October 20, 2023
I’m writing to you from Israel, as I conclude a two-day solidarity mission with my fellow CEOs of Jewish American organizations.
We were here because it’s vital to show the Israeli people that the Jewish American community is with them. As one survivor of Hamas’ massacre told us last night: “We need to be reminded that we are not alone.”
And that is what we tried to do this week, carrying with us the grief, pain, and love we know you share, and rallying around our Israeli brothers and sisters in this dire moment.
On Wednesday, we met with the families of eight hostages – some of whom were simultaneously burying family members while fighting for the return of others. Heartbreakingly, just hours after we met their family, the bodies of 80-year-old Carmela Dan and her 13-year-old granddaughter Naya were found – nearly unidentifiable; three of their other relatives remain missing.
The families’ message to us was loud and clear: do not allow Israeli leadership – and the world – to lose sight of the 200 hostages that remain in Gaza. They cannot be forgotten and they cannot be sacrificed. We must bring them home.
That is a core message we carried into our meetings with President Herzog, Prime Minister Netanyahu, and other senior Israeli officials. In addition to speaking out for the hostages and their families, and underscoring the Jewish American community’s deep support for Israel as it seeks to defeat Hamas, those meetings also included hard conversations on protecting civilians and humanitarian aid in Gaza and the fact that, after the war, this conflict will – as it’s always – require a long-term political solution.
We also spent time yesterday with survivors of the terror attack, including families that have been evacuated from the south, as well as some of the many injured who remain at Hadassah and other hospitals. One survivor from Netiv HaAsara – a moshav just outside Gaza that has long advocated for peace – has been to 12 funerals in the last three days alone.
Imagine the grief and the pain of surviving a massacre, losing countless family and friends, fighting for the return of those taken hostage – and then being told by some that your grief and pain don’t matter — or worse, is somehow justified —because they don’t like the actions of your government. That is precisely what these communities are going through.
And yet despite all that, their moral clarity is remarkable. “I still don’t hate the Palestinians. The enemy is Hamas,” one Netiv HaAsara survivor told us.
As the impact of this crisis expands here and around the globe with rising bigotry and violence, let us channel the clarity of the Netiv HaAsara community.
There are many who are going to tell us that we should give up on community relations; on building bridges with other communities across lines of difference; on recognizing that we as Jews are ultimately safer in relationship with our neighbors.
We cannot give up on this work. The only path forward is through.
That is why JCPA organized over 150 Jewish organizations to speak out against Islamophobia, anti-Arab hate, and antisemitism this week after a six-year-old Muslim child was murdered and hate targeting Jews, Muslims, and Arab Americans has skyrocketed. And we won’t stop organizing for the safety of our Jewish community and all communities under threat – because we know that our futures are inextricably linked.
Wishing you a peaceful and restful Shabbat,