Pieter Bruegel the Elder was a sixteenth-century star in the Dutch and Flemish Renaissance. He’s most often associated with paintings of peasants and other common people doing everyday things: hunting in the snow, ice-skating, dancing at a wedding, eating, sleeping, and playing children’s games. In one painting, a peasant is doing what peasants have been doing for over ten thousand years. He is plowing. The earth rises up in furrows. The horse trudges forward. The plowman keeps his gaze directed at the ground beneath his feet. On a terrace beneath the plowman, a blank-faced shepherd, surrounded by sheep, leans on his staff and directs his gaze toward the sky. Further down, a fisherman casts out his line. In the distance, the wind puffs the sails of a galleon. Only after learning the name of the painting does the viewer search the scene beyond these prominent features. And there the viewer finds them: two pale, naked legs are plunging into the water. This is “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus.” Icarus was a character in Greek mythology. His father manufactured wings so his son could fly. The wings gave way and Icarus fell to earth. Many other artists have depicted Icarus’ fall. They usually place him in the center. Bruegel did not.
In 1938, almost four hundred years after “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus,” poet W.H. Auden visited Belgium’s Royal Museums of Fine Arts. He wrote a poem about the paintings he saw there. Auden observes that the Old Masters were never wrong in their artistic depictions of human suffering. In Nativity scenes, there are some children who don’t much care about the birth of the Messiah; they are off ice-skating. In scenes of martyrdom, “the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse scratches its innocent behind on a tree.”
And then there is that boy falling out of the sky.
the ploughman may
have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
but for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
as it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.
The human ability to ignore shocking data and to carry on with the business of every day life is an important survival skill. Perhaps nothing is as shocking to an individual as losing a loved one to death, and yet we get up the next morning, make breakfast, clock in at work, and march dully forward into a future void where our departed loved one will never again play any part. The problem is, of course, that evil people count on this human ability to stroll past atrocity. The internet seemed, at first, to promise that that most precious of commodities, human attention, would be focused on wrongdoing. Evil people, thus exposed, would hesitate to commit crimes, or would stop committing crimes once those crimes were filmed and witnessed by others.
On October 7, 2023, Hamas jihadis attacked Israeli civilians. The jihadis carried out an orgy of atrocities against defenseless people who were at a music festival, or sleeping in their beds, or even just relieving themselves in a port-a-potty. Jihadis tied a father and child together with wire and then burned them both to death. Hamas jihadis paraded a dead woman’s stripped corpse so that other Muslims could spit on her remains. Hamas jihadis tied children together and then set them all alight and burned them alive. Hamas jihadis sexually violated copses. Hamas jihadis ate a family’s lunch as they tortured and mutilated parents and two young children. A Hamas jihadi used a garden hoe to attempt to decapitate an injured but still living agricultural worker from Thailand. And Hamas jihadis placed a Jewish baby in an oven and turned on the heat, murdering the infant. Hamas jihadis filmed their atrocities, and shared them with pride. Captured jihadis later described their atrocities in interrogations with Israeli officials. One admitted that Hamas jihadis kidnapped women and children in order to “dirty,” that is to rape them. Another said, “We became animals.” He and his fellow jihadis, he confessed, did “things that humans do not do.”
The atrocities Hamas jihadis committed are in accord with the standards established by Quran verses, hadiths, and examples from the biography of Muhammad. These canonical materials support endless war, torture, rape, including the rape of minors, genocide, and dismemberment of non-Muslims. Muhammad committed a genocide of a Jewish tribe, the Banu Qurayzah. Muhammad ordered the torture with fire of a captured Jew, Kenana al-Rabi. Muhammad took as his sex slave this tortured and murdered Jew’s wife. Muhammad had also killed the father and brother of Safiyah bint Huyayy. Muhammad ordered his jihadis not just to rape women captives of war, but also to rape them in front of their husbands, and to impregnate them. Muhammad permitted the killing of women and children, saying, “They are of them,” that is, they are members of a group we want to wipe out, so killing them is permitted. Muhammad ordered the expulsion of Christians and Jews from the Arabian peninsula. The Quran orders Muslims to subject Christians and Jews to “humiliation.”
