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On the morning of Saturday, Oct. 7, I woke early. I had a flight to catch out of a small town in Washington where I had given a talk, and I was making my way through the airport when I saw a television screen tuned to CNN. It was showing the gruesome images from Hamas’ attack on Israel, making it very clear that the assault was still ongoing.
Immediately, it reminded me of a feeling I had hoped I would never feel again. It was the feeling I felt on Sept. 11, 2001, when I was getting ready for work, watching the morning news and seeing a plane fly into the Twin Towers.
It was the feeling I felt when I watched George Floyd, violently pinned to the ground and hollering out for his mother.
Immediately, I felt a sense of pain, a sense of anguish. Immediately, I felt a sense of fear for my brothers and my sisters in the Jewish community. And the reason why I felt it was because I knew how I felt about seeing George Floyd, and how that reminded me of a time that I thought was far gone, the days of Jim Crow, the days of ancient slavery. Watching George Floyd’s murder, I couldn’t believe I was witnessing the sort of brutality against Black Americans I thought had passed from the world. Watching innocent Jewish men, women, and children being slaughtered just for being Jews made me think of days I thought had passed from the world with the Holocaust.
And yet, here I was, watching evil unfold before my very eyes. And it hit my soul.
I wanted to call every single one of my Jewish friends, but it was Shabbat, and a holiday to boot, and I knew that none of them would pick up the phone. So I did the only other thing I could think of: I said a prayer and asked God to intervene, to provide the shelter he promised in Psalm 46—to be our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
So it pained me, greatly, to see, not long afterward, several chapters of Black Lives Matter come out in support not of the victims but of the terrorist group Hamas. Celebrating any form of terrorism is disgusting and should be condemned, especially as we Black Americans, of all people, know the pains and the agony of being terrorized. We know what it feels like. We know what it feels like to be gunned down, to be chased, to be mutilated, to be kidnapped.We know what it’s like for our women to be raped, for our children to be killed. And for anyone to align themselves with an agenda that celebrates any terrorist group or any act of terrorism is an insult to where we’ve come from and could unravel the works of support and healing that we are so feverishly working toward.
Thankfully there are other voices wanting to be heard who oppose the evil workings of Hamas and any other terrorist groups.
We owe it to the Jewish community to rebuild the bridge that I believe has been systematically put on fire. Because every single time we have advanced this country forward morally, it has been with the Black community and the Jewish community standing arm in arm, hand in hand.
It’s a bond I take not only seriously but also personally. My father fought in World War II, and helped liberate the camps. So I always knew that the Jewish community was allied with the Black community, and I always knew that they shared in our pain. But unfortunately, there are members of our community that were not reared with that knowledge and perspective. And so it has become easy for certain voices of influence within our community to be able to just sway people into believing that our Jewish brothers and sisters are in fact our enemies, not our friends.
Eventually, the holiday ended. When I called my Jewish friends, I could hear in their voices that they couldn’t take it anymore. I know what that feels like. I know what it feels like to turn on the news and see another Black man, another Black boy, another Black woman, unarmed, killed, mutilated in the streets, left for dead for hours. Watch such horrors unfold again and again, and you may start thinking that it’s never going to change.
But I want to say this to you, my Jewish friends: Nothing is too much in the hands of God. If we keep talking, keep standing up for the truth, keep reaching out to one another, eventually we’ll see a light. So chazak, chazak, ve’nitchazek—we’re strong, but together, and with God’s help, we’ll grow even stronger.
Pastor Michael Fisher leads a congregation in Compton, California.