Suffering in Israel and Gaza


Thanks so much for your coverage of the current, horrible situation in Israel and Gaza and of the local response in our Jewish community.

As I write this note I am brokenhearted, as so many of us are. So many people in the Israel I have grown up with and love have been killed or kidnapped by Hamas. And so many Palestinians are suffering because of the war, or being killed by the Israel I love.

This is not a “both sides” argument.

This is simply a statement, from a Jew who loves community, internationally and locally, and from a public health physician and poet, about the need to recognize and bear witness to the totality of human suffering.

Jewish tradition is replete with examples of the need to welcome the stranger and honor the suffering of those who are unlike ourselves. After all, we were all created in G-d’s image. At the Passover seder, we place 10 drops of wine on our plates to bear witness to the Egyptians’ suffering from the frightening and cruel 10 plagues. Yes, the Egyptian army that chased us drowned in the sea; we express grief for them as well. But with the 10 blood-colored drops, we recognize Egyptian civilians.

Since Oct. 7, in parts of the Jewish community, I have seen a reluctance to acknowledge the suffering of Palestinians. This is something I find painful, and I have heard from a number of other Jews that this is painful for them as well. Why is it, that when we talk of the killing and wreckage wreaked by Hamas’s orchestrated attack, we cannot mention the Palestinians? Silences are significant. Words matter. By not speaking out about all of those who suffer, we suggest we do not care about the stranger or recognize their humanity.


Joanna D. Brown, MD, MPH


Letter to the editor, Joanna Brown