How To Move Forward Even in the Darkest Times

Dear friends,

I must admit that I am grieving over the attack on Israel, and I am not okay. My family is not okay. Many of my friends are not okay. And it makes me wonder, how are you? 

Today, I come to you from a place of sorrow. I can’t move forward in life as if nothing happened. I need to share my thoughts, emotions, and the struggles of my and many other sanctuaries.

On Oct. 7, 2023, something was shattered, and the pain became indescribable — as it was on Sept. 11, 2001. It’s akin to grieving a loved one while the world around you continues as if nothing happened, a disconnect that is difficult to comprehend.

My sanctuary has been wounded by a world that often seems to have forgotten the lessons of history. It is being violated by those who don’t understand that six million lives lost in the Holocaust were not just numbers, but souls extinguished in the darkest chapter of humanity.

My sanctuary has been fractured by those who refuse to seek real peace between Arab nations and Israel, blinded by prejudices and stereotypes that only perpetuate the cycle of conflict. It was hurt by those who remained silent only when Jews were being massacred as if the blood spilled was somehow less significant or even deserved. My emotional refuge was shaken by those who have fallen into the trap of justifying terrorism as a means to achieve peace, ignoring the irrevocable pain and suffering inflicted on innocent civilians.

My sanctuary has been injured by those who, without a true understanding of the complex and multifaceted Israeli-Palestinian conflict, readily offer judgment and reach conclusions that are far from the truth. It has been disabled by those who are pushing the Jewish community to need police officers when attending their houses of worship due to bomb threats and fear, and those who are targeting Jews and Muslims no matter where they are. But more than anything, it has been incapacitated by those who ask the Jewish people to not defend themselves when their loved ones, their babies, their children, parents, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts and friends are kidnapped, tortured and murdered. It is as though they ask us to march again toward the gas chambers, while music is played by the orchestra.

The pain of my sanctuary extends to those who do not comprehend that Israel stands for the very same values that they cherish — values of democracy, human rights and the pursuit of peace. It is a nation that yearns to live in peace with its neighbors and create a future of coexistence. However, this desire for peace does not extend to those who preach hatred, terrorism and the complete eradication of Israel and the Jewish people from the map. My belief is that you, dear friend, understand why.

And the agony of my sanctuary also reaches innocent civilians in Gaza and my dear Palestinian friends who want peace yet are caught in the middle of this conflict and are suffering great losses and pain.

It is painful to bear witness to such a world, a world in which my sanctuary, and the sanctuary of many others, are too often under siege. But what keeps us going is the strength of the human spirit, our shared resilience, the friends that we do have and the pursuit of a better tomorrow.

In the face of adversity, we have a choice — to succumb to despair or to rise stronger and more determined. Perhaps the latter is the only option for the Jewish people. Rebuilding our collective sanctuary is not a personal journey; it’s a collective endeavor. It involves healing and the unwavering pursuit of tolerance, understanding and sanity. I’m personally working to cultivate and strengthen resilience while I grieve. Resilience isn’t about being unbreakable; it’s about bouncing back stronger after adversity.

In the face of these challenges, I would like to offer some insights on how to keep moving forward, even in the darkest of times. 

  1. Remember Your Purpose: In times of adversity, it’s essential to remember your values, your beliefs and your why. Reconnecting with your purpose can provide the motivation needed to persevere.
  2. Lean on Your Support Network: Surround yourself with people who understand and support you. Friends, family and like-minded individuals can provide a vital source of strength and encouragement. Share your thoughts and emotions, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when needed. 
  3. Educate and Advocate: In a world where ignorance can perpetuate suffering, be an advocate for truth and understanding. Educate yourself about complex issues, engage in constructive dialogues, and help dispel myths and misconceptions. 
  4. Stay Informed and Act: Stay informed about the issues that matter to you and take meaningful actions. This could involve supporting organizations aligned with your values, participating in peaceful demonstrations or writing to elected officials.
  5. Promote Dialogue and Understanding: Open dialogue and engagement can foster understanding. Encourage conversations that bridge divides, humanize individuals from different backgrounds and highlight shared values. Tips on how to engage in constructive dialogue are below.
  6. Find Joy in Small Moments: In the midst of turmoil, rediscover the beauty in life’s small moments embracing the simple pleasures that make life meaningful.

I’ve heard from many of you — from different backgrounds and walks of life — since Oct. 7, and I appreciate you reaching out, your support and connecting more than you can imagine. I’ve also heard from many of my Jewish friends sharing the pain of their friends and families who had been murdered, kidnapped, raped and burned alive. I’ve also heard from my friends and family whose amazing sons and daughters are now defending the Jewish people. My heart is aching that our kids need to defend our right to exist and can’t be living the life that any other young adult is living. I’m praying for their safe return home. I’ve heard from my Jewish friends about their fear and anxiety. One even said, “They murdered my people, and now I’m losing friends over it.” I’ve spoken to young adults who fear going to class on college campuses. 

I’m leading a few workshops and safe spaces to share our feelings while we engage in constructive dialogue with the hope of strengthening friendships at a time when we need each other more than ever. 

To effectively communicate with individuals who don’t want to listen and are critical of what you stand for, it’s crucial to recognize the cultural and emotional factors that may influence their perspective. People’s beliefs and emotions are often deeply rooted in their cultural background and personal experiences and/or propaganda they have consumed. Understanding these factors can help you approach the conversation with sensitivity. 

