We are the lion cub
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OpinionGuest columnist

We are the lion cub

In the words of the late rock ’n’ roll legend Tom Petty, “You could stand me up to the gates of hell, but I won’t back down.”

Dena Udren
Flag of Israel close up. (Photo by cottonbro studio, courtesy of Pexels)
Flag of Israel close up. (Photo by cottonbro studio, courtesy of Pexels)

As a freshman at the University of Michigan in 1998, I decorated my dorm wall with that famous picture of Yitzhak Rabin and Yassar Arafat shaking hands. Between them stood President Clinton with his arms outstretched, embracing them like the proud father of two sons who have finally decided to make up.

I grew up on this promise of peace in the Middle East, and I was optimistic that in my lifetime we would finally get this whole historic feud sorted out.

Alas, I realized my dream was a delusion.

During my junior semester abroad in Jerusalem in 2000, the second intifada broke out. Out went my naivete about Arab-Israeli peace, and in came my newfound understanding that, in fact, not everyone wanted what I wanted. Offering a hand in peace didn’t mean we would get peace in return. Instead, we got exploding buses, cafes and markets. Despite my parents’ fearful pleas, I refused to leave early and give in to terror.

Five years later, I got married in Squirrel Hill; two days after that, my husband and I made aliyah. It was the summer
of 2005 and, as we got out of the cab from the airport, we were shocked to see orange-clad youth pushing huge dumpsters into the middle of a main Jerusalem thoroughfare, lighting them on fire in protest of the eviction of Gush Katif.

I had a feeling we weren’t in Kansas anymore. We had landed into one of the most traumatic summers in Israeli history. We heard the last Jews in Gush Katif warn us, “If you force us out, next they’ll be shooting rockets at Ashdod and Tel Aviv.” Most of us ignored them then; can we do so now?

For the last 18 years, I have lived in the West Bank — first Gush Etzion, then Maale Adumim and now Beit El.

By living here, I see myself as fulfilling God’s prophecy to Jacob in Beit El, made roughly 3,800 years ago: “Behold, I am
with you; I will guard you wherever you go, and I will return you to this soil, for I will not forsake you” (Bereshit 28:15). My father Jay is named after this biblical Jacob, and my name is Dena, daughter of Jacob. I have returned home to the very soil of Jacob’s promise, and I know that God will not forsake me.

My message to my fellow Jews in this time of national and existential catastrophe is to take to heart these three crucial
points:

First, we must fight. In the words of the late rock ’n’ roll legend Tom Petty, “You could stand me up to the gates of hell,
but I won’t back down.” What we experienced as a country on Oct. 7 could surely be described as the gates of hell.

So, we must all fully support the IDF and the Israeli government in their efforts to rescue our hostages and obliterate
Hamas.

Second, now is the time for Jewish pride and unity. The only way we will be victorious over our enemies is as a unified people, dedicated to our survival and ultimate triumph. Hamas doesn’t distinguish between a left-wing or a right-wing Jew; we are all in this together.

And, thank God, that is something that, here in Israel, we finally understand.

That’s why non-kosher Israeli restaurants quickly turned their kitchens kosher so that they could cook meals for all the
soldiers. That’s why thousands of diverse volunteers have picked produce in abandoned Jewish farms on the Gaza border. I heard about a mother who suggested that her enlisted daughter look for a nice Jewish boy in the army. Her daughter told her that she can’t tell anymore who is religious because all the soldiers are wearing a kippah and tzitzit!

Finally — and perhaps this is the most important point — we need to put our faith in God. Not in Netanyahu, Biden or any other world leader. We appreciate Biden’s supportive speech and aid, but decades of American scolding have taught us to temper our excitement. As a dual citizen, I felt torn when I watched Biden’s speech.

I believe his grief was genuine, but I winced at the admonishments concerning “the two-state solution” and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza — as though it were all our fault or we had not made enough sacrifices for peace.

Moreover, we can hide our mezuzot and Jewish stars, but ultimately, the world will still hate us. At every Passover seder we sing “Vehi She’amda,” which reminds us:

“In every generation they stand up against us to destroy us. But the Holy One, Blessed Be He, redeems us from their hands.”

With God’s help, our captives will continue to be redeemed and our soldiers will triumph. Now is the time to storm the gates of Heaven with our prayers. Let’s trust God and not the fear that is too often raging in our hearts.

There is an ultimate plan even if I can’t see it, especially when my vision is clouded by tears.

I will leave you with one final symbol of our national strength: a fierce lion, which is the tribal symbol of Judah. We
are that brave lion cub who will fight for his life and his pride with weapons, prayers, unity and a steadfast faith
in God.

As the Israeli singer Moshe Hillel sings: “Do not be afraid Israel/ Because you are a lion cub, aren’t you?” 
PJC

Dena Udren lives in Beit El, Israel. She grew up in Squirrel Hill.

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