Carmel Pelunsky
Working it out in organisations across the world

Dear Colleagues – 166

Dawn, Maroubra, Sydney Wed 21 2024
Dawn at Maroubra, Sydney Wed 21 2024

I had the wonder of the most beautiful sunrise this morning. First light came in its oranges and greys and then the sun surprised us, rising in a fluorescent pink over Sydney’s waters. I often think of the hostages as I go about my day – How are they? What are they doing right now? How is Carmel Gat? How is Hersch Goldberg-Polin? How is Kfir Babas and his family? Where were they at dawn this morning?

I cannot believe that it is day 166, and still we wait.

I recently attended my first music festival. These words have a new resonance in the Jewish psyche so when my mother said, ‘Be careful’, I knew she was not talking about wearing enough sunscreen. As I cramped into the porterloos every few hours, I imagined bullets reining in and the screams of young Israelis.  On the first night, I was introduced to a woman who had worked the world over as a General Manager for the World Food Program. I wanted to get her perspective on how to distribute food in Gaza so that innocent civilians actually received the aid rather than having it stolen by Hamas. But I held back. I assumed that she would ultimately blame Israel, in some way, and I did not want to start an argument. I noticed the difference between my being curious and protecting myself from the weight of containing an attack on Israel. I noticed the assumptions I was making about what she would say, before I had even asked her.  I noticed that, in truth, I did not trust it would be an informative conversation but rather an ideological download. I noticed how when I had an opportunity to ask, I found so many reasons not to.

On the second evening, we picked up our blankets and took ourselves to Arooj Aftab’s performance. Aftab’s blurb explains that she was born in Saudi Arabia and moved to her parents’ native Pakistan when she was ten years’ old. Her fame increased further when President Obama included her single, Mohabbat, on his official 2021 Summer Playlist.  I lay down to listen to her beautiful jazzy, Middle Eastern, Pakistani inspired music. I stared at the stars.

All I could think of was the hostages. When was the last time they had seen the stars or the sun? Where were they right now? Who was being raped as I lay here in my taken-for-granted freedom? Why was Michelle Obama, amongst others, utterly silent about the rape, mutilation and necrophilia that took place on October 7th and was still taking place,  as described by the UN report released on March 4th? What should have been soulful, beautiful sounds triggered images I did not want in my mind. I could not lie there anymore and casually told my friends I was going for a ‘wander’.  I walked as far away from the music as I could.

That afternoon, I noticed the first of a number of people who were in complex, standing wheelchairs. These leather and metal support machines enabled them to be present with their families and friends, part of the crowd enjoying the shade of the trees, the rhythm of the music, the laughter all around. Each one reminded me  of Eric and Ruth Perez. Theirs is the story of a dad magically finding a way for his daughter Ruth, born with muscular dystrophy, to belong to this world through music.  On October 7th, at the Nova music festival, Ruth’s Dad took her in his arms and ran and ran and ran.  Terrorists chased them and murdered them. As Ruth’s sister says, “Even if he could have escaped, he would never have left her.”

At the second last performance I went to, the artist dedicated his act “To the People of Gaza’. I looked at the number of people between me and the stage, probably about 200. I wondered what would have happened if there and then, under the setting sun, thousands of terrorists had burst in and started shooting at us. I wonder how the world would have reacted if we in the audience were raped, beheaded or burnt alive. As I walked home from the music festival, a privilege those murdered and taken hostage on October 7th did not have, I wondered what would happen if I, a Jewish woman, was taken hostage at this music festival. I wondered whether Carmel Pelunsky would be cared about any more than Carmel Gat.

The photo in today’s blog is dedicated to all the hostages – may they see a magical dawn again.


About the Author
Carmel Pelunsky is a strategic advisor in talent, leadership and succession. Currently living in Sydney, Australia, she has lived and worked in Johannesburg, London, Europe and Asia.
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