In emotionally charged discussions, it’s important to use communication techniques that reduce defensiveness and create a safe space to foster constructive dialogue. I hope the following tips can help:

  1. Exercise Active and Reflective Listening: Start by actively listening to the other person’s perspective. Allow them to express their concerns and grievances without interruption. Summarize the other person’s points. Repeat back the other person’s emotions and concerns. Acknowledge the validity of the other person’s feelings and experiences, even if you disagree with their conclusions. Show empathy by acknowledging their emotions and concerns.
  2. Bridge Cultural and Emotional Gaps: Many people, on any side of a conflict, have experienced emotional trauma. Be mindful of potential trauma triggers in the conversation. Genuinely acknowledge the pain and suffering that individuals have endured and express your sincere empathy for their experiences. 
  3. Use “I” Statements: Frame your statements using “I” instead of “you.” For example, say, “I believe that…” Instead of “You are wrong because…” Steer clear of words or phrases that may come across as accusatory or judgmental.
  4. Ask Open-Ended Questions: Encourage open dialogue by asking open-ended questions that invite thoughtful responses. This can help shift the conversation from confrontation to exploration.
  5. Find Common Ground: Seek common ground or shared values that can form the basis for a constructive conversation. Show empathy by acknowledging the other person’s emotions and concerns.
  6. Provide Accurate Information: Share well-researched, accurate information and historical context about the conflict. Correct any misconceptions or misinformation politely and respectfully.
  7. Share Personal Stories: Personal stories can humanize complex issues. Share stories of individuals affected by the conflict to help others connect on a human level. Share your emotions and experiences as well. By opening up about your feelings, you can establish a connection with the other person and demonstrate that you, too, are emotionally invested in the cause of peace and resolution.
  8. Stay Calm and Respectful: Be mindful of using language that may trigger a defensive response. Maintain a calm and respectful demeanor, even in the face of passionate debates. Avoid responding with anger or aggression, as this can hinder a productive conversation.
  9. Focus on Solutions: Transition the conversation toward solutions and possibilities for a lasting resolution. Encourage brainstorming and constructive ideas for the future.
  10.  Agree to Disagree: In some cases, it may not be possible to change someone’s opinion, and it’s ok to agree to disagree as long as the disagreement is not on core human values. The goal is not necessarily to convert someone to your viewpoint but to foster mutual understanding and empathy. If the disagreement is on core human values, perhaps you are wasting your time on that relationship. 
  11.  Follow Up: After the initial conversation, consider following up with additional resources, articles or materials that provide perspective on the conflict. Offer to continue the conversation in the future.

It’s essential to remain persistent and patient, understanding that you may not achieve a breakthrough in a single conversation. Remember that this is not a black-and-white issue; there is a great deal of nuance and complexity, and every conversation should acknowledge this. Be prepared for long-term engagement, and don’t become disheartened if progress is gradual. Even when facing resistance or hostility, your efforts to engage in respectful, informed, and empathetic communication can contribute to the broader cause.

Since Oct. 7, my clients know I have had my cell phone with me during our sessions. I need to be there for my family and friends in Israel as much as I need to be present with my clients. Can you imagine, the traumatizing experience of being on the phone with family, colleagues and friends in Israel, and suddenly, the air is pierced by the loud sirens of alarms? These sirens carry with them the dread of imminent danger, the knowledge that a missile has been fired toward your home, your schools and hospitals, and you have only seconds to seek shelter. The sound penetrates not just my ears but my very soul and bones.

It takes me back to the Yom Kippur War, which unfolded five decades ago when I was only six years old, and Israel also experienced a surprise attack. Back then, we had to run to the shelter day and night, a perpetual cycle of fear and uncertainty. I vividly remember being in our home in Israel with every window carefully covered to ensure no light escaped. The fear, the darkness, the urgency — it all left a mark on my heart and deeply impacted me.

This stark reality and the cruel actions we just experienced, highlights the fact that this conflict is not merely about land. It’s about the lives, safety and aspirations at the heart of Western civilization. These values include the welfare of those Palestinians who want to be freed from terror, seek democracy and support the right of the Jewish people to exist. 

When I share my own experiences and emotions with you, it’s not just a narrative; it’s a plea for understanding, empathy and lasting peace. It’s a testament to the resilience and determination of a people who, despite all odds, continue to seek a brighter, safer future. Silence and complacency are not the answer.

My upcoming book, “The Box of Life,” has taken on newfound importance. In our boxes, we aim to capture our purpose in life and the events of our time to — among other things — ensure that future generations learn from our strengths and our mistakes. We want them to remain vigilant to the lessons from the past and do better. Each Box of Life offers a space for introspection and to share where we stand in the grand narrative of history, our values and our commitment to standing up against hate, terror and discrimination. 

I’m eager to rebuild our sanctuaries free from the sounds of sirens and the shadow of fear. In times of adversity, we must strive to be a force of good, to educate, to engage in dialogue, and to stand up with our heads tall against hate and insanity.

If someone opens your Box of Life in 100 years, what will they know about your actions following the horrendous event against the Jewish people that took place on Oct.7, 2023?

With hope and determination, from my sanctuary to yours,


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