Demonstrators rally in support of Hamas hostages near the United Nations in New York City, Jan. 12, 2024. (Luke Tress)

The world can say what it will

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The world can say what it will

Demonstrators rally in support of Hamas hostages near the United Nations in New York City, Jan. 12, 2024. (Luke Tress)

Saturday was the hottest day of the year so far, and we had a 45-minute walk to a bat mitzvah on the other side of town.

“Did you hear the news?” a woman eagerly stopped us on our way home. We hadn’t heard anything because we don’t use electronics on the Sabbath. “Four hostages are home!” she informed us. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

The prevailing narrative of Israel as the aggressor could not be suppressed even for the rescue of four innocent people. The international media did everything it could to spin the story against the Jewish state. There was CNN’s headline that read, “Four Hostages Released” – as if Hamas suddenly had a change of heart – to the incessant focus on the number of casualties incurred on the other side, numbering hundreds.

This past week was marked by an unofficial policy change in Israel. It feels as if the government is saying, “We do not care what the world says about us anymore.” The first incidents that indicated a change were the strikes on two Hamas-embedded UNRWA schools. Inevitably, the world’s reaction would be entirely negative because schools were involved, yet the operations were green-lit anyway.

But as amazing as these four hostages coming home is – and that can’t be overstated – it just isn’t enough. There are still more than 100 individuals being held captive by Hamas. But they are not the only captives. Today’s bat mitzvah girl and her family are close friends of 23-year-old Hersh Goldberg-Polin and his family. Hersh was abducted to Gaza on Oct. 7, and the only contact since was the propaganda video Hamas released in April.

As is done in many religious communities around the world, a prayer was said for the hostages. Hersh’s cousin was given the honor of reciting the prayer, but her emotions didn’t allow her to finish. A friend had to step in to assist her.

No one knew that four hostages were being rescued at that very moment. Sadly, Hersh was not one of them.

But something was noticeably missing from this special day. Hersh’s parents, although close family friends, were not in attendance, and their absence was not due to a conflicting engagement.

They weren’t there because they are trapped in a world of pain – the likes of which no one should know. And this anguish, along with the nonstop schedule of advocating for their son, keeps them from participating in the happy occasions we all need so much.

It is because of these captives, both the hostages and their families, that Israel will never stop fighting until the war is won.

The rest of the world can say whatever they want about us, but nothing could be worse than what Hamas has already done and continues to do to our people.

May we see an end to this conflict with all of the hostages and our soldiers home swiftly and safely. Θ

Rabbi Haim Leiter writes from Israel.

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