Aren Maeir
Concerned Israeli and archaeologist at Bar-Ilan University

A letter to my colleague who didn’t check in

View of the destruction wrought by HAMAS in Kfar Aza

Dear colleague,

I hope all is well with you and your loved ones. Since I have not heard from you in the last month, I’m writing to update you about my situation. Unless you were totally preoccupied with personal or health issues, or you were on an interplanetary trip to Mars, I assume you are aware that as of October 7th, 2023, a horrible war is going on in Israel.

So let me immediately state – I’m not OK, and neither are any of my family, friends, colleagues and fellow citizens in Israel.

On October 7th, early in the morning, HAMAS, the barbaric Palestinian terrorist organization, commenced a wide-ranging assault on Israel, including firing of thousands of rockets to extensive parts of Israel, and massive ground attacks on communities and army positions in southwestern Israel. During this barbaric attack, HAMAS carried out unimaginable atrocities, including killing some 1400 people, wounding thousands more, and kidnapping about 240 people to Gaza. The depravity of this attack is unfathomable. HAMAS killed and tortured infants, children, elderly, sick, men and women, killed entire families in their homes, raped and killed young girls and women, cut open the belly of a pregnant woman and then killed her and her fetus (and then her other kids), burned entire families alive, tortured and then killed families, and many more horrible and brutal acts of terrorism.

The evidence for this barbarism is overwhelming. While supporters of HAMAS state that there is no evidence of these atrocities, this is not so. The HAMAS murderers themselves documented these deeds on video, which they broadcasted live and are available online until this day. In addition to this, the first responder and forensic teams who came to the sites immediately after these horrible acts of terror, found clear evidence of these horrific crimes. I myself visited several of the massacre sites a few weeks after October 7th, and while the bodies had already been most removed, clear and heinous physical evidence of these atrocities could still be seen. Subsequently, I wrote a testimonial about it, which was published, and widely distributed, including to you. In some cases, the HAMAS terrorists burned the victims in their homes, and all that was left were ashes.

Due to this unparalleled situation, colleagues of mine, archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority were brought to these killing sites, in an attempt to retrieve bone fragments and teeth, in the hope of identifying those murdered and giving their surviving family closure. Like after 9/11, every effort is being made and, no cost being spared, to find and identify even the tiniest piece of physical anthropological evidence for each and every victim. You may even have read that the death of the late Shani Louk, a 23-year-old German-Israeli woman was recently determined based solely on the discovery of a bone, which was determined to be from her based on DNA. Her family doesn’t even have a body to bury and will thus forego a funeral, but they do know what happened to her. Israeli forensics specialists and their foreign colleagues who have come to help are collapsing under the weight of this immense undertaking. Despite their consummate professionalism, both local and foreign coroners have been shown breaking down from the immensity of the unparalleled emotional burden that has befallen them.

I don’t know of anyone in Israel who does not have a loved one, relative, friend or acquaintance among those killed, wounded or abducted. This has directly and very personally affected everyone.

The evidence of this is undeniable. While still not accessible to the general public, the IDF spokesman’s office has collected video materials from both HAMAS body cameras and various CCTV cameras in the areas attacked, and put together a 47 minute long film showing these atrocities without any filtering. This has been shown to foreign diplomats, journalist and some politicians, many of whom broke down crying when watching the horrific scenes. I have no doubt that this will eventually be available for wider viewing, and once watched by many, quite a few people who denied that these horrific deeds were carried out by HAMAS will eat their hats (or kefiyas).

All told, what was carried out by HAMAS on October 7th was plain and simple barbarism of the worst, kind, hearkening back to medieval practices of infamous figures such as Genghis Khan, or in modern times, the Nazis in WW II, the Khmer Rouge’s “killing fields”, the Serbian mass murders during the Yugoslavian civil war, Boko Haram in Nigeria, and ISIS in the Middle East. Plain and simple murderous barbarism. Seemingly, something that any compassionate person, in any place in the world, should condemn – without ifs, buts, “understanding the context,” and other explanations — is suddenly an issue of context and narrative.

Alas, this is not the case. Even on the very day of the massacres, pro-Palestinian demonstrators around the world, celebrated these atrocities, claiming that these actions were legitimate, as the Palestinians were oppressed by the Israel. As soon as Israel fought back, attacking HAMAS terrorists and their infrastructure, the voices against Israel grew, claiming that Israel was purposely targeting civilians in Gaza. This, despite that Israel was reacting to the HAMAS attacks, had implored all civilians to leave the region of the city of Gaza (and go to the southern part of the Gaza Strip), and HAMAS purposely used civilians as shields.

If there is one thing that is agreed upon now, by virtually all Israelis, is that HAMAS is a murderous organization, with the declared aim of killing all Israelis and Jews. If in the past some of us thought that this was more of a declarative statement, and with time, HAMAS would become more practical and recognize the right of Israel to exist, as of October 7, 2023, it is clear to all that this is their actual planned – and implemented – policy. Thus, for the safety and survival of Israel, HAMAS and its supporters must be destroyed and removed from the borders of Israel.

As you may know, politically, I see myself as being left of center. For years, I have supported the calls for a two-state solution of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, something that despite the horrific events of October 7th, I still adhere to (but with only if the Palestinian state is demilitarized). Also, as you may know, I am far from a supporter of the current government of Israel, and in particular, of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. I strongly believe that he and his government are detrimental to Israel, and their actions have caused deep divisions in our society , weakening us as a country. In fact, the slow initial response to the October 7th attacks may be connected to the weakened state of Israeli society.

