בשלב זה ישראל מקבלת תמיכה ממרבית מדינות המערב. אך יש סיכוי שעם ההתקדמות של מבצע צבאי של צה”ל ברצועת עזה, התמיכה תלך ותרד עם עליית הנפגעים בצד הפלסטיני (photo by Roni Rachmani)
המלחמה הקשה שמתנהלת בימים אלה בין ישראל לחאמס ויכולה להתפשט לחזיתות נוספות, צפוייה להשפיע לרעה על חיי יהודים וישראלים הגרים בקנדה, ארה”ב, אירופה ומקומות אחרים. הם צפויים לעמוד מול איומים שונים של פלסטינים ותומכיהם שמאשימים את ישראל גם במשבר הנוכחי. תומכי הפלסטינים קוראים להקמת מדינה לפלסטינים מהנהר ועד הים – שפירושה המעשי השמדת מדינת ישראל
העולם המערבי כולל צפון אמריקה מלא כיום מיליוני מוסלמים שהיגרו ממדינות ערב לאורך שנים רבות. חלק לא מבוטל מהם ממשיך לשמור נאמנות למוצאם ודתם בצורה פנאטית ורואה בישראל כמדינת אויב
עוד שגרתי בישראל טענתי שהסכסוך בינה ובין הפלסטינים וחלק ממדינות ערב יסכן גם את חיי היהודים והישראלים הגרים מחוץ למדינה. אמרתי אז שלישראל יש גם את האחריות לשמור על היהודים והישראלים, שבחרו לגור במקומות שונים בעולם ובעיקר במערב. ומוטל על ישראל לשקול בזהירות את צעדיה שכאמור יכולים להשפיע לרעה על היהודים והישראלים שגרים בחוץ לארץ
עובדה היא שאנטשימיות נגד יהודים וישראלים ברחבי העולם הולכת וגדלה, וכבר בסכסוך הקשה הנוכחי, נרשם גידול נוסף בשנה נגדם. וזו רק ההתחלה. אני צופה להרעה משמעותית עד סכנת חיים ליהודים והישראלים בצפון אמריקה, אירופה ומקומות אחרים. כבר עתה ידוע על הפגנות גדולות קשות נגד ישראל ותמיכה בפלסטינים. אלה עלולות להחמיר לעימותים פיזיים קשים עם יהודים וישראלים ואף יותר מכך. משטרות בערים רבות בעולם הדקו את ההגנה על מוסדות יהודים שונים ובהם בתי כנסת. נרשמו כבר לא מעט איומים נגד יהודים, ישראלים ומוסדות שונים בעולם ולכן השמירה מאוד חשובה במיוחד בימים טרופים אלה
בשלב זה ישראל מקבלת תמיכה ממרבית מדינות המערב. אך יש סיכוי שעם ההתקדמות של מבצע צבאי של צה”ל ברצועת עזה, התמיכה תלך ותרד עם עליית הנפגעים בצד הפלסטיני. במקביל צפויים היהודים והישראלים ברחבי העולם לסבול מגידול משמעותי באנטישמיות, התנכלויות, ואף מאיומים פיזיים
חברת אייר קנדה מהירה לפטר טייס מוסלמי שהתבטא נגד ישראל וכתב בחשבון הטוויטר שלו: “היטלר גאה בישראל”. מוסטפא איזו השתתף בהפגנה במונטריאול בעד הפלסטינים נגד ישראל והוא אף הצטלם עם צעיף בצבעי דגל פלסטין. זו לא הפעם הראשונה שאיזו מתבטא נגד ישראל ותומך בפלסטינים אך הפעם מתברר שהוא חצה את הגבול ובאייר קנדה מיהרו לפטרו
ראש ממשלת קנדה, ג’סטין טרודו, גינה את מתקפות הטרור נגד ישראל בהתייחסו להתקפה של חמאס על עשרות ישובי עוטף עזה בה נרצחו למעלה מאלף שלוש מאות ישראלים, נפצעו למעלה מארבעת אלפים ונלקחו בשבי קרוב לוודאי כמאה וחמישים אזרחים, חיילים, ועובדים זרים. בהודעה שפרסם בטוויטר אמר טרודו כי פעולות אלימות אלה בלתי מקובלות באופן מוחלט. אנו עומדים לימין ישראל ותומכים באופן מלא בזכות להגן על עצמה. מחשבות שלנו תמיד עם כל אדם שנפגע. חייבים להגן על חיי אזרחים, חתם טרודו את הודעתו. מנהיג האופוזיציה והמפלגה הקונסרבטיבית, פייק פוליוויר, גינה באופן חד משמעי את הפלישה של טרוריסטים של חמאס לישראל ואת האלימות האכזרית שהם הפעילו נגד אזרחים חפים מפשע. לדבריו לישראל הזכות להגן על עצמה בפני התקפות אלה ולפעול נגד התוקפים. מנהיג מפלגת השמאל אן.די.פי ג’גמיט סינג כתב בחשבון הטוויטר כי הוא מגנה את ההתקפות הנוראיות שביצע החמאס בישראל. אסור לעולם לפגוע באזרחים וכל החטופים צריכים להיות מחשוררים באופן מיידי. לדברי סינג יש חשש מההתפתחויות עתה. טרור ואלימות לא יפתרו דבר
המלחמה הנוכחית שנכפתה על ישראל מציגה שני מראות עיקריים: אסון וזוועה על מה שעשו מחבלי חמאס וכישלון גדול של הממשלה בראשות בנימין נתניהו, הצבא, מערך המודיעין, השב”כ ואולי גם המוסד
החמאס הוכיח שהוא ארגון טרור רצחני ולא אנושי תוך שהוא מותיר מאות הרוגים ופצועים. אחרים נלקחו בשבי. לא מדובר רק בחיילי צה”ל אלה בעיקר באזרחים, נשים וילדים, גברים וזקנים. חלקם נטבחו, חלקם עונו וחלקם כך סתם נרצחו. החלק האחר הוא אולי במצב הקשה ביותר: נלקח בשבי על מנהרות החמאס בעזה הצפופה. מאז קום המדינה לא היה אירוע כזה בו נהרגו ביום אחד מאות רבות של אזרחים וחיילים. הפוגרום הנורא ביותר בתולדות הישוב היהודי בארץ ישראל. התמונות בערוצי הטלוויזיה ואתרי החדשות באינטרנט על הנרצחים, הפצועים ואלו שנשבו, הם קשות מנשוא. חיות אדם בסגנון דאעש אחראים לדבר הנורא הזה
במקביל הכישלון של ישראל שנתפסה מופתעת לחלוטין מתקפת הפתע של חמאס, ולאחר מכן לקח זמן רב מדי לכוחות צה”ל ומערך הביטחון להגיע אל ישובי חבל עזה, ולהציל את אלה שהמחבלים לא הספיקו להרוג. נתניהו קיבל מידע ואזהרה מהמצרים ממה שחמאס עומד לעשות והתעלם מכך. היה לו הרבה יותר חשבו לעבות את השמירה הצבאית על ההתנחלויות בשטחים הכבושים, שנציגיהם יושבים בממשלתו. נתניהו הזחוח והשחצן ייזכר לדראון עולם כראש הממשלה הגרוע ביותר בתולדות ישראל. זאת, כיוון שהוא לא מנע את האסון הגדול ביותר שקרה למדינה ולאזרחיה. “שותפים מלאים” לכשלונו של נתניהו חברי ממשלתו שאין להם מושג איך לנהל מדינה והם דואגים רק לאינטרסים האישיים שלהם. גם לצבא הגנה לישראל יש חלק גדול בכישלון הנוראי שגב המחיר קשה מנשוא. מערכת ההגנה על יישובי חבל עזה עם כל הטכנולוגיה שלה קרסה תוך דקות על ידי עשרות מחבלי חמאס שנהרו אל הישובים החשופים. מערך המודיעין של צה”ל, השב”כ ואולי גם המוסד לא ידע כלל על הכנות של החמאס לביצוע המבצע לכניסה לשטחי ישראל. לקיום מבצע שזה דרושים חודשים ארוכים תוך תיאום עם גורמים באיראן ואחרים. כל אלה הצליחו להערים על המודיעין הישראלי בקלות בלתי נתפסת
לאחר שהמלחמה תסתיים צפוי שבכירים בצבא, במערך המודיעין והרמטכ”ל, בכירים בשב”כ ובמוסד והעומדים בראשם יתפטרו עוד לפני שוועדת החקירה הממלכתית תדון בסוגיית האחריות והכישלון שאפשר לחמאס לבצע את פשעיו. לעומתם נתניהו כרגיל לא יקח שום אחריות למעשיו. בכל הקריירה הפוליטית הארוכה שלו הוא תמיד ידע להאשים אחרים. אבל שום אחריות אישית. נתניהו יעשה הכל כבעבר להמשיך ולשבת על כיסא המלך כי נתניהו דואג רק לנתניהו
נתניהו מינה חברי ממשלה חסרי יכולת לטפל בתיקים עליהם הם אחראים. לא כישוריהם הביאו אותם לשולחן הממשלה, אלא הנאמנות למנהיג נתניהו. לכן לא מפתיע לגלות את חוסר יכולתם של שרי הממשלה הנוכחית לטפל במצוקות הרבות של ישראל בימי המלחמה הקשים האלה. נשמעה ביקורת נוקבת על שרי ממשלת נתניהו שלא ביקרו פצועים בבתי החולים ולא השתתפו בהלוויות הקורבנות הרבים
