For sale: Newlywed sofa, never used

A newlywed couple ordered a lovely sofa for their home. In true Israeli style, it was delivered later than anticipated. Too late. 

By the time it arrived at the couples’ new apartment, the husband had been murdered by Hamas terrorists.

Here in Israel, all of the usual things — regular life, a new sofa — all of this was cruelly and unequivocally appropriated by Oct. 7. There is language we now use that we thought we’d never use, like pogroms and massacre; and the things we were used to saying, we now can’t. I mean, how can you ever say again, “We are going to need to pick up the pieces,” after what happened in the Gaza envelope?

Our dreams have been invaded. Regular meetings that had a sense of order about them turn on their head. A lawyer in a “regular” work meeting tells you, in response to your question about his green wristband, that he is currently serving in the reserves, where his job is to identify bodies. That he has too much work to do there — still, three weeks later — but came out for a couple of hours to attend this meeting.

All of this is to say that what we are facing in Israel is nothing less than an onslaught on our sense of being alive. The temptation to collapse into melancholy, rage, despair and fear is imminent and ubiquitous. 

We’ve been at the edge of the precipice. And we are taking a giant step back. Collectively. 

I cannot understate how much force and effort and courage is going into this step. It is gargantuan.

What I am trying to describe is an internal and external battle by all of us now in Israel to be able to smile again, breathe again, sleep again.

And we have begun. We are talking about the atrocities. We are getting married. We delight in newborn babies. We are going out just a little to spend time with our partners. We are giving endlessly. We are preparing to protect our country.

I’m a believing person but haven’t felt so close to the idea of faith as I do today. It is faith in the people of Israel and the Jewish people.

We have grit. And honesty. And intense love. So much love we can tear ourselves apart at times. But today it is our most potent source of strength. A love for each other.

A belief in this country.

Israel is, to coin a phrase, the place where our covenant of destiny and our covenant of fate meet: it is the place that both gives us sublime purpose, and that indiscriminately connects us in the face of our enemies. 

With this awareness, we are fighting the fight of our lives.

My friend overseas told me that she looks at us and it reminds her of the fight she had in her when she battled cancer.

Our purpose has never been clearer. To live as free people in our homeland. To be alive. Again.

This isn’t like another war.

This is the battle for the re-creation of Israel. It is our 1948.

And I know that we are ready. We have the resourcefulness and courage and tenacity to face evil and be good and healthy and broken but whole again.

I know there will be a day not far from now when a young couple will curl up for their first kiss on that sofa, that kids will jump on that sofa, they will be told to “Get off that sofa now,” parents will fall asleep on that sofa, grandparents will hold hands on that sofa. That sofa will be used. By us all.

Sarah Mali is the director general of the Jewish Federations of Canada.