Is life ever just plain normal? Does every day come chock full of surprises, the unanticipated, the unknown, and the really terrible? Is this really what it’s all about? Can’t we have some boredom, ennui, falling asleep on the couch with the sounds of calm waves lapping, and serenity accentuating a beautiful fall day?

I presume not! At least lately, the news rapidly escalates from horrible to tragic and unbelievable. Just about nothing is as we’d like it to be.

Don’t believe me? I think you do! Even though there have been plenty of wars in our modern Jewish history, too many war, it seems there’s always room for another, filled with pain and loss, killing our young chayalim as if they were totally dispensable, as if they were mere numbers, not cherished sons and daughters.

If you’ve ever observed Yom ha Zikaron in Israel, you’ll know that not a single one of the victims is forgotten, ever, ever, ever. Just turn on the television on that emotional day and watch their stories. Roll back the clock to the excited families on the day of their sons’ britot and their daughters’ baby namings, and then fast forward to their b’nai mitzvah. The advent of video means that we are all part of their journeys, their family stories. We view the happiest of times, knowing just by the fact that they are on the TV that the ending will be a tragedy. We view the proud mothers welcoming their children into the world, knowing that what comes later will bring us great pain. Israel does not commemorate their memorial day with department store sales or trips to the beach. The entire country drowns in tears.

And thus it was the worst of days, another day of fear and terror, that October 7, a mere few weeks ago, when an unanticipated brutal war once again shattered the peace and the joyful holiday of Simchat Torah. It was not the jelly apples that will be from now until forever the symbol of that formerly happy day. It will now be remembered for death, destruction, dismembered babies, horrific rapes, torture, and every kind of evil that evil men can conjure. And once again, the young men and women of a generation that sought peace are called upon to fight and sacrifice. They who only wanted to play soccer or learn or dream of bright tomorrows are, in a fleeting instant, destroyed, only to be remembered by the happy smiles on their videos.

This outburst of brutal war came as an overwhelming surprise. It was unexpected. The Land went from peace to war in seconds. The shock was unbearable.

What else remained unexpected? At first the entire world seemed to know that Israel was the victim in a horrific attack. Sympathies were with us. That is no victory, but it is a sign that the rest of the Earth that we share with numerous other countries and people, at least, supported us and cared about us.

That spirit of community left the battlefield within hours. We went from being victims to being pariahs. It happened very quickly. It remains in force. We have become the attackers. It is we who have become the bombastic aggressors, guilty of war crimes. War crimes! We, with the most moral army in the history of the world, are war criminals! Forget what you see and what you read. Forget about the insane brutality of Hamas. Our sweet and loving children, devoted dear ones to an endless adoring line of mothers and fathers, are war criminals! That is the shock of living in this world, that it has switched criminality from the persecutors to the victims, that a world of killers has one nation and one army to blame for their own crimes. Ours!

But if that’s not nearly enough, cast your eyes and ears to the formerly finest universities in these United States, places where our own children, our Jewish American youth, have been subjected to abuse and insult in formerly safe bastions of democracy and respect, one for the other. With great speed the reputations of places like Harvard, Barnard, Columbia, and numerous others, places that spoke to our children about learning poetry, music, philosophy, and great literature, have deteriorated to deep invasive threads of Jew hatred. We have suddenly learned what our neighbors’ children and those who profess to teach them really think about us. We are a sub-species. We are the criminal and the violent and the unsafe. And, lest we ignore the terrifying symptoms of a world ensconced in antisemitism, we have our history books to teach us that bad things breed worse things. Be prepared. We live in a dangerous neighborhood.

And do you want to know what other surprises are in store for us and our people? We are facing a very difficult and problematic election in 2024. Joe Biden, our president and a seemingly nice and humble guy, obviously has an ego issue. In spite of his lingering deficits at the polls, in spite of the fact that he is tired and clumsy of motion and speech, and that his age alone should place him on a recliner chair, he insists on running for president again. What is it with these guys anyway? Americans typically don’t wait until they’re in their 80s to retire. And serving as president clearly requires someone physically and mentally in top tier shape. He’s visibly not and he’s not going to get better. I personally know! We elderly do not get younger. We get older and more feeble. That’s just life!

Dear Joe, you have been a good friend to Israel. I am very grateful for your concern for us and your strong posture toward our enemies. Really I am. But that’s a good note for you to look into the rearview mirror and wave farewell. Better to retire now than when the decline is steeper. It doesn’t get better, Joe. I can personally attest to that. It never has and never will. Please, if you love this country, do it now. We can live without you, really we can.

You remind me of the other person I respected and admired until I thought more about her, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She has been idolized by so many that we don’t reflect enough on what she actually did to us. She let her own ego get in the way. Thus we have a fiercely right-wing Supreme Court empowered by the likes of Donald Trump and company. Justice Ginsburg easily could have anticipated what would happen and stepped down in time to prevent it. She did not, and the nation is paying the price.

But let us face another terrible shock that may yet await us, the possiblity, as impossible and improbable as it seems, of Trump becoming president yet again. He too is an old man, wildly prone to gaffes and errors of information. He’s a mere very few years younger than Biden, poorly educated, with a propensity for using incorrect language, an inability to spell, and a criminal record of monumental proportion. He’s a shyster, a world-renowned liar, and the owner of a vast record of incompetency before, during, and after his presidential term. It clearly speaks very poorly for our country to have elected him once. To do so twice would be a fatal blow to our democracy. He tells us he is out for retribution. It’s time to believe him.

As kids we loved surprises. Not any more.

Rosanne Skopp of West Orange is a wife, mother of four, grandmother of 14, and great-grandmother of four. She is a graduate of Rutgers University and a dual citizen of the United States and Israel. She is a lifelong blogger, writing blogs before anyone knew what a blog was!

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