Hamas atrocities are related to atrocities committed by other jihadis elsewhere. ISIS committed filmed atrocities for years. Their victims included Shiite Muslims, Yazidis, and Christians. In 2015, jihadis attacked in Paris, murdering 137 and injuring over 400. In the US there has been a string of jihad atrocities, including the 9/11 attacks, the Boston Marathon bombing, the San Bernardino attack, and many others. Jihadis attack their fellow Muslims, as well. See a partial list here and here.
The current estimate is that over 1,400 Israelis were killed. Given that Israel is much smaller than the US, by some estimates, a proportional loss of life in the US would have erased over 50,000 American lives. Here’s another metric. On October 7, more Jewish civilians were murdered on any day since the end of the Holocaust.
Many Muslims and their supporters around the world reacted with glee and approval to October 7. There were the de rigueur ululations and distribution of celebratory candy. Muslim journalist Latifa Abouchakra, a broad smile spreading across her face, said, “Nothing will ever be able to take back this moment, this moment of triumph … this moment of humiliation” of Jews. Professor Refaat Alareer, who had previously been praised by and published in the New York Times, joked about killing a Jewish baby in an oven. In Dagestan, Muslims mobbed an airport and climbed on planes, attempting to break windows, in response to a rumor that Jews might be on those planes. Other Muslims “besieged” a hotel in search of Jewish guests. In Sydney, Australia, near the iconic opera house, Muslims and their allies chanted “Gas the Jews.” At Cornell in New York State, Jewish students have been receiving messages like, “watch out pig jews. nowhere is safe. Your synagogues will become graveyards. your women will be raped and your children will be beheaded. glory to Allah” [sic].
Mika Tosca, a professor at the Art Institute of Chicago, and a man who identifies as a woman, called Israelis pigs, savages, very bad people, irredeemable excrement, and concluded, “May they all rot in hell.” Support for Hamas atrocities perhaps reached its absurdist nadir when British prostitutes joined in. Their statement of support is here. Or, as Armin Navabi points out, the cluelessness of Western leftists’ support for Hamas is best illustrated by “Queers for Palestine.” Of course gay and trans-identified people are regularly tortured and killed by Muslims in Gaza.
It doesn’t take a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing. Aware citizens recognized October 7 as a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, and as a day that called for decent people to take a stand. There are selfish reasons as well as humanitarian ones for concern. Israel is a tiny country, approximately the size of New Jersey. It has fewer than ten million citizens. But Israel is a nuclear power. Jews have become impatient with being targeted for genocide while the world stands idly by. Desperation might cause fingers on buttons to twitch. Israel’s nukes do not render it omnipotent. There are almost two billion Muslims in the world. Some of those allies have nukes. Israel is located in a petroleum hub, and the world runs on petroleum. The World Bank warned on October 30 that Hamas atrocities and subsequent Israeli response could trigger an oil price shock and an increase in already troublesome inflation.
Jihadis often justify their atrocities with reference to previous events. Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev attempted to justify his murder of an eight-year-old boy, Martin Richard. America had killed Muslims, Tsarnaev insisted, so it was righteous to plant a pressure cooker bomb full of nails next to Martin Richard’s tiny, innocent body. Tsarnaev wrote, “The US Government is killing our innocent civilians … I can’t stand to see such evil go unpunished, we Muslims are one body, you hurt one you hurt us all.” On October 7, thinking people knew: Israel will retaliate, and Muslims will, in turn, murder Americans, and attempt to justify that murder just as Tsarnaev attempted to justify the senseless murder of a little boy standing right next to him.
Finally, there is one more selfish reason for the whole world to shudder at October 7 and its aftermath. Anti-Semites may start with Jews, but they don’t finish with Jews. Every act that emboldens jihadis makes everyone – even other Muslims – less safe.
Moral people feel as if we are reliving the days of Nazism’s rise. When we learned about Nazism in school, we were encouraged to ask ourselves, what would we do if we witnessed anything similar? We were all sure that we’d be the heroes. The heroes intelligent enough to recognize the threat. The heroes courageous enough to speak up in spite of the mob. The heroes integral enough to take action. The heroes compassionate enough to see in victimized Jews a fellow human being.
