogether sane in the aftermath. And yes, just as we did over two decades ago (after 9/11), the Israelis have, understandably, lost their minds a little. The question, going forward, is whether they will lose their souls as well. Have we though? Lost our minds? Lost our soul? How dare you. While I feel tested most days, I am grateful that I believe, even when I do not comprehend. Even when Gd says no. The path of faith requires so much. I have crossed some rubicon internally. Seeing only enemies is quite unbearable.

There is a path out of hopelessness, and it does not go through notions of divine punishment, divine plan, or divine mystery. – Benjamin Porat

It’s Purim season on the Jewish calendar. Everything is it’s opposite. We must remember to forget.

The entire holiday of Purim can be viewed as a way to fulfill the commandment to remember to “blot out the memory of Amalek.” We remember that the evil of Haman exists in the world—an evil that would wipe us out for no reason and without mercy—and then we blot that memory out with laughter, drink, joy and noisy groggers. 

There is a tradition, on Purim, of writing the name of Amalek in chalk on the bottom of one’s shoes. That way, as we parade around on the holiday, we are also wiping away the name with each festive footfall. Another tradition associated with destroying the name of Amalek is practiced by Jewish ritual scribes. A
sofer will test his or her quill for writing a Torah scroll, a mezuzah or tefilin by first writing the name of Amalek and then crossing it out. 

But why the paradox? If we should always remember Amalek, why should we also strive to forget? Why should we drive the name from memory? I believe the teaching to be a reflection of the paradox that evil itself represents in Jewish tradition.

We cannot deny evil. We may want to believe in a God who is present in all things—in our sorrow as much in our joy—but we cannot escape that we live in a universe that includes things that are beyond our ability to reconcile with God. Judaism is too realistic to just brush aside evil as a mere illusion. We are bound to remember it. –Reb Jeff

Embrace your anger with a lot of tenderness. …cook our anger into love.
-Thich Nhat Hanh

Thank you to everyone who has stayed with me up to this point. Creating this archive during the war (may it be over soon), has been essential to processing all that has happened so far. No matter how righteous the flame, anger eventually burns out its carrier. It’s a lot. The radical seesawing from Oct 7th continues. How to find the appropriate strength to keep engaging is an enormous challenge. Then I remember the hostages. I go forward for them. Dear Gd whoever, whatever you are be with them, give them hope. We have not forgotten you.

Love is not a weak, spineless emotion; it is a powerful, moral force on the side of justice.​


…an ongoing list of articles, sources, maps, and other links