Israeli soldiers remove bodies in Kibbutz Kfar Aza, which was attacked by Hamas.

Hamas slaughter shakes nation

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Hamas slaughter shakes nation

Israeli soldiers remove bodies in Kibbutz Kfar Aza, which was attacked by Hamas.

Let it be recorded that on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023, something broke again in the collective soul of the Jewish people. It occurred on Shabbat, and on the holiday of Simchat Torah. On that day, one’s hope for common decency and respect among nations of this world was shattered when hate stormed back into the lives of Israelis and Jews around the world.

The world is just learning the details of the horrific crimes Hamas committed against Israelis and humanity last Saturday. The following sentences are unimaginable to write, or read. They contain descriptions of the most heinous behavior a human being can exhibit.

The darkness fell upon the citizens of southern Israel at dawn when Hamas fired thousands of rockets into Israel. Under the cover of these missiles, it also sent drones that disabled border video and communications systems, and destroyed remote control machine guns that could have been used to repel the attack. Terrorists then blew up parts of the border fence. Soon, thousands of heavily armed Palestinian soldiers were streaming into Israel, by foot, on pickups and on motorcycles. Meanwhile, other Hamas terrorists were entering Israel by the sea, and in the air, on paragliders.

The gunmen – armed with shoulder-fired rocket-propelled grenade launchers, grenades, AK-47 assault rifles, and copies of the Koran – soon took over army bases where they were able to interrupt communications between the southern and Northern Israel military command. They used drones to knock out Israeli military defense systems. And all the while they focused on massacring as many Israelis as possible.

The slaughter would be televised, via live stream on the Internet. In a matter of hours, they had killed over 1,000 – most shot point blank. But Hamas decided to murder people in ways that expressed their hatred toward Jews – who they consider subhuman. Israelis, and many visiting from other countries, were also stabbed, had their throats slit, and decapitated. Hamas even used poison gas to kill at least 40 people hiding in a bomb shelter. One Israeli who survived the gassing – and who was shot numerous times – likened his experience to being in a Nazi gas chamber.

At Israeli villages near Gaza, Hamas went house-to-house – lighting fire to small dwellings, and burning whole families alive. At one kibbutz, they murdered at least 40 babies. At the Supernova Music Festival, held on the grounds of a kibbutz about three miles from Gaza, 3,000 millennials were dancing at a trance nature concert. As the sun rose, and the blue sky was lit up by Hamas missiles from Gaza, it was there that the worst atrocity to befall the Jewish people since the Holocaust occurred.

Hamas gunmen blocked the festival’s entrance with ISIS-styled white pickups, and as Israelis scrambled to their cars to leave, they were caught in gridlock. Those who stayed in their cars were summarily executed. Many who ran died from bullets in their back. There were those who sought safety in bomb shelters who were sprayed with automatic weapons, and killed by grenades. They used RPG launchers on those who tried to flee. Many Israelis managed to run to the nearby woods and hide in the forest for hours, texting desperate family members. Others hid in trash, like a young woman who sent her father a short, reassuring video telling him it would be OK, shortly before she was killed.

Carmel Efron Medalia, a single mother from Zichron Yaakov, had spent the night greeting revelers, and collecting tickets at the entrance to the festival. She told me she expected to die at any moment and was miraculously saved several times in a matter of minutes. “I’m praying to God,” she said, describing her attempt to outrun death. She had tried to drive away, and then abandoned her car and began to sprint in an open field. “I’m saying ‘Sh’ma Yisrael, Sh’ma Yisrael,’ and I’m telling God, ‘Please save my life for my daughter.’ ” Hours later she was found by an Israeli soldier in a forest, and it took her two days to return to her home.

Back at the festival, other men and women were rounded up and taken as part of the 150 hostages that were brought to Gaza. Some of the female hostages were raped by Hamas militants and then executed. When they decided they had killed and sexually assaulted and taken enough prisoners, they left – forcing many of their hostages to walk to Gaza. Behind them, at the festival grounds, 260 bodies lay still.

