It is the end of the first day of what has been dubbed the 2023 Iron Swords War between Israel and the terrorist organization, Hamas. This day has seen an unprecedented change in the way Hamas operates: numerous Hamas terrorists broke through the security wall between southern Israel and Gaza, and entered Israeli towns and villages, where they massacred, terrorized and kidnapped hundreds of Israelis. Rockets continue to rain down on southern and central Israel unabated.
By the end of the day, unofficial counts included:
600 dead civilians,
180 kidnapped (80 of whom are supposedly still alive)
22 police dead,
120 dead Israeli soldiers.
And these numbers are rising all the time. Hundreds of Israelis remain unaccounted for.
Many young Israelis who had been attending an all-night rave in the desert near the Gaza Strip were the target of the brutal Hamas murders and kidnappings. A young Israeli couple, Noa Argamani and her boyfriend, Avinatan Or, were captured on video being separated by Hamas terrorists and Noa was bundled onto a motorcycle, screaming for her boyfriend and holding out her hands to him, only to be whisked away while Avinatan continued to be marched into Hamas-controlled territory by a bevy of Hamas operatives. Shani Louk, a German citizen who attended the same rave, was seen in a video, her dead body and dreadlocks splayed at the back of a pickup truck, with Hamas terrorists cheering around her body. In another video clip, an unidentified dead Israeli soldier was seen being pushed out of a car, the victim's blood, a brilliant red through the blur of the video, while Hamas terrorists gathered around to kick and demean the dead body, yelling "Takbir" and "Allahu Ackbar".
We do not share these stories to sensationalize the horrific events; we share them to help you understand the gross reality of what transpired today, and to internalize just how barbaric and unprecedented today's attack was. Israel has been in situations of conflict with the Palestinians in the past; what happened today was something different. The Hamas terrorists - in their coordinated attack - showed a level of barbarism and evil that 1. had not been demonstrated before, and 2. Israel did not expect.
What we witnessed today was the adoption of the techniques employed by ISIS during its cruel campaign of terror and subjugation during its march to a caliphate at its peak in 2014. We are unsure of what Hamas will do to the captives who are alive and deep in the heart of enemy territory. If we were to hypothesize, we can shudderingly expect brutal torture, barbaric rapes, videoed executions and the defiling of the bodies of those innocent civilians, as Hamas and its supporters share candy, ululate with victory, and glorify a god who delights in the deaths of innocents.
This brings us to a question many in Israel are openly wondering, and, we are sure, pro-Israel Trinidadians are also wondering: how in heaven's name did this happen?
We often operate under the (mostly false) assumption that Israel is undefeatable and infallible. We assume (oftentimes erroneously) that Israel has managed to win the upper hand in the overall conflict with the Palestinians. Today's events have demonstrated, forcefully and decisively: this is entirely untrue. In fact, the sheer magnitude of the attack has raised many subsequent questions about how this attack could have taken place; that is, how could the IDF, the Shin Bet, the Mossad and all other apparatuses of Israeli security been caught so unaware? If we look at the 1973 Yom Kippur war - which occurred, to the very date as today's attack fifty years ago, and which equally caught Israel as unaware as today's pogrom - the parallels are too eerie. What lessons did Israel not learn? Did the focuses on domestic spats (the protest movements, the judicial overhaul, the formations and breaking apart of governments over the past four years, to just name a few examples) make the government drop the ball, which led to this senseless and horrific attack on Israeli sovereignty, the mass loss of Israeli lives, the unprecedented kidnapping of at least one hundred and eighty Israelis? Indeed, who is to be held accountable for this unthinkable act of mass murder?
For Understanding Israel Foundation, for our members, for pro-Israel supporters around the world, for diaspora Jews and for Israelis, October 7th, 2023 marks a somber reminder of how tenuous Israel's existence is and how vulnerable Israel is to the many threats which surround her. Israel's existence is not guaranteed. The State of Israel did not blink into existence out of nothing, and the State of Israel does not continue to exist solely based on God's kind graces. Thousands of Jews fought and continue to fight for this tiny sliver of land - the Jewish national homeland - and it is up to every pro-Israel supporter around the world to realize that the continued existence of Israel is entirely contingent upon the many Israelis and Jews who continue to defend the nation in ways which we are able to see and ways which are hidden from the public eye. Tangible support for Israel is paramount for Israel's continued existence. Advocacy, speaking out, educating ourselves and donating to Israeli charities go hand-in-hand with prayer and love. If tangible methods are not employed to assist Israel in guaranteeing her continued existence, then what is the point of prayer and love?
Tonight, as the war deepens and Israel prepares to strike back in defense, the roads in Israel are empty of civilian cars. Israeli soldiers have been called up to serve; reservists and active duty soldiers alike are preparing for a war which they did not expect a mere twenty-four hours ago. The nation of Israel is, once again at war, and the blood of the people of Israel are once more being put on the line to defend, to protect and to ensure Israel's continued existence. While we ask you to keep every Israeli soldier and every Israeli civilian in your prayers, in the coming days, we will provide links to Israeli charities which you can give to, in order to tangibly give to Israel. We will continue to work tirelessly to educate and advocate for Israel; and we ask, humbly, for your contribution to our team as we strive to be the voice of the pro-Israel community in this country.
On Monday 9th October, 2023 at 7:30PM, we have invited Israel educator and US political activist, Steven Goldstein, to speak to Trinidadians in an online event which seeks to educate about the current situation Israel has found herself in, and to explain the possible outcomes of the war. Goldstein received his B.A. from Brandeis University, an M.P.P. (Master in Public Policy) from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, an M.S. from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and his J.D. from Columbia Law School. He was co-campaign manager for Jon Corzine for U.S. Senate in New Jersey in 2000. He had previously worked for the U.S. Congress as press secretary to U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg, and as a counsel to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee. He worked as a television producer as well, winning 10 regional Emmy Awards. He is currently a rabbinical student in Philadelphia and lectures at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. This is a free event, and we urge you to attend and to share this information with anyone you think who may be interested in learning more. Join the discussion on Monday 9th October, 2023 using this link or copying the following into your browser: https://meet.google.com/cmv-owdf-jto
We know the news and the images today would have been difficult for all pro-Israel supporters to stomach, but in closing, we wish to leave you with a meme shared by Yirmiyahu Danzig, an Israeli-American-Guyanese Jew who moved to Israel and works tirelessly to advocate for Israel in international spaces. This meme is meant to remind us that, despite all attempts to destroy the Jewish people, the enemies of Israel have never succeeded. Not the Nazis, not the combined Arab armies of the 20th century, not Haman, not the Romans, and not the Amalekites.
Am Yisrael chai - the people of Israel live.
(You may follow Yirmiyahu on Instagram at this link.)