Searching for the elusive feeling of Sababa against a backdrop of strife and pain

In Israel there is a word that expresses the feeling that everything is alright or cool. The word is Sababa and it is used by Israeli Hebrew speakers when they are asked to affirm that a situation is ok or copacetic. The groups that I have led to Israel all learn this word and one even can purchase tee shirts that say Sababa. The word actually originates from the Arabic word Tzababa which means great or excellent. The slang word became popular in the 1980s and is now used by all Israelis. It simply reflects a state of mind meaning contentment and feeling at ease as if to say,”I’m good with that!”

Arabic language and Arab culture, especially culinary delights, are intermingled with Israeli Jewish culture. Don’t forget that a large portion of the Jewish population of Israel originated from Arab countries. So plenty of Israeli Jewish communities are equally fluent in Arabic as they are with Hebrew.

That feeling of Sababa on many levels appears to be far off these days. I hope one day that the Jewish families from the southern parts of Israel who are now living in hotels or other places as refugees inside their own country until security is reestablished in Israel will feel that sense of Sababa when they return to their homes along the border with Gaza. And yes I also hope that Palestinians will choose a form of government to live in peace with Israel.

So now it is clear when I say that we are not in a place of Sababa in Israel or in America. Israel and Jewish communities around the world are in state of shock not just in coping with Hamas’ terrorism but also with the level of Palestinian inspired anti-Israel sentiment particularly in America from college students and academics. American Jews are facing down protests and demonstrations in support of Hamas and its terrorism. The disconcerting and half-hearted reactions by university presidents from so-called America’s elite universities that attempted to show a moral equivalency between the ravages of Isis styled Hamas butchery against Israelis and Israel’s response to defend itself and secure the release of the 240 hostages in Gaza has angered and antagonized Jewish communities nationwide. Clearly in dark times there is no room for Sababa.

The ripple effects of Hamas’ unbridled hate to execute the Israelis along with Israel’s pursuit of these terrorists in Gaza has led to an enormous outgrowth of anti-semitism in America and throughout the world. A cashier in the bank said to me, “Rabbi, I don’t understand why people simply don’t like Jews.” Antisemitism is a battle being waged in the streets of Gaza as well as on social media throughout the world.

We can watch with our own eyes how pro Hamas groups threaten the lives of Jewish students on campus. University officials appear ambivalent and too busy playing both sides of the political fence rather than being moral exemplars towards reestablishing security and reaffirming core values why this kind of behavior is wrong and dangerous.

To people who have little or no knowledge of the Middle East and Israel’s history in particular believe in Hamas and Palestinian propaganda through social media or cable news. Of course there are different narratives about history in this land over the last one hundred years. It is still important to read and to educate ourselves about the history of this land from credible sources. Let there be debate. Protests are not bad. The problem is that the constituents of Hamas and Palestinian aspirations for a state end up spreading the poison of anti-Jewish feelings throughout the nation against Jewish Americans. For Jewish people in America is it not enough to contend with the legions of white supremacists? Now Jews must also face Hamas inspired hate from the opposite side of the political spectrum in American society. No Sababa here in our country.

There are plenty of Jewish people I know who are deeply pained by casualties from collateral damage in Gaza. They are also anguished by the unwillingness of Hamas to release hostages. Why is it that that fact seems to get lost in the Palestinian narrative? Where are the hostages? Let them all go! Clearly there is a trust problem here. No trust means no Sababa.

Yet, despite all the misunderstanding and the hate that afflicts Israel, there comes a moment when Sababa is possible. I found myself in a zoom meeting with a young couple in need of my services to marry them at the last minute. They had the bride’s best friend scheduled to fly in from Israel with her husband to officiate here in Hilton Head at a local hotel for the ceremony. Suddenly Hamas butchered 1400 Israelis and Israel called up their reserves up for duty. Her husband was one of them summoned to military service. She understandably could not leave Israel without her husband. So I filled in and, once again, we see how the ripples of war change lives and sometimes can actually bring out the best in us. The wedding went on and it was Sababa.

I ask my fellow American citizens to oppose the anti-semitism in our country from all sides of the political and religious spectra. I caution us not to be fooled by Hamas tactics and propaganda. They are effective at portraying Israel as the oppressor when, in truth, Hamas initiated this unfathomably cruel incursion into Israel. Recent reporting from the New York Times said that they did this to save the Palestinian cause. Their insatiable appetite to commit genocide against Israel is no way to sustain the possibility of a two state solution between Israel and Palestinians. Their religious ideology like Isis seeks war and not peace to achieve the eradication of Israel. It’s not that complicated!

Hamas and their supporters will pay the price for their defeat militarily but they will also pay the price for sacrificing their own people to this war. Iran, the instigator and behind the scenes funder of Hamas and Hezbollah, will hopefully face its own defeat. Israel has its own issues that it will have to contend with which will occupy its time and energy. The damage has been done and building a new future for Israel will require it to face those difficult issues in its politics and in its military readiness as well asking hard questions about how these different segments will work together in the future. Israelis will debate the moral and spiritual repercussions of this war too.

Despite all these complicated matters, I have never lost hope in a future for peace and mutual co-existence between Israeli Jews and Arab residents of the Promised Land. A congregant asked, “Peace can come right Rabbi ?” I responded, “Of course, Sababa!