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Day 136: Iron Swords War

By Leah Garber

It’s been 136 days since the greatest disaster befell the State of Israel and the Jewish people since the Holocaust.

It’s been 136 nights in which the dawn has not yet come, and the time for a new day has not yet arrived.

It’s been 136 days in which we’ve looked directly into the face of evil—again and again and again—and each time we are exposed to its full monstrosity, which keeps growing with each nightmarish day.

It’s been 136 days since the Bibas family was kidnapped from their home on Kibbutz Nir Oz—Yarden, the father; Shiri, the mother;  4-year-old Ariel; and 9-month-old Kfir, the youngest hostage taken in the October 7 attacks. Baby Kfir is the youngest hostage ever kidnapped from his home, taken from the life he knows by savage terrorists. Shiri’s parents also were abducted from their kibbutz and were later found murdered.

The video of Shiri holding her redheaded children in her arms, a look of terror on her face as an evil arm holds her shoulder and she is surrounded by terrorists, has become an iconic image of October 7. This image tells the entire story of that one horrible day.

Shiri and her children were expected to be released in the multi-day ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas in November. The fact they weren’t nor has any evidenced-backed information about their well-being been released is a violation of the ceasefire agreement. Hamas claimed Shiri and her children had been killed in Gaza, but there has been no proof—just empty, vicious words. As long as Hamas fails to present clear evidence that they are not alive, Israel assumes otherwise and continues its efforts to free them.

A few hours ago, Israel Defense Force spokesman Brigadier General Daniel Hagari released videos and photos found by IDF soldiers that show that Shiri and her two children arrived alive in Gaza on the day they were abducted. It is difficult to identify baby Kfir in the photos, but the IDF believes Shiri is holding him in a carrier like the one he was in at the time they were taken.

This is what the face of evil looks like.

The horror in Shiri’s face is the reflection of evil.

Such uncertainty about a baby, his toddler brother, and their mother is the face of absolute evil.

It is unconscionable that we do not know which of the hostages are alive, which are sick, and which may be fighting for their last breath. Nor do we know which of them may be pregnant as a result of continuous rape and which have lost the will to live and all hope of ever seeing the face of the sun again.

This is the face of evil.

This is the face of Hamas.

And this diabolical evil knows no bounds.

The wound torn open on October 7 in the heart of our entire nation continues to bleed. The blood refuses to clot, the skin is unable to weave itself together to heal. How can they, while the Bibas family and 130 others remain in captivity? How can our pain be reduced as poisoned hatred keeps pouring into our injured, aching heart, mocking our anguish and grief?

As long as so many in the Western, enlightened, modern world see Hamas, a terrorist organization, as a legitimate entity and, out of ridiculous ignorance, call them “freedom fighters,” there will be no cure for our pain. As long as the bloodthirsty murderers who kidnapped Shiri and her children are seen as legitimate, our wound will continue to bleed and fester.

Today brings hope that the Bibas family is still alive, perhaps hidden somewhere in the dungeons of Gaza. This day also intensifies our pain in the face of the enemy’s cruelty and the opacity of the world that refuses to look directly into the evil eyes and see the truth, the facts, not the lies spread by our enemies. I pray that hope does not turn to hopelessness and that today’s proof that Shiri and her children arrived in Gaza alive and seemingly healthy increases their chances of surviving the atrocities there.

It is my wish that little Kfir—who must have already learned to crawl and walk—will, hand-in-hand with his brother, Ariel, and their parents, come out of the beast’s jaws and that they will learn to smile again, to glow like the red of their hair, and to look at a better, brighter tomorrow—when the dawn will finally rise, and a new day will break.

I pray that the Bibas family and all the other hostages are still alive, safe, and sound. I still have hope and am not yet hopeless.

Together, united, we will overcome.

Leah Garber is a senior vice president of JCC Association of North America and director of its Center for Israel Engagement in Jerusalem.

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