I looked for that heroism on social media, even the minor heroism of adding a tiny Israeli flag to a Facebook photo. I well remember January, 2019, when Facebook was suddenly flooded with video of a teenage boy in front of the Lincoln Memorial face to face with an elderly man banging a drum. The video came through my feed multiple times from Judy, Terry, and other liberal, middle-aged white women. They spoke in the panicked tones of the last passenger aboard the sinking Titanic. The white boy was the embodiment of everything evil. We all had to live our lives as if we were plugged into an electric outlet pumping our beings with righteous, electrifying outrage until this white boy was, as one social media post illustrated, fed into a wood chipper and reduced to squirting blood and unrecognizable slices of viscera.
I also remember the summer of 2020, when, again, liberal, middle-aged white women were on fire, so much so that these nice ladies voted thumbs up when whites and blacks alike, including black police officer David Dorn, were murdered in the streets as part of a vast worldwide ritual of human sacrifice for the new deity, George Floyd.
Surely there would be a similar series of Facebook posts expressing outrage at the rape of corpses, the beheading of a Thai agriculture worker, the burning alive of children tied together.
Of course that never happened. Very few of my Facebook friends posted anything at all saying anything at all about October 7. One posted an article questioning the truth value of the atrocity reports. Maybe Jews were lying. Maybe these bad things never happened.
A few women posted images of doves with olive branches in their beaks accompanied by statements insisting, paraphrase, “Peace is better than war. We should have peace.” One Facebook friend posted a photo of a boy in a keffiyeh hugging a boy in a yarmulke. The photo is fake and was staged; see here. My friend didn’t care. She wants the world to be soft and sweet and closes her eyes when it is not. I am sad that she and so many others believe it is moral to close one’s eyes to others’ inconvenient pain and to pure evil. One male friend posted a “both sides” post. He also claimed that Israelis are really German.
After jihad attacks on France, many Facebook friends, including liberals, added a French flag to their profile photo. After October 7, just one friend, a Polish-American Catholic, added an Israeli flag to her photo.
I posted a photo of a horse. I snapped the photo in a local park. I admitted that I’m not a big horse fan or cat fan, but I thought the horse looked attractive against the bright blue autumn sky. Facebook friends who had been silent when I posted support for Israel suddenly had something to say. Horses are nice, they insisted. Cats are also nice. My Facebook friends who had nothing to say about the massacre of Jews were ready to go to the mat for horses and cats.
Jews everywhere should carry a kitten at all times. Then, if the Jew is attacked, the kitten will be imperiled also, and suddenly the world will care.
New Jersey is a diverse state. New Jersey has both comparatively high Muslim and also Jewish populations. On Monday, October 23, I had a doctor’s appointment. A woman I know to be Jewish was conversing with the receptionist. The receptionist asked, “For your next appointment, would you like a date just before or just after Christmas?”
The woman responded, “Makes no difference to me. I’m –”
She was about to say, “I’m Jewish.” But she didn’t. Instead, she said, “I don’t celebrate Christmas.”
I was chilled. In my state. In my country. A woman is afraid to say, in the civilized setting of a crowded doctor’s waiting room, the words, “I’m Jewish.” Her fear is not exaggerated. In December, 2019, anti-Semites carried out a terror attack in Jersey City, killing four.
A Facebook friend who lives in Bloomington, Indiana, reported that her husband attended a pro-Israel event. He felt it necessary to wear body armor. His concern is not exaggerated. When I lived in Bloomington as an IU graduate student, the local Hillel was repeatedly subjected to threats of violence, and on July 4, 1999, an IU student went on a shooting spree and shot Jews, Blacks, Christians, and Asians.
I posted the following on Facebook:
“After Russia invaded Ukraine, I safety-pinned a Ukrainian flag to my backpack. I wear the flag everyday, on the back of my backpack, as I walk. Ukrainians stop me and thank me. I tell them I am praying for a just peace in their homeland.
After October 7, I searched for Israeli flags. And then I realized that if I wore an Israeli flag on my backpack in the same way that I wear the Ukrainian flag, people would hurt me. If I wore an Israeli flag, I would risk being pushed, hit, spat on, having rocks thrown at me, and even killed.
