An Open Letter: Responding to the Nightmare of October 7

Saturday, October 7th, was the worst day in Jewish history since the Holocaust. As Jews across the world prepared to celebrate the joyous conclusion of our fall holiday season, Hamas terrorists snuck into Israel from Gaza and murdered more than 1300 innocent men, women, and children, including hundreds of peaceful music-lovers at an overnight concert. They also kidnapped at least 150 Israelis to be used as human shields back in Gaza.

Today, we sit in grief, horror, shock, disgust, and anger at the carnage, brutality, and inhumanity experienced
on the 7th. What happened on that day was not merely another skirmish in the long history of the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. It was Israel’s version of 9/11. The trauma, pain, and savagery Hamas inflicted on Israelis, and by extension on Jews everywhere, is something now indelibly stamped in our consciousness. How can
we even begin to process the depravity of an evil like Hamas who indiscriminately murdered babies, elderly grandparents, and anyone else they could find? How can we grieve the losses of so many beautiful lives while knowing, simultaneously, that Israel now must fight a ground war in Gaza to ensure that Hamas never again can terrorize Israel?

First, I urge all of us to condemn the atrocities committed by Hamas. Hamas’ acts of hate, terror, and murder should be publicly rejected and excoriated by anyone who values the sanctity of human life. Whatever one’s political persuasion, religious orientation, or opinion about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there should be no equivocation about or justification for kidnapping, raping, and murdering innocent civilians. Hamas is not a political party or a traditional army; it is a terrorist militia no different from ISIS in its perpetuation of hate, extremism, violence, and nihilism. Hamas’ sole reason for existing is to destroy Israel, and their heinous actions on October 7th are part and parcel of this sadistic and despicable intent.

Second, please reach out to any Jewish friends or acquaintances you might have. We are hurting right now, feeling vulnerable and isolated. Many of us here at SHU and throughout America have family members and friends in Israel who have been directly impacted by the attack on October 7th, who face daily rocket fire from Hamas in Gaza, and who are serving in the Israeli Defense Forces in the impending war. When you check in on your Jewish friends and colleagues, you let us know that we aren’t so alone. When you are present and sensitive to our despair, we feel the support and stabilization of solidarity that we so urgently need right now.

Finally, I encourage us to approach the coming war in Gaza with restraint, empathy, and open-mindedness. Israel owes its people a guarantee of safety and security; it would be immoral and an abdication of its responsibility to its citizens if Israel didn’t act in a sufficient capacity, and it has become abundantly clear that Israel cannot guarantee safety for its citizens as long as Hamas remains in power in Gaza. And, because Hamas cowardly hides in civilian enclaves, including schools, hospitals, and apartment buildings, any attack on Hamas will inevitably lead to the deaths of thousands if not tens of thousands of innocent Palestinians in Gaza, who are unable to flee the Strip. Israel is faced with an impossible, bloody, and repugnant situation. Either it eradicates Hamas by sacrificing Israeli and Palestinian lives; or it tries to limit any further bloodshed short-term but fails to protect its people long-term by letting Hamas live to see another day.
My heart is broken not only by the thousands of Israeli and Palestinian lives already taken, but also by the inevitability of the thousands more Israelis and Palestinians who will perish because of Hamas’ actions.

I pray that, someday soon, we will be rid of Hamas and other terrorist groups, that we will see an end to all violence and bloodshed in the region, and that Israelis and Palestinians will be able to live side by side in peace and security.

About the author

Jewish Chaplain, Sacred Heart University

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