בתור אחד שגר בישראל ארבעים וחמש שנים לא האמנתי שהמדינה תגיע למצב שכזה. החברה מפוררת מבפנים בעיקר לתודות הרפורמה המשפטית של נתניהו. הצבא לא ערוך לאתגרים האינסופיים שלו ואת ההנהגה תפסו פוליטיקאים קטנים שנכשלו בתפקידם. ישראל משלמת היום מחיר כבוד מאוד לאור מחדלי ההנהגה שלה. אני לא צופה עתיד ורוד בהמשך הדרך. על נתניהו מוטל לעשות רק דבר אחד: ללכת הביתה
We are still reeling from what happened in Israel on Oct. 7 and the war that has ensued.
Hamas carried out a brutal terror attack on Israel that targeted civilians, murdering 1,400 people and kidnapping more than 200 Israeli hostages. Jews worldwide are grief-stricken, angry and scared. It is hard to see the hope, as images of dead Israelis mix with images of dead Palestinians.
There is no doubt in our minds that Hamas needs to be incapacitated – its covenant explicitly states their intention to eliminate Israel and kill Jews. On Oct. 7, they reasserted their intention with a vengeance that cannot be ignored. Their unambiguous goal is genocide.
Posters we see around Vancouver that simultaneously accuse Israel of genocide for defending itself and call for the genocide of Israelis – “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” – are abhorrent. People who support Hamas’s genocidal actions, implying, or outright stating, that Israelis deserve such cruelty do not care about humanity, do not believe in peace.
The people who are putting up the posters that ask, “Do you support indigenous rights? Then you support Palestine” are implying that Jews are colonizers and, therefore, deserve to be expelled, no matter how. But the Jewish connection to the land goes back thousands of years; we were dispossessed of it but never ceded it.
There are some two million Palestinians in Gaza, and they cannot be similarly dispossessed. More than half the population has been asked to leave their homes. Reports are that more than 4,500 have been killed from Israel’s bombing campaign.
Our hearts break at the type of war that fighting Hamas entails. The terror group uses civilians and civilian infrastructure as shields, ensuring that hundreds or thousands of innocent Palestinians die every time Israel defends itself militarily, even when it adheres to international law in its actions, including allowing humanitarian aid into Gaza.
One way or another, the people who live between the river and sea must find a way to coexist. That is quite literally the only way forward. As simplistic as this sounds, it is nevertheless true. That is impossible with Hamas as the controlling force in Gaza. But, when they are removed, what then? Replacing the figures at the top – whether in Gaza or in the Israeli government, the latter of which is something that will certainly be discussed in the aftermath of this horror – will not automatically negate deep mutual distrust among populations.
There are so many complexities and no end of theories as to how we have arrived at this point. What will happen next is less discussed, though there is the all-too-real possibility that the conflict will become regional – already the 22,000 residents of Kiryat Shmona, the largest community in the Vancouver Jewish community’s partnership region of the Upper Galilee, are being evacuated because of terrorist attacks from Hezbollah in Lebanon, which are expected to increase once Israel begins its ground offensive in the south. Some fear that the Hamas attack is less the main event than a distraction, a trap to lure Israel into an even more existential fight on multiple fronts.
Closer to home, there are security threats to Jews in the diaspora. Thankfully, Hamas’s call for a day of rage on Oct. 13 did not result in serious incidents. But the fear is real, and that is the purpose of terrorism. Jewish organizations and law enforcement agencies are working together to keep us safe. We must continue to live our lives as Jews, and not hide.
Some of our local community members have gone to Israel to fight. Other community members are rallying, marching and postering to make sure that the Israeli hostages being held captive in Gaza are returned home. More than $15 million was raised for Israel in just two weeks by the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver’s emergency campaign.
And, there are Israelis (Jewish, Muslim, Christian and others) and Palestinians who, despite the terrorist attacks and the war, continue against so many odds to work for peace. Groups such as Standing Together, Women Wage Peace, the Parents Circle, and others are working to shore up hope for peace, equality and coexistence. These groups deserve our support, moral and financial.
At the same time as we support our family and friends in Israel and one another here, as we call for the immediate return of the hostages and as we raise funds for aid, we must also support those activists and dreamers on the ground who advocate for a better postwar world.
Hundreds marched on Oct. 22, calling for the release of the more than 200 Israeli hostages being held by Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza. (photo by Pat Johnson)
Erez, aged 12, and his sister Sahar, 16, had spent the night at their father’s house in Kibbutz Nir Oz when Hamas terrorists stormed the home. The kids jumped out the window and hid in the bushes while gunmen rampaged their community, shooting entire families in their beds and safe rooms. “Mom, be quiet, don’t move,” he texted his mom, Hadas. She texted back: “I love you forever. I hope you survive.”
Erez did not reply. For hours, Hadas called Erez’s cellphone repeatedly, even as she fought for her life, physically blocking terrorists from breaking down her safe room door. Then Erez’s older sister found an 18-second video circulating on social media. It showed Erez in a black T-shirt, being gripped by both arms and led into captivity.
