April 16, 2024
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April 16, 2024
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Hearing 10/7 Survivor Testimony at Brandeis

Last week, Brandeis University hosted a private event where a select number of students had the devastating privilege of hearing stories from five individuals who had been personally affected by October 7.

A man told us that his 19-year-old niece was burned alive in a safe room alongside friends from her unit in the IDF; it took over 30 days before they could identify her body. Out of the 26 girls from that unit—all ages 18 and 19—18 were killed, three were able to survive, and five were kidnapped to Gaza and are being sexually assaulted regularly, according to testimony from returned hostages.

Another man who moved to Israel from Gaza recounted his car slowing down at an intersection while many Hamas terrorists shot at him and the other people in his car. After the terrorists drove away, this man—Hamed Abu Arar—turned to his wife, his best friend, who was five months pregnant and had over 25 bullet holes in her head, her torso and her legs. “I can’t feel my left leg,” she told him. “It’s numb.” He wondered how she could feel anything at all. They both knew she was dying, and she was able to say, “I bear witness that there is no god except Allah and that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah” four times; she died during her fifth attempt.

She was wearing a hijab. The terrorists who had shot at his family at close range had seen this, and killed her anyway. He then turned back to his worker, who was also dying, and repeated his wife’s prayer with his worker until he died, as well. Injured by the bullets, Arar then escaped the car with his 7-month-old son, who had been shot in the shoulder, and hid in the area for 5 ½ hours until he was rescued by the IDF. “I’ve read through the whole Quran,” he told us. “What Hamas did is against everything in the Quran. This has nothing to do with religion. They could see that my wife and I were Muslim, and they shot us anyway.”

Another mother showed us the video Hamas terrorists had taken of her son Omer, who is my sister’s age, stripped down and staring, terrified, at the camera from the back of a pickup truck as Hamas members gleefully beat him while kidnapping him to Gaza. He’s still there. The last text he sent was to his mother; she’d asked him if he was OK, and he responded no—that he was terrified. Accounts from hostages who were released say he’s being kept in the tunnels, is sleeping in the sand on a plastic bag, is given almost no food or water, and is allowed to bathe once a week with a bucket of seawater. He might never come home. He might already be dead. They have no idea what Hamas is doing to him. Right now, as you read this, he is still there.

One mother, whose 22-year-old son was murdered at the Nova festival, begged us through tears to tell our parents that we love them the next time we see them. A lot of people throughout the room cried when she told us this. We are his age. In some ways, we are him; we are just the lucky ones. We weren’t there that day. We didn’t see our friends gunned down around us until it was our turn.

There was a woman whose kid brother Lotan was born just two weeks before my 24-year-old sister, and was killed alongside his childhood friend on October 7 after jumping on a grenade to save the 39 other people sheltering in a rocket shelter built for only 10. Eleven out of the 40 survived; terrorists spent hours chucking grenades into the shelter, shooting at the people inside, and even lit the whole thing aflame, leaving them to choke on the smoke. (One man was choking so much that he stumbled out of the shelter in a desperate attempt to get air, and was immediately gunned down by terrorists.) One girl spent the whole time looking at Lotan’s body. He had saved her from a grenade with his own body, and she looked at it as her savior. Lotan’s sister asked us to do what we could, as Americans, to make sure this never happens again.

And what can we do?

How can we tell Muslims, who spend their time advocating against the existence of a Jewish state and championing Hamas, that Hamas targeted their own, that Hamas kidnapped and murdered observant and pious Muslims on October 7, knowing who these people were, knowing they were their own? On October 7, one Arab man screamed out desperately to the Hamas terrorists, “I’m an Arab, I’m an Arab!” The Hamas terrorists responded, “You’re worse than the Jews,” and gunned him down alongside his family.

What can we tell non-Jews, who are so busy championing for a cease-fire yet refuse to see that they are really just calling for another October 7? What can we tell people who don’t know these stories, and aren’t interested in hearing them when they see all of the doctored photos of bloody children being churned out by Hamas’ PR department?

How can we go on TikTok, which is censored by the CCP, and spread a message that is algorithmically designed to fail? How can we go on Instagram, where the only people who see these stories are the people who don’t need to see them, and the people who really need to know what happened that day will never have the truth right in front of their eyes?

How do we have conversations with people who are unwilling to hear us? How can we tell the truth to people who refuse to change their minds? How can we ever hope to access the hearts and minds of people who are too blinded by the successful PR initiatives of the Arab world to realize they are being hoodwinked by Iran to ensure the spread of radical Islamic Sharia law?

A message I keep hearing is, “You are in America, and there is so much antisemitism here, and your voice is powerful.”

But is it? How? The only people who hear these messages are the people who already believe them. The people who need to hear these messages either won’t hear them or won’t believe them. It doesn’t matter how much evidence there is; to these people it will always be AI, or hearsay, or “alleged.” I could put a pro-Palestinian campaigner in front of a burned body of a baby from October 7, and they’d still claim that Hamas hadn’t targeted civilians that day, that maybe this baby was attacking the terrorists or it was an accident or we’d killed this baby to use its blood to make matzah. There could be 10,000 eyewitnesses to an event and they’d still say that every single eyewitness is lying.

So I ask: How do you make the world see the truth when they’re so determined to be blind? What can we, as Americans, really do?

Brooke Schwartz Bass is a junior at Brandeis University. Originally from Englewood, she is a graduate of The Frisch School and studied at Midreshet Amudim in Israel. She is also a former Jewish Link intern and staff member.

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