Something has snapped in our national conscience. The change occurred on Nov. 30, after two Hamas terrorists killed three people and injured 16 in Jerusalem. We’ve heard similar news again and again. But as routine as it felt, something was different. The false narrative we’d all been living with since the war began also died.
For my entire rabbinic career, I’ve been arguing for a measured response in dealing with the Palestinian problem. In fact, I wrote a piece to that effect two weeks ago. I argued that there must be 10 righteous people in Gaza. And just as Abraham argues with God over Sodom and Gomorrah, collective punishment must be averted, even at great cost to our own soldiers.
In the last few days, I realized I was wrong — but this last terror attack was only part of the wake-up call.
You may be wondering what could have caused such a change. Footage of the atrocities committed on Oct. 7 has been floating around social media for almost two months. What could have come to light in the past few days that is more shocking than that?
The testimony and actions of the released hostages is what has rocked me to my core.
Roni Kriboy is a Russian Israeli whose family fled the rampant antisemitism in the former USSR only to be kidnapped into Gaza from the music festival. While in captivity, the building he was being held in was hit by the IDF. This gave him the opportunity to escape his captors. He was on the run for four days, trying to get to the Israeli border. He failed but not for lack of trying. He was captured by Gazan civilians and turned back over to Hamas.
Another hostage reported that she was kept locked in the home of a Gaza pediatrician. The doctor kept her imprisoned in his home for over 50 days while he continued his practice as if nothing out of the ordinary were going on.
In perhaps the most despicable case yet, a child hostage reported being locked in the attic of an UNRWA teacher’s home, given little food and no medicine. For those unfamiliar with the organization, it is the United Nations’ representative in Gaza; these are the same people who run the schools that indoctrinate the Gazan youth in the philosophy that Jews are subhuman and deserve nothing less than death.
These stories have left me with one question: where are the righteous gentiles of Gaza? Are there no stories of people there aiding the hostages and hiding them from these murderous villains? Even German civilians did this in the Nazi era. What I realized, as the blood of 19 more Jews was drying on the streets of Jerusalem, is that there are none.
We Jews need to realize something fundamental — this war is not about vengeance. This war is not about who did what wrong first. And certainly it is not about a two-state solution. The other side is not interested in compromise. In the present reality, these people will never stop until we are dead.
This war is about standing up for ourselves. The idea of collateral damage no longer makes sense to me. The people in northern Gaza especially have been given every opportunity to leave and head south. Those who remained are there for a reason. They are part of the problem. The narrative that died this week is that there are good people on the other side who can’t voice their dissension because Hamas will kill them. Much to my dismay, this just doesn’t seem to be true.
The poison of Jew hatred has seeped so far into the Gazan psyche that the only thing that can save them is brute force. They must be shown that this path only leads to their demise.
It is well documented that during hostage releases, the terrorists forced the captives to wave goodbye to them. This is a propaganda attempt to portray themselves as humane captors. The only thing more cruel than this was the mob of civilians that gathered nearby to mock and spit at the Israeli women and children as they drove by.
But something amazing happened in one of these videos. The terrorists barked instructions at Rimon Kirsht as she exited one of the vans. The footage shows her, after her more than 50-day prison sentence, giving this terrorist a death stare. I have no idea where she found the strength to do this. In effect, Kirst told him that he has no power over her.
In that one moment, Kirst showed the entire country what needs to be done. We must stand up for ourselves and root out this evil once and for all. We must look the entire world in the eye, the world that has kept us captive to their wants and desires for too long, and say we will do whatever needs to be done to stop this here and now. The only choice the rest of the world has is to support us or get the hell out of our way.
The writer is a rabbi, a wedding officiant and a mohel who performs britot (ritual circumcisions) and conversions across the world. Based in Efrat, he is the founder of Magen HaBrit, an organization protecting the practice of brit milah and the children who undergo it.