(RNS) — As Hamas began its surprise attack on Israel over the weekend, Shemini Atzeret, the final festival of the fall holiday season for Jews, had just begun. “I left my house … to walk to shul, and saw a police car pull up … and officers — not regular patrolmen — get out of it,” Rivka P. Schwartz, a New York City school principal, posted online days later. “Then I walked the few blocks to my shul and saw another police car parked in front, with more officers outside. And that’s how I knew.”
Most Orthodox Jews, who refrain from using electricity on the holiday, just as they would on the Sabbath, saw signs of an extraordinary event without being able to turn on televisions, radios or cellphones to find out more.
“The reason there would have been police presence all of the sudden outside various identifiably Jewish sites in New York is because that’s what they do when something’s wrong.” Schwartz later told Religion News Service. “What I didn’t know was what it was.”
Because Jewish holidays last a day longer across the diaspora, and including the time difference between the United States and Israel, many American Orthodox Jews, who often have relatives in Israel or other personal ties to the country, didn’t find out the full scope of the assault until it was 44 hours old, and 47 for the West Coast.
Schwartz’s fe …