At Kibbutz Kfar Aza – one of the dozens of communities that the terrorists entered to butcher Jews – the smell of death hung over the 72-year-old collective. Until Saturday, 750 made their home there. Now, about one third of the residents are no longer. According to Israeli media, at least 40 babies were massacred there on Saturday; some were beheaded. And at nearby Kibbutz Be’eri, over 100 Israelis were killed.

“It’s not a war,” General Itai Veruv, head of the IDF’s Depth Command, told the media on Tuesday. “It’s not a battlefield. You see the babies, the mothers, the fathers in their bedrooms, in their protection rooms, and how the terrorists kill them. It’s not a war … it’s a massacre.”

All across Israel there were stories of heartbreak. Hostages, and those taking their final breaths, texted their last goodbyes to loved ones. Some died speaking on the phone to their parents or spouses. Peace activists, children, mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, Holocaust survivors, the disabled, war heroes, pensioners, and the unemployed were mowed down in their own homes, cars and on the street. As the bloodbath spread out as far as 20 miles from the Gaza border, some – like the daughter and son-in-law of a retired Brandeis professor – threw themselves on their children to save them before they died. Others called in to TV stations and told listeners that they were about to be killed and pleaded for the army to arrive.

And there was heroism like the father of a Haaretz reporter, who drove down to the Gaza border with a pistol and killed several terrorists as his son, daughter-in-law, and one- and three-year-old grandchildren held their breath in their apartment as terrorists tried to annihilate them. Finally, the retired general killed the gunmen and banged on the door. “Grandfather is here,” announced one of his grandchildren.

In America, most were shocked. But on the streets of major cities, including Boston, Palestinians and those sympathetic to their cause, seemed energized by the mass execution of Jews.

And plenty of local organizations sympathetic to the Palestinian cause – such as dozens of Harvard student groups – criticized Israel after the attack. Former Harvard President Lawrence Summers was stunned by the silence of Harvard’s leadership. “Why can’t we give reassurance that the university stands squarely against Hamas terror to frightened students when 35 groups of their fellow students appear to be blaming all the violence on Israel?” Summers wrote on X, formerly Twitter, on Tuesday.

President Joe Biden brought some solace to American and Israeli Jews, in words and actions. After the attack he promised more arms to Israel and sent a message to Hamas, Hezbollah, and its primary funder – Iran – when he ordered an aircraft carrier to the region. For those who were already calling the horrific attack “fake news” on social media, Biden provided a sober assessment of what happened. “This was an act of sheer evil – more than 1,000 civilians slaughtered in Israel. Among them at least 14 American citizens killed,” he said, on Tuesday, again sending an implicit warning to Iran and other counties to stay out of the conflict.

It was another seminal moment in the history of Israel, and the Jews, and there are many questions about Israel’s intelligence failure and the war that it has been drawn into. For most American Jews, who know little about Israeli society but feel deeply connected to the country, we can only wonder about how Israel will deal with such an enemy. And they have targeted us as well, and all those who have a cell phone. The terrorists have eagerly brought their chaos into our living room. We are seeking answers, and the video from the mass execution is aimed at those who believe in democracy; it is another form of their psychological warfare. They want to normalize inhumanity and sadism. They want us to keep watching and absorb it all.

This week, the funerals were being held, the wounded overflowing hospitals, the bombs still flying over Sderot, Ashkelon, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Hezbollah was shooting some of their 150,000 rockets again into northern Israel, and Israeli soldiers had been killed on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon. Meanwhile, chaos seemed to rein from the south to the north. Families across Israel still didn’t know if their sons and daughters were alive or being held in Gaza. The government was saying little, except that it had called up 300,000 reserves, and was at war.

I turned to a close friend for an assessment from Jerusalem. This was not a time to rank this tragedy in the tome of atrocities that have been committed over the centuries against the Jews. This was a time to deal with the present. He had fought in the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War, and had also once led Israel’s internal intelligence unit in the city. He told me that there had never been such a sadness or military failure such as the Simchat Torah slaughter. He also said that there was no choice but to fight and destroy Hamas. He just said, simply, “We have no other land.”

This story includes information from wire services.

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