Let me be crystal clear: as of October 7th, all Israelis, including myself, have had to completely review their prior assumptions. This is the case for those on the left, center and right. It is obvious that many preconceptions, on all sides, were wrong. No, Israel’s strength and settlements did not deter HAMAS; no, HAMAS, as the rulers of Gaza, were not going through a de-radicalization, since they supposedly had to think of the best interests of the people of Gaza; and no, as proven time and again, withdrawing from land did not enable the Palestinians to found a flourishing state. In fact, it often brought on more terror.

And in the midst of all this, the wave of hatred of Israel, denying its right to exist and defend itself, denying the atrocities committed by HAMAS, and of course, numerous outright anti-Semitic attacks, that have broken out around the world is more than shocking. While, to a certain extent, the support of HAMAS expressed by pro-Palestinian Muslims throughout the world is not a surprise, what is astonishing, and in fact, more distressing, is the simplistic accusations aimed at Israel that have expressed by so many academics throughout the world. While one expects that researchers would have the ability to apply critical and nuanced thinking while crafting their opinions, time and again, simplistic, binary, and poorly based accusations are slung at Israel. To the point that many not only won’t condemn the murderous attacks by HAMAS, but actually support these barbaric rampages, claiming it is the right of the “oppressed” to do this!

It appears that due to such simplistic and binary understandings of the world, the very ability to discern between good and evil, has been abandoned. These attacks do not mean that you have to abandon ones beliefs about the Israel/Palestine conflict. Divergent views on this are within the realms of the acceptable. But if being pro-Palestinian means that you support the murder, rape, torture and abduction of civilians, including infants, children, women, elderly and the sick – then you condone, support and enable of barbaric terrorists.

The supposed claim that Israel cannot attack HAMAS in Gaza since innocent civilians are being killed is a fallacy as well. First of all, the majority of the population in Gaza expressed support for HAMAS, and in fact, once HAMAS terrorists stormed the border, regular civilians from Gaza came across the border as well, and participated in the plunder, rape and murder in the Jewish communities around Gaza. More so, reports indicate that among these Gazans there were people who were in close contact with the Israelis in the communities that were attacked, having worked there over the years!

Despite this, I know that there are many innocent Gazans that do not deserve to die because of HAMAS. But alas, HAMAS is using them as human shields. In many cases, HAMAS is not allowing civilians to leave, as Israel implored them to – and even shooting at escaping civilians, since HAMAS wants human shields, and truthfully, couldn’t care less if they are killed (except to use them as pawns in a propaganda game)!

Imagine if in World War II, the allies didn’t attack the Nazis because there were innocent civilians all over Germany. Would that be acceptable? Would that justify not destroying the murderous Nazi regime? Of course not! This is exactly the situation is in Gaza! A murderous, barbaric terrorist entity aims to kill all Israelis, and has demonstrated that in a very savage and indisputable way. These terrorists must be eliminated – even if they hide behind their own people. Israel does not bomb indiscriminately – the IDF makes every effort possible to avoid civilian casualties. First warning to leave, and then attacking only very specific locations where HAMAS terrorists are located.

Since I haven’t heard from you, I’m glad that I have the opportunity to update you. As many friends and colleagues did write or call me, to check on how I was doing, I was not sure where you stand. I hope you will take a stand against the murderous barbarism of HAMAS. If you choose not to, you are placing yourself on the wrong side of history and morality. Just as those who condoned the murderous actions of the Nazis, of the Khmer Rouge, or of ISIS, should not be considered as being worthy of having anything to do with, so, if you don’t take a stand here and now, the rancid and repulsive character of your clearly immoral backbone is crystal clear.

If is the case, and I truly hope that this is not so, and you can’t bring yourself to explicitly condemn the murderous actions of HAMAS, I’m not interested in having any connection, personal or professional, with you in the future. Political disagreements are fine; but condoning the barbaric murder, torture and imprisonment of civilians is not. Just as I don’t interact with Neo-Nazis, I won’t have any contact with supporters (explicit or implicit) or the barbaric HAMAS terrorists.

I do hope you take my words to heart.

Sincerely yours,

Aren M. Maeir

About the Author
Aren Maeir (b. 1958), after serving in the IDF as an officer in an elite unit, studied archaeology and Jewish History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and completed his PhD in archaeology (1997; summa cum laude). From 1991 he has taught archaeology at Bar-Ilan University (in Ramat-Gan, Israel), at the Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology. He serves as the Head of the Institute of Archaeology at Bar-Ilan University, directs the Tell es-Safi/Gath Archaeological Project (, co-directs the Minerva Center for the Relations between Israel and Aram in Biblical Times (, directs the Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies (Bar-Ilan University), co-edits the Israel Exploration Journal, and is a corresponding member of the German Archaeological Institute. His primary research and central field work is the archaeological project at Tell es-Safi/Gath, the study of a major site in Israel (ongoing for the last 27 years), is one of the largest and well-known excavations of Bronze and Iron Age cultures conducted in recent decades in Israel. Utilizing broad and groundbreaking multidisciplinary research and collaborations with scholars from Israel and abroad, he trail-blazed transformative research on many topics. His research serves as a model for collaborative, interdisciplinary studies, enabling new insights and paradigm changing results. In particular, changes in the interpretative narrative on the Philistines and their culture, stand out. His research touches upon broad issues, bridging between disciplines and topics, cultures and periods. He has published some 20 volumes and close to 350 papers, and has received more than $9M in research funding from Israeli and foreign competitive granting agencies.
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