In all, five members of the Kalderon family were taken: Erez, Sahar, their 50-year-old father, Ofer, their 80-year-old grandmother, Carmela, and 12-year-old cousin, Noya, were grabbed from another house in the community.
This was one of many individual stories shared at a vigil and march in Vancouver Sunday, Oct. 22, where hundreds of Vancouverites chanted “Bring them home!” and “Let our people go!” as they marched from the Vancouver Art Gallery, protected by a large police presence, along Georgia Street, over to Robson and back to the original site. The steps of the art gallery’s north side were packed with people holding posters of the hostages – and these posters represented only half of the total number of Israeli hostages held by Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza.
The faces are also seen on thousands of posters around Metro Vancouver and elsewhere. Activists in communities worldwide have downloaded and printed the sheets, plastering them around city streets. The Vancouver efforts – which have seen probably 20,000 posters distributed so far – are led by Daphna Kedem, who also initiated the Sunday afternoon event and an earlier vigil two days after the Oct. 7 terror attacks.
Kedem is also a lead organizer of the local branch of UnXeptable, which, until the current crisis, was agitating against proposed Israeli government efforts to undermine responsible government there. Her current activism, she stressed, is done in her capacity as an individual, but she expressed gratitude to Rabbi Dan Moscovitz of Temple Sholom for helping organize, and to other synagogues, the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver and others for unhesitatingly jumping in to help.
Putting a human face to the hostages is the right thing to do, Kedem said.
“We have to bring it out to the public because it’s a humanitarian crisis,” she told the Independent. “Once you personalize it and you see that it’s an innocent baby or a child, you care more.”
Kedem said the cost of printing the thousands of posters was covered by two anonymous non-Jewish donors and, at the rally this past Sunday, Christian clergy spoke, including a Catholic representative and two evangelical ministers.
Nevertheless, frustration over the silence of so many others was evident in the words of Moskovitz to the rally.
“Once again, Jews are being slaughtered and violently attacked and the world is silent,” he told hundreds of attendees, many carrying Israeli or Canadian flags. “Or they say, ‘Yes, but.’ There is no ‘but’ to murder. There can be no ‘but’ to hate. There can be no ‘but’ to the kidnapping of civilians, of children, of grandparents, of pregnant mothers, of disabled people. There can be no ‘but’ to that. There can be no justification for that. This is 2023, not 1943. And yet ‘Never again’ is happening again right now. The Jewish people will not be silent. You must not be silent.”
Moskovitz slammed the moral equivocation heard in commentary and seen in street rallies worldwide.
“This was not an act of resistance,” he said. “This was not a military campaign. This was not a popular uprising. This was cold, calculated and barbaric murder and rape and kidnapping of innocent civilians, the vast majority of them Jews.”
Motioning to the posters of the hostages, he added: “We call on those in our own city who cheer and celebrate what Hamas has done to these people and thousands of others on that horrible day to stop. Stop cheering the terrorists. Stop denying our grief, our human value. Stop your whataboutism. Stop tearing down pictures of children who have been kidnapped. Stop helping the terrorists. Stop justifying their brutality. Simply, stop.… Find your moral compass. Find the compassion you have for everyone and everything except Jews. Join us in this most basic of human cries: return our children to their parents, return our families to their homes.”
A WhatsApp group, “BTH – Vancouver,” is coordinating the postering activities: to join, visit bit.ly/BTH-Vancouver. Posters are downloadable by anyone at kidnappedfromisrael.com.
The 13th annual Shira Herzog Symposium, hosted by New Israel Fund of Canada, took place on Oct. 15. Originally intended to be a discussion about the challenges facing Israeli democracy, the topic was changed to Celebrating Defiance, in light of the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel.
NIFC president Linda Hershkovitz said the new focus was an opportunity “to comfort each other, to grieve and to hear how our community in Israel is responding to this moment.”
She said, “Today, we still gather to celebrate defiance – defiance against terror and extremism, against giving up hope, and against allowing violence to drive Jews and Arabs further apart.”
Opening remarks underscored that among the more than 200 hostages taken by Hamas was ivian Silver, a 74-year-old Canadian-Israeli activist for peace and women’s rights, known to many of those in the audience.
The main speakers at the symposium were Orly Erez-Likhovski, director of the Israel Religious Action Centre (IRAC); Eran Nissan, a peace activist and executive director of Mehazkim, a progressive digital group in Israel; and Amal Oraby, a Palestinian lawyer, human rights activist and member of the board of directors of Amnesty International Israel. Journalist Andrew Cohen was the moderator.
“I stand before you with a lot of fear, a fear that our lives will never be the same and a fear for the safety of my family, my friends in Gaza, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. In Israel, there is no room for voices who seek to see the reality with open eyes and acknowledge the occupation, and to refuse making the same mistake and expecting different results,” said Oraby, who serves as NIF’s Arabic media coordinator and has written extensively for the Israeli media.
Nissan, who was a combat soldier in the special forces canine unit, said every time there is a flare-up of violence, it represents a setback for both Israeli and Palestinian societies which will, in turn, drive more anger, animosity and distrust.
“In the days since Oct. 7, we identified narratives that we needed to push through our social media platforms,” Nissan said when asked what his organization did immediately following the attacks. “We understood that the first days after such an event are a crucial time when the heroes and the villains are being chosen.”
The Israeli government, he said, was framing the narrative as a struggle between Jews and Arabs. His counter-narrative is to highlight stories of shared experiences and heroism, such as Bedouin truck drivers who risked their lives to rescue Jews from the Hamas attacks and paramedics in the Negev fighting to save lives while under fire.
“This not a popular time to talk about a shared society or about empathy,” said Nissan. “Civil society organizations have been under attack. The amount of hatred and incitement we see is horrific. What we are trying to do is boost our capacity to tackle the challenges that we have right now.”
“We are very concerned about the rise in racism and violence,” said Erez-Likhovski, whose organization aims to defend equality, social justice and religious pluralism in Israel and serves as the public advocacy arm of the Reform movement.
“It’s important to talk about the current feeling in Israel,” she added. “People feel they have been abandoned by the government and by the state. The feeling is that the state system is not functioning. It’s a direct result of this government bringing in incompetent people to any post possible. And it’s taken its toll over the past year.”
Since the attacks, IRAC has worked to help the people who were evacuated, assisting with food and clothing, and helping with pastoral care, among other services.
Oraby was not optimistic about the latest change in the Israeli cabinet: bringing in opposition leader Benny Gantz. He views it as a “war government,” not an “emergency government,” and pointed to a strong civil society as the way to deescalate the situation. “Where Israeli and Palestinian leadership have failed, the civil society is succeeding,” he said.
Nissan agreed that the current cabinet is only setting military objectives, adding that it is not considering what will happen following the conflict.
Erez-Likhovski also commented that the new coalition was not presenting any long-term vision of how to solve the conflict.
At the end of the discussion, Nissan acknowledged the gravity of what occurred on Oct. 7 in terms of Israeli history and its effects on the national psyche. His hope, he said, is that a new story for Israel can be written out of the pain, and the crisis the country is confronting.
