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Avi Lewis

African American solidarity with Israel

Amidst Iran’s attack on Israel this evening I was privileged to speak to a group of 40 African-American leaders visiting Tel Aviv from the US

The group was diverse – all sides of the American political spectrum, different professions – business, politics, finance and civil society and various religious beliefs

I thanked them for taking the courageous step of visiting the Jewish state at our time of greatest need to see things up close for themselves – and not just form an opinion about us through the headlines

I came out of that meeting feeling invigorated and optimistic

One participant runs a Tech VC in NYC. He mentioned to me that he was moved by the solidarity shown by Jewish colleagues with the Black community in the wake of death of George Floyd in 2020

Despite getting criticized by acquaintances in the US he felt compelled to visit Israel nonetheless and show solidarity in return

His VC has invested in 2 Israeli startups

Another participant from Florida, a firefighter by profession, told me he had to come to the Jewish state on numerous occasions to volunteer with his Israeli counterparts

Following the barbaric Oct 7th massacre by Hamas, over 750 firefighters from across the US came to Israel to help, him included

“You should know that the people of American are with you,” he said looking me squarely in the eyes

“Don’t believe what the media says, don’t believe the tiny protests that they try amplify. You’re surrounded by 220 million. We Americans have got your back. We care about you”

I had to hold back a tear

For my part I left them with three messages:

1. The IDF is a people’s army

Wars in Israel are fought by reservists – men and women in their 30s, 40s and 50s that aren’t career soldiers, yet don the IDF uniform with pride at a moment’s notice

I spoke about my friend, Dovi Kogan Z”L – my age and a father of three, and my neighbor, Uriah Mash Z”L, a father of six – both family men, with careers, dreams for the future and IDF reservists. They left their families on Oct 7th. They were both killed in battle in Gaza

2. The IDF cares deeply about the rules while Hamas scorns the rules

They do everything in their power to blur distinctions between civilian and military spheres. I have seen drone strikes called off on multiple occasions as commanders erred on the side of caution. On the other hand Hamas dress in civilian clothes, exploit hospitals and homes as weapons caches and hide behind children

Dead civilians are a PR win for Hamas, even as we do our utmost to avoid it all costs, even as mistakes are tragically made

3. As we gear up to celebrate Passover next week, the festival of freedom, we can never truly feel free while dozens of our hostages remain in the hands of terrorists that care nothing about the sanctity of the human body or human life

The two youngest, Kfir and Ariel Bibas, aged 1 and 3, snatched from their cribs, are the same ages as my children

I hope the world regains much needed moral clarity here

About the Author
Avi was formerly a news writer at the Times of Israel. Originally from Australia, he served in the IDF and today works in Israel's thriving Hi Tech sector in Tel Aviv. He lives near Modi'in with wife and 3 kids
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