Friends, imagine how many Jews feel now. In America. The land of the free and the home of the brave. They see that Jews are targets for deadly and sadistic hate. They see that too many stand by silently. Jews are less than one percent of the world’s population. Without allies, Jews are doomed. Looking the other way at a moment like this sends the wrong message. Do something, please. Post a picture of a menorah. Call the White House. Say, simply, ‘This is horrible.'”
This post got a few likes, mostly from Jewish friends. But no more than that.
No, I do not think that my friends who are remaining silent are anti-Semitic. But their silence makes me rethink the definition of “anti-Semitism.” Choosing to look the other way when a vulnerable minority is targeted isn’t the same as seething hatred, but it can contribute to the same final outcome, the same final solution.
I don’t know if the silent ones buy the narrative from National Public Radio and other powerful media. In this narrative, jihadi atrocities on October 7 were sad, of course, very sad. But, “both sides.” But, “proportional.” But, “1400 Jews” versus the death toll in Gaza, now put at 8,000 by the Gaza Health Ministry. The ladies who posted peace doves are very upset by that number.
Here’s what NPR refuses to say. If Muslims recognized Israel, war would cease. The only ones who rejoice at Muslim death tolls are Hamas and other anti-Semites. To Hamas and other anti-Semites, dead Muslim Arabs have only one purpose: to inflame more hatred against Jews. Israel would gladly fight Hamas by the rules of conventional war, but Hamas fights an unconventional war because unconventional war is to its advantage. NPR does not say that Hamas is a genocidal movement whose stated goal is, ultimately, to kill every Jew in the world. Hamas insists that this genocide is the duty of every Muslim, as outlined in sacred texts. See here. I’ve tried to speak these truths in comments to the New York Times. I am civil. I quote canonical texts. The New York Times, though it posts other comments by me, does not post these comments. As long as these basic truths are unsayable in mainstream media, Israel must be depicted as the bad guy.
NPR insists that Gaza is a terrible place to live. NPR blames Israel for Gaza’s poor living conditions. Here’s what NPR will not mention: Muslim countries in Africa, including Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Somalia, Sudan, and Chad, and Muslim countries in the Middle East, like Syria, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, and Muslim countries in Central Asia, like Pakistan and Afghanistan, and in South Asia, like Bangladesh – are terrible places to live. They all host terror cells. Countries with Muslim minorities, including the US, and in Europe, in the UK, France, Belgium and Holland, and the Philippines and Thailand in South-east Asia, all host Muslim terror cells. The one thing they all have in common is a shared belief system: Islam. There’s a reason there are Muslims protesting in Europe, America, and Australia. All those Muslims wanted to be someplace other than their Islamic homelands, so they are now in Europe, America, and Australia. The problem is not Israel. The solution is not two states or even the eradication of Israel that Hamas demands. The solution is telling people the truth about Islam and liberating Muslims from the ideology that ruins their lives.
Worldwide protesters don’t care about dead Muslims. We know because worldwide protesters remain silent about China’s extreme oppression of Uighurs. Over a million Uighurs have been detained in camps by China. There has been no significant street protest against China. The Muslim Rohingya have been violently persecuted in Myanmar (Burma) and are unwanted in countries to which they have fled, including Bangladesh and Thailand. Thais have towed Rohingya out to sea. There have been no significant street protests for the Rohingya, nor for Iranian women, or Syrian victims of government torture, or for stateless Kurds, or for the Circassian diaspora, forever exiled from their homeland by Russia.
The protesters hate Jews. They are animated by that hatred. They are not shouting or texting or writing signs about the great new Muslim homeland they will create. They are fantasizing about gassing and raping and beheading Jews. We need leadership that has the courage to articulate these truths.
Two of my non-Jewish Facebook friends have been speaking up. Robert Guyton is a devout Catholic and a man of integrity. He does not rejoice in his difference from the silent ones. He said that exhibiting integrity merely allows him the ability to look at himself in the mirror. He wrote,
“I have had to take a stand several times in my life, and say what others will not, about things I see that others ignore. I don’t like doing it. I don’t feel noble. I usually feel angry that I was put in a position to act while others stood about or hid. I don’t like it because I feel like I could go ‘OK Corral’ too easily, and may not know when to stop. My ‘example’ means nothing to others, as far as I can tell. Maybe they are amused, and are glad some other dumb sap got to put himself at risk. I don’t know anything really, except that it allows me to look at myself in the mirror.”
