100 days ago, Jews around the world were celebrating both our sabbath and the Jewish holiday Simchat Torah. For Hamas — whose official charter and current leaderships calls for the elimination of Israel and killing Jews — it was a day terror inflicted on innocent people in Israel.
Women, children, babies, people with disabilities, seniors, and innocent men were raped, brutalized, kidnapped, mutilated, and murdered.
I spent a decade of my professional life working for peace between Israel and the Palestinians and used to have an office in Sderot, a town that directly borders Gaza. I have also supported many disability programs that serve people in southern Israel. Thus, within a day after October 7 I learned that 8 people I cared about had been slaughtered. Soon afterwards I found that my friend Jon Polin’s son, Hersch, had his arm shot off and been kidnapped. He and 135 hostages are still being held in Gaza.
It was, and remains, devastating. So too has been the fact that Hamas intentionally uses and abuses their own innocent people as civilian shields and that the subsequent war has caused so much death, destruction, and pain to the Palestinian people.
I’ve been to the Middle East dozens of times, including meeting with Palestinian leaders and was in Gaza when Israel left there in the hopes of peace and a two state solution.
I shared that hope of peace and still do but its hard during these trying days.
After working in the Middle East, I spent years working to advance a world where people of all backgrounds and abilities can have a better future.
Joining with many partners, I endeavoured to create access for people with disabilities while also calling out hate based on race, background, sexual orientation/identity and more. I saw first-hand that by recruiting, training, promoting and listening to the ideas — and benefiting from the talents — of people of all identities, that our work was stronger and better. I did this alongside many great allies.
But when Israelis were attacked by brutal terrorists, these allies largely were nowhere to be found.
After the attacks in Israel I reached out to many social justice groups, including one I co-founded and led, to share with them how they could make a statement of support for the innocent Israelis and Palestinians alike who were suffering after the tragic aftermath of the massacre perpetrated on October 7. However, not one of the non-Jewish groups was willing to call out the horrors inflicted on Jews.
There wasn’t even the “thoughts and prayers” that some politicians put out after a mass shooting.
Martin Luther King said, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
As a survivor of a rape which occurred when I was 12, I was again hurt when the NY Women’s Foundation – long known for supporting women who have been sexual assaulted and abused – signed onto a shameful Borealis philanthropy letter blaming Israel for the attacks. I wrote to their CEO repeatedly to plead for allyship but, sadly, got none.
Furthermore, as someone who cares deeply about climate issues, I have also been horrified by some of the ignorant and dangerous slurs by some of the most visible leaders and groups in the climate movement which have led to anti-semitism and anti-zionism. I strongly encourage you to read the vital factual piece by Ethan Brown on this topic in The Hill.
Hamas needs to release the Israeli hostages and their own people from the harm they have wrought upon them NOW. We need to fight antisemitism and Islamophobia. We need to support diversity and inclusion in a way that does not divide our communities into oppressors and the oppressed but instead creates a path where everyone can thrive.
We need to stop the finger pointing and come up with solutions.
But how can we do it? I’d love your thoughts on this. Below there is a section for comments. Please — offer suggestions. We all need a better future.