The event was co-presented with ARZA Canada, Canadian Friends of Peace Now and JSpaceCanada. It was held at the Toronto Reference Library and on Zoom.
Sam Margolishas written for the Globe and Mail, the National Post, UPI and MSNBC.
The Kotel (Western Wall) in Jerusalem (photo by James Blake Wiener)
Two weeks ago, 34 student organizations published a letter blaming Israel for the violent attacks that occurred on Oct. 7, on the holiday of Simchat Torah, that killed hundreds of Israelis in a brutal fashion. The letter claimed that Israel is entirely responsible for all unfolding violence and further claimed, “today’s events did not occur in a vacuum, for the last two decades, millions of Palestinians in Gaza have been forced to live in an open-air prison,” according to ABC News.
On the Stanford campus, an instructor in a civil, liberal and global education course asked Jewish students to take their belongings and stand in a corner, saying, “This is what Israel does to the Palestinians.” According to the Forward, the teacher then asked, “How many people died in the Holocaust?” The students answered, “six million”; the response from the instructor was, “Colonizers killed more than six million. Israel is a colonizer.”
Those of us who grew up in the West in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s always thought Hitler was the embodiment of all evil and the Nazis were the greatest evil known to mankind. The merging of pure hatred and technology created an evil unmatched because of its scale and virulence. However, in today’s world there appears to be a sin worse than that of being a Nazi, that is to be a “colonizer.”
The theory of (Western racial colonizing) was made famous by a professor in whose class I studied, Edward Said. The New Yorker several years ago reflected that Said’s most famous book, Orientalism, “proved to be perhaps the most influential scholarly book of the late 20th century; its arguments helped expand the fields of anti-colonial and post-colonial studies.” The crimes of colonialism cannot be ignored … including many tragedies such as the Trail of Tears, residential schools, the partitioning of India and more.
The reflexive hatred of Israel, even as its citizens are being slaughtered and taken hostage, stems from those who believe the Jewish presence in Israel is among the last vestiges of colonialism. Such rationalization theorizes that civilians are really a military asset because they advance the aims of the conquering nation and, as such, civilians are a legitimate target.
Hamas uses a similar thought model for its theory of mind for the Israeli population. Haviv Rettig Gur, a columnist for the Times of Israel, wrote the following: “Arab opponents of Israel speak of it often as an artificial, rootless construct doomed to collapse in the face of Palestinian faith and resilience. It is at heart, they say, a colonialist project that for all its outward power lacks the inner authenticity and conviction to survive.”
That interpretation of Israel isn’t just a put-down; it’s a call for action, including especially the kind of sustained terrorism and cruelty that pushed other colonialist projects out, from the French in Algeria to the British in Kenya. This interpretation of Israel is the basic logic behind Palestinian suicide bombings, rocket fire and the whole slew of terrorist tactics employed by Hamas on Oct. 7.
One thousand years ago, as the Crusaders were first launching the military campaign to recapture the Holy Land from the infidels, Rashi was musing about land rights as well. Rashi wanted to explain why a lawbook, the Torah, does not begin with laws, but rather with the story of Creation. Rashi says that the nations of the world will ultimately call the Jews thieves, or colonizers in a more (contemporary) flexible translation. The Torah, therefore, begins with the story of creation to establish that all the land belongs to G-d and G-d gave title to the Children of Israel. Nachmanides, another great medieval scholar, argues that Rashi’s explanation ignores the important stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The land of Israel is the land of their stories, of Moriah, Beit El, Chevron, Be’er Sheva. This is where our ancestors are buried.
Did the tribe of Reuven ever cede its land to Aram? Did Ephraim ever cede its land to Ashur?
If you were to walk the archeological sites in the land of Israel and look at the graves, the etchings on the walls, the seals from sites dated between 3,000 and 2,500 years ago – this is the Iron II period, from 1000 to 586 BCE, between the time of Solomon and the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon – what names would you find? The vast majority of those names carved into stones and pottery are names that end with YHU or YH’L these are Hebrew names for G-d: names like Yishayahu/Isaiah, Uriah and Or Samuel, respectively. (Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 134, No. 4, October-December 2014; pp. 621-642) The stones speak the names of tribes that never willingly gave up their land to their conquerors.
The Judeans also did not cede land to the Romans. When Omar ibn Khattab conquered Jerusalem from the Romans in 638, he did not establish a treaty with the Jews, he did not trade high-value consumer durables for the land. He conquered it and, in 717, less than 100 years later, his successor Omar II forbade the Jews from praying in Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, a policy that was to last through Muslim rule of Jerusalem.
When Omar conquered, he brought Arabic into Israel for the first time. Hebrew inscriptions in Israel were already 1,500 years old when Arabic first arrived in Israel with the conqueror’s sword. Compared to the thousands of Hebrew inscriptions from the time of Solomon, there is only one find of an ancient dialect of Arabic, likely from a traveler.
We Jews are not colonizers, we are the people from the unceded lands of Judah and Benjamin, Naftali and Ephraim, Dan and Zevulun. Our language has always been Hebrew.
Prof. Yeshayahu Gafni of Hebrew University notes that, if you want to read a letter written by a Jew 2,000 years ago, you need to know Hebrew. Jews have always spoken, read and written Hebrew. If you want to write a letter to those who will be your descendants 2,000 years from now, you should write it in Hebrew.
We Jews have to make sure there is no daylight between our identity now, and the identities of our ancestors whose graves and etchings can be found from Tel Dan to Be’er Sheva. We need to embrace our language. There is no reason not to know it; it is ours.
Furthermore, we need to know the story of who we are, of the land and the people in it. We need to know who is Yeshayahu, who is Yehoshaphat, and Yoav, and Chizkiyahu, and Uziyah, and Abigail, and Jezebel and Atalyah. And we need to know how an Ephrati pronounces Shibbolet. These names figure prominently in the story of our people and our land. We need to embody the identity that holds their story true.
When we carry that identity together, we do not allow them to call us imperialists and colonizers. We are the people of the unceded lands of Judah and Benjamin. We must embrace that identity.
Rabbi Andrew Rosenblatt is senior rabbi at Congregation Schara Tzedeck. This article was originally published on the synagogue’s special Israel page at scharatzedeck.com.
Members of the North Central BC Jewish community were joined by supportive residents from all backgrounds, local print and broadcast media were in attendance, and a segment of the gathering was broadcast live on local Global news. Many local dignitaries attended as well, including Todd Doherty, member of Parliament, Cariboo-Prince George; Shirley Bond, member of the Legislative Assembly, Prince George-Valemount; Simon Yu, mayor of Prince George; Trudy Klassen and Garth Frizzell, councilors, City of Prince George.
Several hundred people gathered for a second night of vigils, as elected officials, diplomats and allies convened in support of Israel and Jewish community. (photo by Pat Johnson)
For the second night in a row, Jewish Vancouverites and allies came together Tuesday for a vigil to mourn those murdered in the worst terror attacks in Israeli history, and to demonstrate solidarity with survivors, families of the victims, and all the people of Israel. The grief that was inevitable at the powerfully emotional event was made additionally anguished by the news several hours earlier that Ben Mizrachi, a young Vancouver man, was confirmed dead, one of about 260 victims murdered at a concert for peace in southern Israel Saturday morning.
