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The People of Israel Live

I write, of all places, from picturesque Northern Italy. I am here for a wedding where, as the case may be, both bride and groom come from Israeli families. This is thus the second time, following last Saturday evening’s celebration of Simchat Torah (a festive annual occasion marking the completion of one cycle of Torah reading and the commencement of the next cycle) back home in Florida, where I am asked to rejoice with my co-religionists following last Saturday’s catastrophic Islamist pogrom in Israel, the single deadliest day for the Jewish people since the defeat of Nazi Germany 78 years ago.

The emotional paradox is acute, but Jewish law and custom are straightforward: The show must go on. It is in these moments, some of our rabbis have taught, where our simcha (gladness, joy) can actually serve as an avoda (work, service). The logic is sound, indeed compelling; we cannot, after all, “let the terrorists win.” The duality of this long-standing conflict is even encapsulated by this stark dichotomy: Just as the Islamists and jihadists love death and despair, so do the Jews love life. Am Yisrael Chai—the people of Israel live.

And so we sing and dance around the Torah; we raise our glasses to wish the newlyweds a big mazel tov. We do this while the blood of the decapitated babies, the children burned alive, the Holocaust survivors wantonly slaughtered, and the other thousand-plus Israelis viciously murdered is still fresh. We do this while the Jewish state declares all-out war for the first time in 50 years, fighting yet another existential conflict against an implacable enemy and steeling itself for a two- or even three-front conflict—one that must not merely once and for all eradicate the Hamas tumor from Gaza, but also defend against a likely annihilationist incursion from the Iranian terrorist proxy Hezbollah in Lebanon and perhaps another from Bashar al-Assad‘s Syria.

We do this because, as painful and as difficult as it is, we do not know any other way.

But the Jewish people are hardly the only ones devastated by last weekend’s genocidal rampage at the hands of today’s new Nazis, the Islamist Reich. At least 25 American citizens have also been killed, and there are enough American citizens among the estimated near-150 hostages currently held by Hamas inside Gaza so as to make this, on its own terms, the single worst American hostage crisis since 1979. The explicit culprit back then, and the only slightly-less-than-explicit culprit now, is the fanatical regime that is the world’s No. 1 state sponsor of jihad: The Islamic Republic of Iran.

The Hamas pogrom, reported by both The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post to be orchestrated by the Iranian regime, is undoubtedly an act of war—a casus belli—against the Jewish state, at least when such a conclusion is corroborated (as it will be) by Israeli intelligence. Given the American death toll and hostage crisis, it is perhaps something only slightly less than that against America itself.

Whether this grim reality leads the hapless, Iranian spy-infiltrated (see Malley, Robert) Biden administration, previously eager to continue the Obama administration’s prior attempted appeasement of the indefatigable Iranian regime, to change course remains to be seen. The time is also now to revise the U.S.’s deeply problematic status with the wealthy emirate of Qatar, which was laughably designated just last year as a “major non-NATO ally” despite the fact it disseminates Islamism via its Al Jazeera state TV network and houses Hamas leadership in five-star luxury hotels in Doha.

Meanwhile, across America, so-called pro-Palestinian groups, Black Lives Matter chapters, and Students for Justice in Palestine campus radicals have celebrated the most dead Jews in a single day since Hitler, perversely placed the blame for the pogrom on Israel itself, and appropriated the image of the paraglider jihadi—a reference to the Hamas terrorists who mowed down 260 people at an overnight rave near the Gaza border—as a new symbol of “resistance.” In the streets of major cities such as New York and Chicago, and in the halls of towns with large Arab populations such as Dearborn, Michigan, masses have gathered to fly the Palestinian flag—the new Nazi swastika—and double down on calls for genocide of the Jews of Israel “from the river to the sea.” In Sydney, Australia, a large Muslim gathering started chanting, “gas the Jews.”

Many young people ask themselves how the Holocaust possibly happened. How, in Germany, the most advanced nation in the world at the time, did the people let the Nazi Party attain such power? How, across Europe, did hundreds of millions of people simply look the other way?

Those young people now have their answer. “Never again” is right now. Only this time, the Jews have a state—and a powerful military to defend it.

Everyone the world over now faces a decision: Are you with the Islamist savages who committed unspeakable Nazi-level atrocities, or are you against them? Some conflicts are not so black-or-white; some have a third way. But there is really no third way here. One must choose a side.

In the meantime, the Jews do what we have always done: Live. Am Yisrael Chai.

Josh Hammer is Newsweek senior editor-at-large, host of “The Josh Hammer Show,” a syndicated columnist, and a research fellow with the Edmund Burke Foundation. Subscribe here for “The Josh Hammer Report,” a Newsweek newsletter. X: @josh_hammer.

The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.

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