By Leah Garber
The parents of October 7, 2023
“A global humanitarian catastrophe” is how Rachel Goldberg-Poulin—the mother of 23-year-old Hersh who was kidnapped to Gaza after the massacre at the Nova Festival—defined the scenario of horrors she, her family, and the other families of the kidnapped, missing, and murdered have faced since October 7. Rachel made these remarks at the United Nations yesterday, which included this poignant question:
The cruelest question we are asked every day, without malicious intent, is “How are you?” Well, imagine your mother. Then imagine that she is given only two options: either you die, or your arm is blown off and you are kidnapped at gunpoint to Gaza, and no one knows where you are, or if you bled to death on that van 18 days ago. Or if you died yesterday. Or if you died five minutes ago.
Yoni Asher’s daughters, Raz, 4½-years old, and Aviv, only 2½-years-old, were kidnapped with his wife from Kibbutz Nir Oz. This is how he describes the nightmare he has been living since October 7:
What can you do when you know they are in this darkness? How can you not lose your mind, break out of the house, and scream like you’re on fire? Your children are in the land of the enemy. The worst is when night falls, you don’t want night to fall.
Parenting is a lifelong mission, 24/7, non-stop. Caring for a crying baby at night, every night, is as difficult as worrying for them when they grow up, when they are late returning home after hanging out with friends, when they get their driver’s license, the constant worry and sleepless nights when they join the army, and then when they are off to their traditional post-army trip to the East. Our children will always be our children. There is no expiration date for parenting, and the care that goes along with it is our life’s mission. It is our privilege and gift.
Now imagine, if you dare, what the parents of the murdered children are going through when today they saw an IDF spokesperson presenting a note found on the body of one of the Hamas terrorists who was killed on one of the kibbutzim. The note revealed the monstrous directives the terrorists received before they set out on their killing spree. In the note, the terrorists were instructed to decapitate, remove hearts and livers, and trace the victims. They were told to imitate former Muslim leaders who slaughtered men, sold women and children into slavery, and looted cities. Now imagine, if you can, what the parents of the murdered and kidnapped children are going through knowing the satanic intentions of the murderers and their operators.
How can these parents cuddle in their soft, warm bed at night, knowing their child is all alone. How can they bathe, eat, hug, shed a tear and expect comfort, breathe? How can they keep living knowing their child is abandoned in Gaza, at the mercy of their cruel captors? How can these parents wake up in the morning, get dressed, go to work, plan, knowing their child was slaughtered in an inhuman way, that their last sight was the murderous eye of a terrorist, knife in hand?
Imagine the parents of the children who were lucky, the ones who were saved, survived the inferno but came out of it wounded in their souls, traumatized for life. How can one calm a child who has suffered the worst of evil, seen what hell looks like, and now is asked to move on, play, draw, be a child? How can parents comfort them, promise this will never happen again? How can they expect these children to be willing to return to what’s left of their home in the south? How will these parents accompany their children to a kindergarten room with all the empty seats telling the stories of the dead?
How are the parents whose children were slaughtered, dismembered, burned, or dragged to Gaza expected to feel when in yesterday’s speech at the U.N., the U.N. secretary-general condemned the actions of Hamas and justified the terrorists’ actions—or minimally offered a reason for the malicious massacre—by saying, “Hamas attacks did not occur in a vacuum.”? What an outrageous statement, and more so, coming from the U.N. By contrast, Yair Lapid, former prime minister of Israel and current leader of the opposition in Israel asks some important questions.
What else needs to happen for reality to hit minds, penetrate hearts, change hypocrisy? Is an exhibition of severed limbs and charred bodies necessary to understand the full extent of the horror? If so, the honorable secretary-general is invited to visit Israel and assist in efforts to identify the bodies. Maybe then, the reality will hit him.
Dozens of bears with pictures of the kidnapped children were placed in Dizengoff Square in Tel Aviv.
More painful days and sleepless nights await the parents and families whose loved ones are in Gaza. The least we can all do is embrace them, pray with them, hope for the return of the abducted children and all the other hostages. Let them know their children are all our children.
The sound of the parents’ cry must penetrate every human heart, shake every soul, break through the walls of evil, and let the sun’s rays bring hope—even if only a bit.
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.