Otto Gross’ parents were Nazis. He understands the danger of zealots seduced by hate and ignored by silent bystanders. In Hamas’ strategy, Otto sees a parallel to Nazi strategy. In Gaza, he sees the Sudetenland – territory and people manipulated to invite what two different nihilistic ideologies demand – cataclysmic war that purges the earth, leaving it Judenrein. “Hamas used donations for other purposes than setting up a sustainable society or functional government. The ‘downtrodden Palestinians’ are analogous to ‘downtrodden Sudetenland Germans’: pawns to increase extremists’ power. Just create conflict, claim that others cause your misery, and misdirect rage at the Israelis. No one wants Gazans now, including Muslim countries, because they’ve been militarized. They had a land they could have built on. Egypt could have contributed. The only thing they created was a launch pad for terrorism. Same deal, different dogma. If they wanted peace they had a chance and blew it.”
Otto is not alone in analogizing Hamas to Nazism. Soliman Hijjy works at the New York Times. He’s on the record praising Hitler, as Bari Weiss points out, here. More Muslim Arab Hitler fans with New York Times bylines are exposed here.
My Jewish friends have not been silent. I want to, with their permission, share some of their words.
My Facebook friend Marc Brawer lives in Israel. He is a jolly fellow, usually posting songs and humorous material to uplift the spirit of anyone who passes by his page. His words were different after October 7. That day was a Jewish holiday. Simchat Torah marks the end, and also the beginning, of a cycle of Torah readings. Marc wrote,
“Following a holiday dinner on Friday evening, October 7, my son drove down to southern Israel, near the border with Gaza, together with two of his friends to attend the Nova music festival.
A barrage of rockets fell on the festival. Total chaos ensued. People ran every which way to try to escape the attack. My son entered a shelter together with about thirty other young people including five of his friends.
As soon as the rocket attack stopped, dozens of heavily armed terrorists entered the venue with the objective to kill as many people as possible, and take hostages.
They sprayed automatic rifle fire into the shelter that held thirty defenseless civilians, threw in hand grenades, and set it on fire. Anybody that tried to escape was shot.
My son took off his shoes and shirt as it got very hot, and it was very difficult to breathe. He ran out of the burning shelter, managing to avoid being shot.
Nearby he found a large thicket of bushes next to a corpse of a young woman who had been murdered. He hid himself in the bushes. He pretended he was dead. He laid there for about six hours. All that time he heard gunfire, explosions of hand grenades, shouting in Arabic, and screaming in Hebrew.
At one point he identified friendly vehicles of the Israeli security forces. He ran towards them. He was barefoot, and he wasn’t wearing a shirt. He wore only blood-soaked short pants. They picked him up and took him out of that hell.
He miraculously escaped with his life. Four of his five friends were slaughtered on that day. His hearing has been impaired and he is now undergoing treatment at a local hospital.”
Facebook friend Van Ze’ev Wallach wrote that, in his New York home, he began to hear of the October 7 attacks and decided to do something he’d never done before: attend a Simchat Torah service.
“I decided,” Van wrote, that “the time had come … on this terrible day, to sing and dance with my fellow Jews and the Torah … The observance took on an eerie feel when I arrived at the shul on a drizzly Saturday night. The interior looked dark, although cars were in the parking lot. Through the windows I could see flickering lights and shadowy outlines of some people. A security guard, barely visible in the gloom, told me the power had gone out that afternoon, during a day of pounding rain, and directed me to the side entrance. This was my introduction to Hakafot in darkness.”
“Hakafot” here means singing and dancing with Torah scrolls.
“The rabbi mesmerized us with a story about a celebration of Simchat Torah by yeshiva students in a concentration camp and the bittersweet nature of laughter and tears in this moment … I felt a connection to my fellow Jews at Chabad of Bedford, to the embattled Jews of Israel and the generations going back to Mt. Sinai. I’ll always remember October 7 as the night of the Hakafot in darkness, as if we had blackout curtains hung for safety. We met in the darkness of night, in the darkness of violence against Israel. Still, we defied the physical and spiritual gloom when we lit candles and said prayers and danced with the Torah.”
