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.