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Day 97: Iron Swords War


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By Leah Garber

So often during the last 97 days, all I wanted was to go back to sleep and wake up from this horrible nightmare to a new morning, shake off the remnants of the horrors that I dreamt, and realize that October 7th didn’t really happen. It was just a bad dream. If only…

But for 97 days I have been waking up to a reality that is worse than any nightmare could possibly be. Even in the worst of hallucinations, it is impossible to imagine human hands beheading babies, burning people alive, brutally raping women and children, and holding 136 people captive for nearly 100 days.

But it happened.

Worse than anything a distorted imagination might envision has happened, and Israel is reacting—responding with determination, responsibility, and as any sovereign country would if its citizens were slaughtered with monstrous brutality. Israel is not reacting out of a sense of revenge, but from its basic duty to keep its citizens safe. Israel reacts to ensure that the heinous murderers—who expressed no remorse for their actions and vowed to repeat them over and over—will not be able to do so.

This morning, I awoke to another day of living alongside the war, but today the usual anguished feeling is accompanied by frustration and rage that I haven’t felt in a long time, and perhaps never. I can feel the pain in my bones. It clutches at me and is suffocating.

Today, January 11, 2024, is a day to remember.

It’s the day the International Court of Justice gave way to record-breaking hypocrisy, by hosting an absurd show in the name of international justice. This day will be remembered as a disgrace.

Who would have believed that despite the overwhelming evidence—including that provided by the murderers themselves; the documents; the films; the mutilated bodies; and the cries of 136 abductees—those who stand in the dock today in The Hague are not the terrorists of Hamas, but the State of Israel. Israel, a country that woke up on the morning of a holiday to the deafening noise of dozens of rockets fired all over the country without any provocation. Israel, a country that for years has had tens of thousands of missiles aimed at its civilian population.

On that one day, 1,300 people were murdered. Entire communities were destroyed, and the one standing in the dock is not the attacker, but the attacked. There is not enough soil to contain all the graves, not enough tears to cry all the sorrow. What world are we living in?!

Does the fact that Baby K’fir celebrated his first birthday in captivity this week—without a birthday cake, candles to brighten the darkness, gifts, smiles, or hope—keep the prosecutors awake at night? How is it possible to ignore the fact that after 90 days (!) families were informed that their loved ones were murdered on October 7, and after all this time required to identify a lump of coal as the remains, based on a tiny piece of embroidery and work in sophisticated forensic laboratories? How are these people not squirming in their seats?

As parents, what goes through the prosecutors’ minds when they hear about the fear in Israel that hostages still in Gaza may have become pregnant because of the brutal gang rape they endured?

Israel’s Foreign Ministry announced that the accusations South Africa has made against Israel are baseless lies and the most hypocritical in history. In a public statement, the ministry said South Africa was being used as a judicial arm of the Hamas terror group and had presented a perverted account of the October 7 massacre that completely ignored the Hamas atrocities and the kidnapping of civilians as hostages.

How dare the prosecutors ignore the fact that Hamas uses its own civilian population in Gaza as human shields and operates from hospitals, schools, U.N. shelters, mosques, and churches—all with the intent to endanger the lives of residents of the Gaza Strip. Hamas commits crimes against its own people and against all humanity, but the one who stands as a defendant is Israel.

Maybe I am having a nightmare after all, and I’ll wake up soon. Will we all wake up?

If in the last 97 days my tears were salty ones of pain, today they are bitter and stinging. Apparently, that’s the taste of rage.

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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