Facebook friend Alex Bensky predicted that Hamas would use images of Arab suffering to win the propaganda war. He saw, in this, a parallel to Nazi strategy. Alex’s local library has a collection of Signal, a Nazi magazine. Alex wrote, “I came across some articles about Allied bombing and of course there are pictures of German women and children injured or dead, sad little faces looking at the reader, stories about churches destroyed, schools hit by bombs, and so forth … The death of children is of course terrible … and each and every one of these carefully selected pictures shows someone who was the responsibility not of the Combined Bomber Offensive, but of Hitler and the Nazis … We will be seeing lots of similar tragic pictures of Gazans and when I see them I will bear in mind who is responsible for them.”
In 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain signed the Munich Agreement, ceding the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany. He said that Nazi Germany’s territorial demands on Czechoslovakia were “a quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing.” Ultimately, of course, that “far away” “quarrel” would metastasize into a British death toll of 384,000 soldiers killed in combat, and 70,000 dead British civilians.
Are my Facebook friends silent because they regard Israel as a far away country about which they know nothing? If so, I would like to disabuse them of that belief. The same ideology, the same canonical quotes from the same Quran and hadith that Hamas cites in justification of its genocidal stance, that same package, took the lives of approximately three thousand Americans on September 11, 2001.
And there’s another reason that all of this is not far away.
My friend Liron posts laconic updates. Sample, “Heavy barrage. We are okay.” I asked for more details. She replied, “Hamas is firing rockets from Gaza, some short range and others long range. There’s no pattern to it, though they tend to fire them at the center of the country in the afternoons and evenings. Without the iron dome, we’d be f—ed.”
Alex elaborated. “Hamas is launching missiles from densely populated areas. Here, as elsewhere, Hamas deliberately makes civilians targets and the rest of the world, by and large, plays along.”
That’s what my Facebook friends who have been silent about Israel are scrolling past. One friend posts cat photos; another friend posts updates informing us that she has survived another missile barrage. All I ask is this. If you are going to “like” the cat photos, please also “like” the update from my friend surviving genocidal assaults.
I don’t understand how anyone can scroll past accounts like that from my friend, the author Karen A. Wyle. Karen’s mother, Bronislawa Zarkower, left Poland in 1938. The Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, and built Auschwitz and other death camps there.
Karen reports, “My father Karl Weihrauch left Berlin a month before Kristallnacht. He and his brother Bert went back into Europe and then Germany with the U.S. military. He was in a rifle squad in the 42nd Division, in one of two units that were first into Dachau. He saw at least one guard alive who was dead in the photos taken that day. Some soldiers gave their weapons to prisoners, which may be how the guard ended up dead.”
My friends scrolling past reports of October 7 also scroll past Karen’s and Liron’s history.
Liron writes, “Yehuda Ber was my great grandfather. He spent the war years in the Lodz ghetto. His daughter, my grandmother, and his son escaped to the USSR. His other daughter, my grandmother’s little sister, died in the ghetto. He and his wife, my great grandmother, were deported to Auschwitz in the summer of 1944. She was gassed there, and he was placed on a train from Auschwitz to Dachau. He died on that train.
Teresa Rosendahl is my mother-in-law. She was born in the Sosnowiec Ghetto in 1943. Her parents managed to smuggle her out of the ghetto to a Polish family. That family, some days later, brought her to a local convent, and that’s where she stayed until the war ended. Teresa Janina Kierocinska was the name of the nun who took care of her. After the war ended, her mother, who survived Auschwitz, returned to Sosnowiec and retrieved her.”
Genocidal anti-Semites would have a further impact on Liron’s family. Liron mentioned her aunt. I searched the web and found an obituary for Liron’s aunt. I plugged it in to Google translate and polished up the translation.
“Miriam Guetta was born on April 14, 1947 in Alexandria, Egypt … The family of nine children immigrated to Israel in 1950.” Note: in the twentieth century, Muslim countries like Egypt expelled almost a million Jews. Many of those Middle Eastern Jews went to Israel.