In moderate rain at Jack Poole Plaza on Vancouver’s Coal Harbour waterfront, several hundred people gathered to hear from friends of Mizrachi, as well as from elected officials of all government levels, rabbis, a Holocaust survivors, and others.
Ben Mizrachi remembered in friends’ emotional testimony
Maytar and Rachel, who graduated alongside Mizrachi in 2018 from King David High School, shared memories of the young man they called “the life of the party” and “a true hero,” who died helping an injured friend at the scene of the attack.
Mizrachi had served as a medic in the Israel Defence Forces, having volunteered as a lone soldier.
“We understand that, during the attack, Ben stayed back with a wounded friend, keeping himself in danger to care for another,” said Maytar. “He used the training that he learned from his time as a medic with the IDF to tend to wounded people at the festival before he died. That was who Ben was. He was a true hero.”
She spoke of Mizrachi’s contributions to the King David community, to his friends and family.
“He was adored by everyone and known to students much younger and older than he was,” she said. “Everyone knew and loved Ben Mizrachi. Ben was a role model to his three younger siblings and valued his close and loving relationship with his family.”
She shared the memories of a fellow student, Eduardo, for whom young Ben became his first friend after moving here from Mexico City.
“Ben welcomed him, befriended him and taught him how to speak English,” Maytar said. “He told us that ‘Ben was much more than a friend, he was my brother and the type of personality that will cheer you up and make you smile.’ He had such a huge heart and you knew you could always count on Ben.”
She continued: “In school, Ben was always the first one dancing at any assembly and the last one cleaning up at the end, even when he cooked — and he loved to cook.”
He could be found in the kitchen at Beth Hamidrash on Shabbat helping to prepare the kiddush, Maytar said. “His kindness extended to every part of his life from such a young age. We all remember that, if we ever had a gathering on Saturday, the party wouldn’t really start until after Shabbat, when Ben would arrive. He was always the life of the party. This past weekend, that’s what he was doing. He was at a party with his friends. He was doing nothing wrong.”
Their friend Rachel spoke of Mizrachi’s commitment to his identity.
“Ben was always extremely proud of his Jewish identity and of being an Israeli citizen,” she said. “He loved to share his love of Judaism and he often invited friends to join him and his family for Shabbat services and meals. As a teammate of Ben, we played on multiple sports teams together and he proudly wore his kippah at every game. In Grade 12, Ben was the president of our NCSY [the youth wing of the Orthodox Union] chapter. He was involved in student council, he led weekly prayer services at our school. After high school, he was proud to join the IDF as a lone soldier. He was so proud to be a soldier in the army and to continue living in Israel after his service.”
Rachel then read a message from one of Mizrachi’s teachers at King David, Irit Uzan.
“Ben always stood out from the crowd,” Uzan wrote. “His happy disposition was infectious. He lit up a room with his positive energy and amazing sense of humour. When things got hard for the students, he always found a way to lighten the mood. He encouraged his peers by sharing his own struggles, but it was what he did beyond his studies that always impressed me. He reached out and offered a helping hand wherever it was needed, be it with a peer, a teacher, a staff member or his own family. He wasn’t asked, he just always knew what to do. Ben’s visits to school to catch me up on his life events were visits I always looked forward to. On his last visit, he seemed more eager than usual and I learned this was because he wanted me to know that he had decided to study engineering in Israel. He was so proud of this.”
In tears, Rachel concluded: “Ben, we are so proud of you and we will always miss you. Please pray for Ben’s family, for all the families who have lost their loved ones, as well as those wounded. Keep believing in the state of Israel and continue to be proud of our Judaism, like Ben always was. May Ben’s memory be a blessing.”
Rabbi Shlomo Gabay, spiritual leader of Mizrachi’s shul, Beth Hamidrash, led the vigil in El Maleh Rachamim, the prayer for the soul of the departed.
Reflections from a survivor
Marie Doduck, a child survivor of the Holocaust who was born in Brussels and came to Canada as a war orphan in 1947, reflected on the terrible echoes of the past the current news brings. She and 30 other Vancouverites who survived as Jewish children during the Second World War gather and, Doduck said, speak about their pasts and the present.
“For all the years we have been sharing our stories, for all the years we’ve been teaching tolerance, we know the worst that can happen,” she said. “But it always seems to happen to us. I spend my life as an educator, I share my story and the stories of the Holocaust so that people know and so that the world will remember, so that never again will children lose their childhood to hatred and to violence. And now, this week, I see children being taken from their parents in Israel. I’m reliving what I experienced as a child and it is horrible. I’m watching the news and hearing the sounds that were so terrifying when I was young, the sirens, the bombs falling. I’m seeing warplanes and bomb shelters and I cannot sleep at night.
“I’m seeing it all happen again,” Doduck said. “I see people who do not want peace treating us as if we are not human. I see the children captured. I cannot understand how they use children, how they use women and men like we are nothing. It is unthinkable. It is impossible to believe that humans can do this to other humans. The one place where we are safe they want to destroy. They want to do what the Gestapo did to us in the Second World War.”
With emotion, Doduck posed the question, “Does the world stand for us?”
“I don’t see them standing for us,” she said. “I see it happening again. I am reliving what I went through as a child and all we want, and all we have ever wanted, was peace.”
Support from Ottawa
Harjit Sajjan, president of the privy council and minister of emergency preparedness, spoke on behalf of the federal government.
“I know that everyone’s heart is broken because of this brutal terrorist attack, a targeted attack on the Israeli people,” said Sajjan, who is member of Parliament for Vancouver South. “All of you have witnessed and have seen the news and the atrocity that has taken place. Myself and my colleagues here … stand here with you. But I don’t speak here just as a minister but [I am] also speaking to you as a Canadian, as a human being. It hurts so much when we see images from what has just taken place. Your community has gone through this far too often. When we say enough is enough, sometimes those words seem like they have no meaning. But when we come together like this, it gives me hope that we can get through this.”
Across Canada and elsewhere, rallies, public statements and social media comments have celebrated the terror attacks, some, like the president of the Ontario wing of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, lauding them as “the power of resistance around the globe.” Hours before a Jewish community vigil Monday, a rally celebrating the violence was held in the same Vancouver Art Gallery location. Along with many speakers at the Tuesday event, Sajjan condemned the expressions of support for the terror attacks.
“Anybody who glorifies what has just taken place, the atrocities that Hamas has committed, I’m here to say that we denounce you and I denounce you,” he said.
Sajjan referenced his military career, from which he retired with the rank of lieutenant-colonel.
“Over the last two decades, whether in politics or even before, [in] my other job in the military, I’ve seen atrocities committed all over the world,” he said. “And your heart breaks every single time. And you think, what can we do? One thing that always gives me hope is that I look back and remember where I live, in Canada, that we come together, we support one another. That’s how we get through this.
“I remember visiting Entebbe [Uganda] where, you know all too well, when Israeli citizens were taken captive and they were rescued at that time, I went to go pay my respects and remember what took place then. To see the atrocities committed over and over again is something that we all feel today. One thing I’m here to tell you: that we stand by you, we call for the captives to be released, we want humanitarian aid to be flown into all those people who are caught in the middle. But one thing is for sure: our government is with you.”
