From the Window: Jewish growth from trauma

Written in Tel Aviv 2 days after Iran’s attack

Alex Luxenberg
4 min readApr 15, 2024

On Saturday night, April 13th, I watched from my hotel window as Iran launched an attack on Israel. I saw defense missiles flying through the night sky. I felt the wake of the fighter jets as they hurried to defend the citizens below.

Allie was at home in NY with our kids — I had called on Shabbat, something we usually don’t do, to let her know I was ok and felt safe (whatever that means).

That evening brought on both the feelings immense of unity and intense solitude.

The feeling of unity came from the fact that everyone was in it together. People on the ground, a collection of the greatest militaries in the world, friends & family refreshing their feeds with disdain and disbelief.

The feeling of solitude came from the challenge in articulating how I felt. In fact, I am still struggling with that. I was watching a war, with my own eyes, in real time. There was someone in the world who wanted to hurt me, physically and psychologically. My family was thousands of miles away.

The feeling of solitude also came from the fact that I knew I was leaving Israel a few days later. Knowing I was leaving the main stage of Jewish history behind, someone else’s heartache, someone else’s sleepless night.

Incredibly I fell asleep at around 4am and when I woke up close to 10am, the darkness seemed to have figuratively subsided as the sun came up.

I woke thinking of the verse from Pslams 92:

“It is a good thing to give thanks to God…

To declare loving kindness in the morning, and faithfulness in the night”

טוֹב לְהֹדוֹת לַה’, וּלְזַמֵּר לְשִׁמְךָ עֶלְיוֹן. לְהַגִּיד בַּבֹּֽקֶר חַסְדֶּֽךָ, וֶאֱמוּנָתְךָ בַּלֵּילוֹת

It is, indeed, the night that calls for faith. Darkness breeds doubt, light enables love.

Perhaps this is the role darkness plays in the narrative of the Exodus story.

Let’s look closely at the text:

We see here that a key feature of the darkness experienced by the Egyptians was that “one could not see another” — more literally, a ‘man couldn’t see his brother’. Whereas the Israelites had ‘light in their dwellings’ — they could, it seems, still see their brothers.

Imagine the Egyptians had just gone through 9 terror inducing plagues and yet they still couldn’t see each other. The first 8 plagues didn’t develop an intense sense of unity amongst the Egyptians but rather drove them further apart.

The Israelites had endured centuries of slavery and dehumanization , yet they had light, they had the capacity to see their brother, they developed a stronger sense of unity.

I woke up Sunday morning and grabbed a taxi from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Was I supposed to acknowledge the events of the night before with the driver? I didn’t want to sound like a foreigner, like someone who didn’t know how to deal with these things. We made the usual small talk. He then asked my brother and I if we were afraid — I responded with the lyrics of a famous Hebrew song : “ The whole entire world is a very narrow bridge and the main thing is to have no fear at all” (Hebrew: כל העולם כולו גשר צר מאוד והעיקר לא לפחד כלל).

We then sang the song together. And kept singing songs of hope for nearly half the ride to Jerusalem.

Israeli wedding 04/14/24

In truth, I had a sense for the playbook. I knew what Judaism said about waking up the next morning with more unity, more hope, more loving kindness. I knew the lyrics, I just hadn’t really ever had to sing them.

After the ancient Israelites left Egypt they go on to lead extraordinary lives. They become the Jewish people. They continue to face adversity and triumph. They learn to not only cope with trauma but to grow from it. They put safe guards in place to make sure each generation, B’Kol Dor v’Dor, knows it’s part of something larger — we’ve seen this trauma before and we’ve prevailed. We too were slaves in Egypt and we went on to build families, a strong set of values, and an amazing people.

What I hadn’t mentioned was that I was in Israel on April 13th to celebrate a wedding. Family and friends from around the world joined the bride and groom in Israel, knowing it was a time of great unrest. They did so because they know that the greatest manifestation and symbol of hope is a Jewish wedding — its the corner stone of the families and values we are so set on building.

Chag Kasher V’Sameach.