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Day 158: Iron Swords War

By Leah Garber

The Jewish nation overcame an incredible series of troubles and harms that according to the way of nature cannot be endured. This prolonged existence, contrary to historical logic, is the most wonderful thing.
– Herman Wouk

Earlier this week, one of the glittering events of the year took place in Hollywood—the Academy Awards ceremony. In luxurious gowns and suits and with sparkling smiles, America’s most glamorous entertainment industry celebrities walked the red carpet, weaving elegantly toward the cameras, scattering glowing stardust.

It was a colorful display, dominated by red. Many celebrities accessorized with red pins symbolizing their call for a cease-fire in Gaza and justice for the people of Palestine. With a righteous expression, they wore the pins on their garments. The colorful palette of the red carpet, however, was missing the yellow ribbons calling for the release of 134 Israelis held captive in Gaza for 158 days. Hollywood celebrities calling for a cease-fire without the release of the hostages promotes the agenda of Hamas and denies Israel’s right to self-defense.

The Oscars and its red carpet parade are more than just another glitter-filled event. They’re a platform where celebrities share their opinions—in support or condemnation of political campaigns and current events. As influencers, they have the power to shape the opinions of their followers. Of course, their followers typically are not looking to explore or understand the truth but rather to imitate the state of mind of their favorite pop artists, actors, and celebrities.

Superficiality at its best and ignorance of the basic facts.

For years, Hamas, a radical, fundamentalist Islamic organization, has been calling for the destruction of Israel and rejects any form of peace negotiations. Hamas brutally initiated an attack on Israel 158 days ago. The terrorists’ aggression against Israel was a blatant violation of the standing cease-fire. On October 7, Hamas slaughtered 1,200 innocent Israelis, kidnapped 250, and launched hundreds of missiles toward Israeli civilian targets. Hamas initiated this war.

Hamas denies civil rights to members of the LGBTQIA community and perpetrates acts of violence, discrimination, and harassment against them. Many LGBTQIA Palestinians have sought refuge elsewhere, including in Israel. Ignoring these basic, well-known facts is a miserable, shallow stand that, first and foremost, embarrasses allies of those within the LGBTQIA community across the world. Furthermore, by failing to agree to a cease-fire now, Hamas, is preventing their own people, the residents of Gaza, from celebrating Ramadan, a month of intense spiritual rejuvenation marked by fasting, prayer, reflection, and community.

With the beginning of Ramadan earlier this week, senior Hamas officials increased their efforts to set Israel and the entire Middle East on fire. Sadly, these leaders see the holiday as an opportunity to expand the violence beyond the borders of Gaza into the State of Israel. They are eager to see clashes on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and are calling on Israeli Arabs to take to the streets to partake in violent riots against Israel. During a month that should be dedicated to spirituality, family, and peaceful pursuits, Hamas is attempting to incite more violence and killing.Instead of striving to grant temporary relief to their people, Hamas prefers to ignite flames that deepen hatred and violence.

Is this what those wearing red pins in Hollywood support? Do they even know what they support, or is it that red looks better on their gowns than any other color?

Jews have never been pampered by the world’s love. We’re used to being ostracized and excluded. We know what it means to be the “least popular kid on the block.” We are accustomed to accusing fingers pointed at us and always being blamed for the world’s ills. This has been our sad fate since the dawn of history. Indeed, the holiday of Purim, which we will celebrate later this month, commemorates Haman’s hatred for the Jewish people and his desire to kill all the Jews in the Persian empire in the 5th century B.C. And this current global hypocrisy and disregard for Israeli suffering in the face of our enemy’s barbarism is extremely painful.

I have never felt as proud to be Israeli as I have during these last 158 days. I know that the war we are engaged in, out of existential necessity, is a just war, and we must fight it. Thankfully, many in the world have a similar understanding and recognize that if Israel does not continue its efforts to eradicate Hamas, the events of October 7 will be repeated against us again and again. We have no choice but to respond to these unprecedented threats—just as any nation would do in the face of similar risks.

War exacts painful sacrifices on all sides. Israeli soldiers put themselves at risk in battle to avoid killing innocent Gazans, and there is no joy in the death of innocents. But when these same innocent residents of Gaza are used by their own people, by Hamas terrorists, as cannon fodder, Israel cannot be blamed for the atrocities of the war.

A few weeks ago, U.N. Under-Secretary-General Pramila Patten, the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, and a delegation of experts from the fields of medicine and law visited Israel to gather evidence of the Hamas terrorist attacks. The delegation’s report presents a wealth of evidence of sexual assaults and violence—including rape, gang rape, rape of corpses, genital mutilation, nakedness, and tying up corpses, among other crimes— on October 7 and confirms sexual abuse perpetrated against those kidnapped and held captive by Hamas.

Yesterday, Israel’s minister of foreign affairs and 40 family members of hostages presented at the U.N. Security Council hearing, which dealt with Under-Secretary-General Pramila Patten’s report. One by one, the family members and some previously released hostages shared details about the horrors, the abuses, and the sexual assaults—things they would rather forget. In their remarks, they revealed scars that never stop bleeding, wounds that refuse to heal.

What is most upsetting to the families is hearing absurd accusations that Patten’s report is based on fabrications. The only thing worse than the crime itself is that others try to deny it. The denial stings the victims again and again, constantly bringing them back to the event itself.

The seventh of October happened. Unfortunately, the wheel cannot be turned back. It is impossible to revive the massacred or pretend that the blackest day, the most terrible of all days, did not happen.

But what we can do and should do is continually remind the world that those atrocities happened. They were acts of brutal terrorists against innocent people, without any provocation whatsoever from Israel. We must remind the world that the terrorists have not ever expressed any remorse. On the contrary, Hamas leaders continue to say that if they could, they would repeat the events of the massacre again and again.

Those who wear the red pins must consider the facts. All of them. They must search for the full truth. They cannot simply lean on what’s making headlines and adopt it as their worldview.

It’s hard to be hated. It’s exhausting, draining, and frustrating, and one doesn’t ever get used to it.

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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