Other federal officials present were Joyce Murray, member of Parliament for Vancouver Quadra, and Parm Bains, member of Parliament for Steveston-Richmond East.
Message from the province
Selena Robinson, British Columbia’s minister of post-secondary education and future skills, brought greetings from Premier David Eby and the provincial government. She also emphasized the presence of officials from both sides of the legislature.
“All of government and all members of the Legislative Assembly stand with me, they stand with all of you, against the horrific violence that was perpetrated by Hamas, a terrorist organization, an organization committed to indiscriminately killing and indiscriminately wiping out the Jewish people,” she said. “As a Jew, I have never in my life experienced a more frightening time. To see and bear witness to the carnage, to the babies, to the children, to young people at a concert.
“The stories that Jewish families have been telling for generations all come swarming back,” Robinson continued, her voice breaking. “The stories of pogroms in Russia and Poland at the turn of the 20th century, the Einsatzgruppen, the Nazi mobile death squads, going house to house killing everyone in their sights during the Holocaust. That is what happened this weekend. This is not a path to peace and it’s not the path to freedom. The Palestinians and the Israelis deserve to raise their families without fear, to grow old with dignity, but this vicious depravity is not the answer. It is not a path for peace for anyone. These last days have been so difficult and there are more hard days to come. So, we ask all of you to please be kind, be thoughtful, be supportive and to take care of each other.”
Opposition leader stands with community
Kevin Falcon, BC United party leader and the province’s leader of the opposition, was scheduled to hold a townhall in Kamloops Tuesday night but he cancelled the event and drove to Vancouver to be present for the solidarity gathering, he said, “Because I think it is important that all public officials stand united in saying … without equivocation, without moral equivocation, to be very, very clear, that we stand with you.”
Condemning terrorist brutality is “something that ought to be really easy,” he told the crowd. “But, unfortunately, in this day and age, it doesn’t seem to be easy for some people to come together and denounce unequivocally the violence and slaughter of innocent civilians in Israel, and to remember the right of that country and those individuals to defend themselves as a fundamental right because we cannot forget.
“We stand with the community and we want you to know that,” he said.
In addition to the government cabinet minister and opposition leader, other provincial officials present were cabinet ministers Brenda Bailey, Murray Rankin, Sheila Malcolmson and George Chow, parliamentary secretaries Mable Elmore and Susie Chant and members of the Legislative Assembly Henry Yao and Michael Lee.
Mayor condemns antisemitism
Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim was flanked by city councilors Sarah Kirby-Yung, Peter Meisner, Lisa Dominato, Mike Klassen and Rebecca Bligh as he expressed solidarity with the Jewish community and promised zero-tolerance for antisemitism.
“What happened this weekend in Israel was absolutely horrific,” said Sim. “Our hearts are broken, just like yours…. Vancouver is a city of love, Vancouver is a city of peace, Vancouver is a city of inclusion. This is a place where we celebrate our differences in culture and religion. So, it’s absolutely disturbing and incredibly disgusting, in the city that we live in, the city that we are so proud of, that people were actually celebrating what happened. They are celebrating Hamas. That’s not right. Israel has a right to exist. Israel has a right to protect itself. At the City of Vancouver, we stand for all communities, including the Jewish community — especially the Jewish community, during this incredibly brutal time. You are our brothers and sisters, you are our neighbours, you are our friends, you are our family. Let me be very clear — let us be very, very clear — we will not stand for any antisemitic acts or acts of hatred in the city of Vancouver. We mourn with you, we stand with you, we love you and we will always be here for you.”
Dylan Kruger, a Delta city councilor was also present.
Gathered together as one
Tuesday’s vigil was organized by the Rabbinical Assembly of Vancouver, the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.
Rabbi Jonathan Infeld of Congregation Beth Israel, and the head of the rabbinical assembly, spoke of the relentlessness of antisemitism.
“I am standing here as a neighbour of Ben Mizrachi and his family, in sadness and in grief,” said Infeld. “I am standing here today as the father of a young man who is currently in Jerusalem. I am standing here today as the child of Holocaust survivors who never met his grandparents or aunts or uncles because they were murdered as children because of antisemitism. Never would I have imagined again in my life that we would see 40 children, 40 babies in one day, discovered, who were murdered in cold blood because of antisemitism. Never would I have imagined in my life that we would see almost a thousand Jews in one day murdered because of antisemitism. Throughout the day, I’ve been asked, what is this moment about? This moment today, together, as one people, one community, Jews and non-Jews gathered together for solidarity, gathered together to mourn and gathered together to give strength to one another. We are so grateful to our politicians and to our leaders who really, truly, are leaders. All of you sitting here today, you are the leaders. You are sending the message that there is no similarity in morality, there is no equivalence in morality, between those who celebrate murder and those who are gathered together for peace.”
Federation leader sends message from Egypt
Jason Murray, vice-chair of the board of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, read a message from the board’s chair, Lana Marks Pulver, who, with her husband Doug, is in Egypt, leading a group of almost 100 Canadian business leaders in a mission that was slated to travel to Israel in the coming days.
“I share this with you so you know how close I am to the situation both physically and emotionally,” wrote Marks Pulver. “There were two Israeli tourists murdered by a police officer in Alexandria [Egypt]. We continued on with our tour of Egypt much to the chagrin of family and friends. We continued because we will not allow them to win. Never again.
“As for emotion, our 21-year-old niece and 19-year-old nephew are serving in the IDF and are stationed near Gaza. We are feeling sick about what’s happening in Israel and we are feeling sick about the celebratory rallies happening in Canada, rubbing salt in our fresh wounds. How can Canadian citizens possibly justify the celebration of rape, killing and kidnapping of innocent Jews, online and in public rallies? It’s both horrifying and heartbreaking that this is happening in our own backyard. Jews throughout history have consistently proven that we are resilient. This time is no different. Israel will prevail. We as a people will not allow evil to win. Despite thousands of years of antisemitism and countless attempts to annihilate our people, we always come back stronger and more unified as a community.
“I am confident that this time is no different,” she continued. “Let us pray this all ends soon, that Israelis move forward with their lives in safety and that we as a Jewish people proudly stand in our fight against hatred and our desire to live in peace. Am Yisrael chai.”
Gratitude for allies
Ezra Shanken, chief executive officer of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, praised the elected officials who attended and the police who provided security at the event.
“Often, we see public officials at our events and it’s special then,” he said. “But it’s even more special now. To have this incredible representation of folks behind us and around us in this moment is not something that I take for granted, not these days.”
In addition to elected officials, Shanken noted the presence of consuls general from France, Germany and Italy, as well as representation from the consulate of the United States.
Karen James, chair of the local partnership council for the Centre for Israel and Jewish affairs, Pacific region, lauded the unity of the Jewish community.
“I have always known that we are family, but I’ve never felt it so strongly as I do now,” she said. “Tonight, we are hurting. Our hearts are broken but our resolve has never been stronger.”
Severe audio problems plagued the event, which came a night after an earlier vigil, at the Vancouver Art Gallery, planned by Daphna Kedem, who is the lead organizer of UnXeptable Vancouver, though the event was not affiliated with any group. ( To read more about the Monday night vigil, click here.) At that event, a small group of provocateurs were kept apart from the main vigil by a phalanx of police. Police were also omnipresent at the Tuesday event, while protesters were nowhere to be seen.
