Sign on North Rd, Ormond, Victoria
Dear Friends, as I begin to write this morning, I realise, like you probably, there is so much swirling in my head. It is now 38 days since the terrible massacre of so many by the Hamas butchers in the Israeli communities along the Gaza border. Communities I and probably many of you have visited many times with JNF/KKL.
It’s hard to separate out that which crowds out our minds. The hostages? Where are they? Are they still alive? Are they being tortured? Are they being cared for? What of the babies?
The remaining families of those tortured and murdered in their homes. How are they coping with their horrible reality and the loss of their loved ones?
Then we turn to the war that the IDF has been forced to fight. Not a war of Israel’s choosing, but a war necessitated by the need to wipe out the murderous Hamas terrorist organisation. I am not going to discuss the complexity of the Palestinian/Israel conflict. Suffice to say Gaza has not been occupied by Israel for many years and a ceasefire was in place until it was broken on October 7, the day of the massacre.
We are now learning that this has become a subterranean war, in the tunnels built underground by Hamas. Built to hide their weapons and themselves, leaving the Gazan population without the necessities of life and being exposed as human shields.
I saw this morning a video of the weapons the IDF found in the basement of Rantissi Children’s hospital. A hospital specialising in the treatment of children with cancer. There was also evidence of the hostages having been held there. Baby bottles and nappies were strewn around the floor. Where are those babies now?
Because there may be booby-traps in these tunnels, the IDF must go with caution. They have still not found the hostages, who could be anywhere in these myriads of tunnels.
Along with all of this, we as Jews in the diaspora and across the West are now facing rampant antisemitism reminding us of pre-war Europe where many of our families came from. All while we are doing our best to support our brothers and sisters in Israel however we can. It is so hard not to feel emotional in this environment.
Disappointingly, some of our politicians and fellow Australians are calling for a ceasefire and making extraordinary accusations of genocide. They seem to have conveniently forgotten that there have been many offers of peace and a two-state solution, all of which has been refused. And at no time has there been an acceptance of the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish State within secure borders as was mandated by the United Nations in 1948. This is still the case and the rhetoric.
My own neighbourhood of Caulfield with its large Jewish population, many synagogues, Jewish delis, bakeries and cake shops was the scene of a violent pro-Palestinian (or was it Hamas?) demonstration last Friday night on Shabbat. Rocks were thrown at families on the street, Shabbat services had to be cancelled and messages were flying around the community with video clips warning of the danger.
This is not the Australia I grew up in. So, what has gone wrong? One thing I do know is that the leadership of any country must be strong and lead the way. Not just say but demonstrate by their actions that racial and religious vilification is not acceptable under any circumstances.
We have laws to protect us from hate speech and incitement to harm based on race and/or religion. Why are these laws not being implemented? Why does law enforcement not put an end to such protests for the safety of our communities? Why are antisemitic protesters and groups allowed to flood into areas of the Jewish community expressing rage and hate?
I understand and appreciate our strong support for Freedom of Speech. But when that speech puts the safety of any member of any community at risk because it incites, then it becomes unlawful and unacceptable.
AM YISRAEL CHAI
Helen Shardey OAM
ARZA Australia President
UPJ Vice President
WUPJ Executive Board