“Miriam’s career choice, nurse, was natural for her. She loved people and desired to help. Miriam worked at the hospital in Afula, in the children’s department, where she was called ‘the angel in white.’ When her sister became seriously ill, Miriam did not leave her sister’s bed for months, and took care of her until her sister was out of danger and completely recovered. Miriam took care of wounded soldiers in the Six-Day War.
In 1972 she moved to Kiryat Shmona as a community nurse. On her first day, she met her future husband, Jacob Guetta, who worked as a guide for street gangs.
Miriam became pregnant shortly after her marriage, and her joy was boundless. The woman who had been the mother of her many nieces and nephews had names already prepared for her newborn.
On Thursday morning, April 11, 1974, during Passover, three terrorists infiltrated Israel from Lebanon. Early in the morning, the terrorists arrived at Kiryat Shmona. The squad members entered a school building, but when they saw that the building was empty, they left it and moved to nearby residential buildings on Yehuda Halevi Street.
At first they entered building number 13 and went up to the first floor, where they murdered family members who were seated at breakfast. The terrorists then moved to the next building, number 15. They went through the various apartments and shot people to death.
Miriam was in her apartment on the third floor. She was drinking coffee before she left for work. Miriam heard shouts from the Stern apartment on the first floor. Miriam and her husband could have gone down the three steps to leave the building and save their lives. But Miriam did not hesitate. She and her husband ran toward the shouts. Miriam entered the Stern apartment. The terrorists shot her with many bullets in her chest and a bullet in her head, and her death was immediate. Miriam’s husband, Jacob, ran after her. He was hit by a grenade and died for a long time before he died. Miriam was six months pregnant. She was 27.
The Stern family’s grandchildren testified that they were saved thanks to Miriam’s entry, as the terrorists chased her and allowed the children to jump out of the window and save their lives.
The terrorists murdered eighteen people, half of them children.”
As I corrected the Google translation of the original obituary, I did not “polish up” the wording that Jacob Guetta “died for a long time before he died.” This phrase captures for me what terrorism does not only to victims, but also to jihadis. Jihadis walk through the world soul dead, long before their actual death. Men like Professor Refaat Alareer, who joke about the torture murder of Jewish babies, are soul dead.
My Facebook friend Alex lives in the US. He doesn’t know Liron; he “met” her on my Facebook page. When Alex read Miriam’s obituary, he remarked, “I was in Kiryat Shmona the week before this happened … if I had decided to go to that area during Passover, as I almost did, that might have been me.”
Professor Refaat Alareer justifies hatred and genocide thus: “You can’t oppress us … and not expect people to react.” Refaat, my friends Liron, Karen, and Alex are just a few of millions of Jews who have ancestry in Poland. Some Polish Catholics, during the Holocaust and even after, committed atrocities against Jews. Liron, Karen, and Alex offer love to me, and I am a Polish Catholic. After the Holocaust, the Jews who survived and their descendants went to law school, or grad school, or medical school. They established schools, charities, media companies, and families. They won Nobel Prizes. Billy Wilder, Hollywood genius, lost family members, including his own mother, in concentration camps and ghettoes. Wilder “reacted” to oppression – to use your words, Refaat, by making deep, funny, and human films. Jonas Salk’s mother was from Minsk, where the large, ancient and vibrant Jewish community was wiped out. Salk “reacted” to oppression by developing the polio vaccine. Isaac Bashevis Singer, a Warsaw Jew who left before the rise of Nazism, “reacted” to oppression by writing Nobel-prize winning literature. These Jews’ belief system, even in the face of unspeakable atrocity, makes the world a better place. Your hate-and-violence based belief system, even in the Garden of Eden – see here – makes the world a worse place. Refaat, your people, too, could “make the desert bloom.” You don’t. You turn it into hell on earth. Stop blaming Jews. Start looking at your belief system.
It’s not just the indifference of my Facebook friends who haven’t commented on October 7 that disturbs me. Comments like this, from an Israeli, break my heart. “Dear Danusha, pardon this personal message on a public forum … Your support and expressions of concern are very kind and strengthening. This is a very difficult period to get through. Your posts are very comforting to read.”
It shouldn’t be that way. No one should have to “thank” me for a social media post rejecting atrocity and speaking up for decency. This should be obvious. It breaks my heart that it is not.
Danusha Goska is the author of God Through Binoculars: A Hitchhiker at a Monastery