Speakers at the event urged people to contribute to the emergency fund for victims and to access available mental health supports as needed. Federation’s website, jewishvancouver.com, is the access point for all relevant local resources.
Jewish Vancouverites and allies came together in grief and determination in a community vigil Monday night, Oct. 9, outside the Vancouver Art Gallery. (photo by Pat Johnson)
Several hundred Jewish Vancouverites and allies came together in grief and determination in a community vigil Monday night outside the Vancouver Art Gallery. The unprecedented terror attacks in Israel that began Saturday brought a large crowd to the public venue in light rain for an emotionally charged hour of prayers, songs and shared stories of tragedy and resolve. The uncertain fate of a young Vancouver man who had not been heard from since Saturday brought the immediacy of the tragedy home. Hours after the vigil, it was announced that the body of Ben Mizrachi had been identified.
“A piece of this community is missing,” said an audience member who addressed the crowd and identified himself as Adam. “His name is Ben Mizrachi.”
Mizrachi, who graduated from King David High School in 2018, was attending a music festival in Re’im, in southern Israel near the Gaza border. An estimated 260 people were murdered as terrorists invaded the event around 7 a.m. Saturday. Mizrachi had not been in contact with family or friends since, according to news reports and messages from Vancouver friends. Late Monday Vancouver time, it was announced that he had been murdered.
“Every one of us here is feeling grief, is feeling loss,” said Adam. “We are all individuals here, but we are one nation and our nation has one heart. We will look at these candles, we will look at the light, we will look at all the universes they stole from us and we will say, this light will drown out that darkness.”
Leslie Benisz, who spent his first 10 years in Israel, spoke of his own family’s tragedy.
“I have a cousin and her husband who, unfortunately, were killed,” he said, “and, still, at this moment, we do not know the whereabouts of her four children. They were living on a kibbutz near the Gaza area.”
Benisz said his mother, who passed away in March, had advice for times like these.
“My mother used to say, ‘We have to be better than those people who hurt us. Just because they hurt us, don’t do the same thing to them. Maybe even show a level of tolerance and compassion they failed to show us, because there is a fine line sometimes between becoming a human being and becoming an animal and we have to show that we are better than that.’”
A small group of provocateurs carrying Palestinian flags, kept away from the vigil by police, screamed and taunted attendees throughout the event, including during two moments of silence, and vehicles repeatedly circled the venue, their occupants waving Palestinian flags and honking horns. A rally – ostensibly in support of Palestinians – was held several hours earlier at the same location as the vigil.
Monday’s event was organized by Daphna Kedem, who is the lead organizer of UnXeptable Vancouver, though the event was not affiliated with any group. The ad hoc vigil was organized before the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver scheduled a community solidarity event for the following evening, Oct. 10. Coverage of Tuesday’s event, which took place after the Independent went to press, is now online at jewishindependent.ca.
Daphna Kedem, one of the organizers, told the Independent that bringing the community together as soon as possible for mutual support was their priority. While awaiting notification of an event by community leaders, Kedem said, her group decided to schedule a gathering with haste.
“We are not waiting around for the community,” she said. “This is urgent and time-sensitive.”
“We are in the west, but our hearts very much are in the east,” said Rabbi Dan Moskovitz, senior rabbi at Temple Sholom. “We hold our loved ones and our families in those hearts and we come together as a community to pray and to mourn but also with resolve and resilience.”
Speaking above taunts and screaming from protesters on the sidelines, Moskovitz continued: “That’s what we want: to live in peace, to live in our native land in peace, to be together as human beings. Too often, the world ignores us. Too often, the silence is deafening. We who stand here today, we make our presence to call the world to conscience and to see us, to see how once again our people are in danger, our people are being killed and murdered and the world must not be silent again. We will not be silent. We are strong, we are a people with a nation now for the first time in 2,000 years and it will not slip from our grasp, it will not slip from our hearts or our minds or our prayers.”
Ofra Sixto, chef-owner of the Denman Street Israeli restaurant Ofra’s Kitchen, recounted her story of being harassed and of having her life threatened three years ago during a different time of conflict between Israel and Hamas. Then she made a prayer for those missing and for the survivors of those murdered.
“Please God, make them all come back home soon,” she said. “Please God, put solace in the hearts of the people who lost their loved ones.”
Another speaker recalled a year living near the Gaza Strip and hearing the endless sounds of explosions.
“We are here tonight to remind ourselves and our people back in Israel that we are all one country, we are all one family, we are all together in this, united,” said another speaker. “Despite the tough year it’s been, with different opinions, we are all sticking together, especially when it gets tough. That’s our biggest strength.”
She then led the vigil in the song “Am Yisrael Chai.”
“My sister was sitting 13 hours in a shelter room and the terrorists roaming her kibbutz didn’t touch their home,” another speaker from the audience recounted. “It was a miracle.”
He added: “The one thing that our enemies cannot do is put a divider between the Jewish people and eretz Israel. Please remember that. There is no Jewish people without Israel and there is no Israel without the Jewish people.”
“This horrific attack was an attack on Israel,” said another member of the audience who spoke. “Moreover, it was an attack on all of those who value human life. I know that some people are of the belief that you are left to fight this battle alone. I’m neither Jewish nor Israeli and I’d like to tell you that there are millions of people around the world standing together with you. This includes me and many, many, many others.”
“We have a very simple message to the world today,” said Rabbi Shmulik Yeshayahu of the Ohel Ya’akov Community Kollel. “When we see those guys on the other side, and we see our crowd tonight, state proudly … we are human beings. We treat people fairly. We love Israel, we love humanity, we love the civil world.… We will never let terrorism take over. This is the message of Canada and all the Western world today.”
Yeshayahu lamented the hostages taken.
“We are talking about over 100 people, many of them little kids who were kidnapped, old people who survived the Holocaust and came to the holy land of Israel to live in a free country,” he said. “We are here for them.… No human being can stand by and see those bastards take little kids and kidnap 3-year-old kids and put them in a cage. This is not acceptable in 2023 and we are not going to be quiet about it. The eternal nation is not afraid of a long journey. We will defeat them.”
Rabbi Carey Brown, associate rabbi at Temple Sholom, said the prayer for Israeli soldiers in Hebrew, while a lone soldier who had served in the Israel Defence Forces a decade ago, shared the prayer in English. Rabbi Jonathan Infeld of Congregation Beth Israel led El Maleh Rachamim, the prayer for the souls of the departed.
After the main vigil, the Independent spoke with a number of attendees.
“With the horrors that happened in Israel, and all the innocents killed, bodies desecrated, kids getting kidnapped, I just had to come and show support,” said Adar Bronstein, who moved to Canada from Israel a decade ago. “I think local Jews and Israelis don’t really protest much. We’re actually quite a quiet society overall, so, when something as big as this happens, we have to make some sort of a stand. All my friends over there have been drafted and my Facebook page is full of my friends posting about their killed loved ones. My family is there and they are terrified. It’s been very, very difficult.”
“What brought me out tonight was seeing things that I didn’t think I would ever see in my life,” said Alex Greenberg. “This is my family, this is my people. I came just to show that people in Israel have support.”
Jillian Marks was huddled in a group of young women, some hugging and wiping away tears. The alumna of Vancouver Talmud Torah and King David is now a University of British Columbia student and president of the Israel on Campus club.
“We need to show that we are together, that we support each other in these times,” said Marks. “Just being here is a mitzvah and a blessing. I think it’s quite surreal. I have people fighting on the front lines. I have people missing. I have friends missing and friends hiding in bomb shelters. I’m just sad. But I’m grateful for the community here in Canada. I’m grateful we are all together tonight.”
A small group of Iranian Canadians waved the national flag of Iran – not the flag of the Islamic revolutionary government.
Dr. Masood Masjoody, a mathematician and activist against the Iranian regime, said he came “to show support for Israel and the Israeli people.”
He said he was surprised that anyone would be surprised to see him there.
“We’ve been dealing with the regime that has been behind these heinous attacks for more than 40 years – 44 years – so we know this regime more than any other nation in the world,” he said, referring to the Iranian regime’s support for anti-Israel terrorism.
There are many organizations through which people can donate to help Israel, including the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver’s Israel Emergency Campaign, at jewishvancouver.com/israel-fund.
Downtown Jerusalem is deserted apart from Israel Border Police deployed in Zion Square. (photo by Gil Zohar)
It is Oct. 9. My wife Randi calls me while I am riding Jerusalem’s all-but-empty light rail, returning from a bat mitzvah celebration of a forlorn family of tourists from Arizona who are stuck in Israel. We simultaneously hear the air-raid siren blaring as we talk. Fighter jets are screaming overhead. With an edge of panic in her voice, Randi asks me what she should do. I calmly instruct here to follow the Home Front Command orders for civilians, which we have repeatedly reviewed. I’ve downloaded the app on my cellphone.
Our beautiful stone home in downtown Jerusalem, built in 1886, lacks a reinforced steel and concrete bomb shelter, known by the Hebrew acronym MaMaD (Makom Mugan l’Diyur), a protected residential place.
I remind Randi go to the neighbour’s basement apartment quickly but without running, and to wait there. Grabbing Bella our dog, she leaves the apartment door and windows open so that a blast from an explosion will not result in the windows being shattered and glass debris obliterating our house.
Below-grade structures make for poor bomb shelters since poison gas is heavier than air, I think. But there is no alternative. Nine Bedouin children were killed by Hamas rocket fire in the Western Negev. Their village lacked a MaMaD.
We hear the twin boom of Israel’s air defence system, the Iron Dome, intercepting a rocket barrage fired from the Gaza Strip. The strike lights up the sky. The threat is over until the next alert. The media reports that seven civilians living in towns in the periphery of Jerusalem were wounded in the barrage.
At the time of this writing, nearly 1,000 Israeli civilians have been killed, including 260 massacred at the Nova festival near Kibbutz Re’im – an all-night party in the desert. More than 130 civilians and soldiers have been taken hostage and dragged back to Gaza. Apart from 35 Israel Defence Force soldiers who fell in the line of duty, the names of the deceased have not been released.
It remains unclear if Hezbollah will open a full-scale second front from Lebanon. Israel has threatened to destroy Damascus, the capital of Syria, which backs the Shi’ite terror group, should the war broaden to the north.
Families of the kidnapped, missing and 2,200 wounded civilians are begging for news. Israel remains shrouded by military censorship. Nor is the news from the 2.3 million people in Gaza any clearer. Al-Jazeera lists long-out-of-date statistics. Based on data reported by the Palestinian Health Ministry, the Palestine Red Crescent Society and Israeli Medical Services, 560 Gazans have been killed. That number is likely to rise substantially.
More than 48 hours from when Hamas attacked and war broke out at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday, the IDF spokesperson announces that the army has neutralized the terrorists who overcame 22 cities and villages near Gaza. Israelis are being evacuated from the border area in anticipation of a ground invasion. Some are being housed in empty hotels near the Dead Sea.
I’ve offered our adjoining apartment. All our Airbnb guests have canceled. Apart from El Al, airlines have stopped flying to Ben-Gurion Airport.
The number of the dead, missing and wounded is surreal. The IDF has called up 300,000 reservists in the last 48 hours for what it has termed “Operation Swords of Iron.” Among them is my nephew Guy Carmeli, a Canadian-Israeli dual citizen and veteran tank gunner who lives in Herzliya with his wife Yael and 2-year-old son Oz. Randi doesn’t know of his callup. Maybe she’ll read it here. My wife doesn’t do well with stress.
A press release from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denies Egypt is trying to broker a ceasefire. The statement reads: “No message has arrived from Egypt and the prime minister has neither spoken, nor met, with the head of Egyptian intelligence since the formation of the government, neither directly nor indirectly. This is totally fake news.”
The implication? Israelis must gird themselves itself for a “long and difficult war ahead,” according to Netanyahu.
The electronic tom-tom drums uniting immigrant Israelis have been busy. As I write this, nine Americans have been confirmed dead, and 10 Brits are assumed to have been killed.
Adi Vital-Kaploun, the adult daughter of Ottawa native Jacqui Vital and her husband Yaron who live in Jerusalem, was kidnapped from her home by the Gaza Strip. Adi’s two infant children, aged 1 and 3, were also taken hostage but were abandoned at the border by their captors who felt the children would slow down the gunmen’s retreat. [On Oct. 11, after the Independent went to press, it was announced that Vital-Kaploun had been murdered by Hamas terrorists.]
There are other Canadians missing, including former Winnipegger Vivian Silver. And there are Canadians who were killed by the terrorists: Alexandre Look, who grew up in Montreal, and Vancouverite Ben Mizrachi; both young men were among those killed at the music festival near Kibbutz Re’im.
Canadian-Israeli Shye Weinstein, who was at the festival, too, documented how he and his friends fled. He described their nail-biting escape to Tel Aviv: “We only slowed down for checkpoints and bodies.”
Nuseir Yassin, who writes the blog @nasdaily, described his conflict as an Arab citizen of Israel: “Personal Thoughts: (not for everyone, feel free to skip) For the longest time, I struggled with my identity. A Palestinian kid born inside Israel. Like … wtf. Many of my friends refuse to this day to say the word ‘Israel’ and call themselves ‘Palestinian’ only. But since I was 12, that did not make sense to me. So I decided to mix the two and become a ‘Palestinian-Israeli.’ I thought this term reflected who I was. Palestinian first. Israeli second. But after recent events, I started to think. And think. And think. And then my thoughts turned to anger. I realized that if Israel were to be ‘invaded’ like that again, we would not be safe. To a terrorist invading Israel, all citizens are targets. 900 Israelis died so far.
“More than 40 of them are Arabs. Killed by other Arabs. And even 2 Thai people died too. And I do not want to live under a Palestinian government. Which means I only have one home, even if I’m not Jewish: Israel. That’s where all my family lives. That’s where I grew up. That’s the country I want to see continue to exist so I can exist. Palestine should exist too as an independent state. And I hope to see the country thrive and become less extreme and more prosperous. I love Palestine and have invested in Palestine. But it’s not my home. So from today forward, I view myself as an ‘Israeli-Palestinian.’ Israeli first. Palestinian second.”
Gil Zohar is a writer and tour guide in Jerusalem.