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Stephanie Z. Bonder

Going Home

Stephanie Z. Bonder at Kfar Aza

Late Sunday night, January 14th, I came home from Israel. I had been there for a week, with Hadassah’s One Hadassah, Solidarity Mission of members from the United States and Hadassah International, with members from around the world, to bear witness to the atrocities committed by Hamas against Israel, Israelis and the Jewish People. As I walked down the ramp at Ben Gurion airport, Sunday night, after 100 days, I felt the sinking knowledge and pain, that our hostages are not home. Their faces are staring at me as I walk down that ramp. They are being held against their will, in terrifying and torturous circumstances for over 100 days, men, women, and children. The reality of their agony is unbearable. The responsibility that I have, to share their stories and share what Israel is experiencing at this existential moment in Israel’s history is enormous. I cannot be silent. I must speak for them and those we have lost.

I must speak for the families of the hostages. They are screaming to the world, “Bring Them Home Now!”, “Bring Them All Home!”. We are screaming too. But when we scream, we are sometimes silenced. Think about the Israeli soccer players in Turkey, sharing simple gestures to remind the world that our hostages have been held for 100+ days. They are being kicked off their teams and indicted for crimes for simply indicating that there are hostages who have been kidnapped by Hamas who are still not home. The irony and inhumanity of the world when it comes to Jews is unconscionable.

I must speak for the residents of the kibbutzim and villages in the Gaza envelope. Their lives were torn apart, and their experiences of inconceivable terror cannot be imagined by those of us who were not there on 10/7. I saw the remains on Kfar Aza. I saw the burnt-out houses where the youngest residents lived. The smoldering shells of life that no longer existed or lives that were stolen by Hamas and are being tortured in Gaza as hostages. Kfar Aza was a place of peace, a place where the residents were actively seeking ways to live in harmony with the people of Gaza. The residents of Kfar Aza were trying to build bridges, but those bridges were incinerated on 10/7.

I must speak for the young, peace-loving, granola crunching, music enthusiasts who were enjoying a night filled with love at the Nova music festival. They were shocked into an unreal reality of rockets, rapists and assassins. These were people who had no hate in their hearts. They were hunted like animals and had to run for their lives. They were tortured, raped, and mutilated by evil, demented terrorists who proudly counted the numbers they murdered. These young people could have been any of our own children, friends, relatives. They were doing no harm. They were living life, but now they are gone. Those who survived have to be supported, treated, embraced and loved. They have to know they are loved. So many of the survivors have physical trauma and will require months if not years of treatment. Every single one of the survivors will have emotional scars that will need to be treated. They may not be able to work on them now, but these scars will need to be tenderly treated to help them move on from the trauma of that horrifying day.

I must speak for the people of Ofakim, a partner city of my Jewish Federation of Greater Metrowest, a quiet Negev city that rarely gets rockets, but on October 7 was the site of one of the worst atrocities. The people of Ofakim, who raced to their outdoor shelters, only to be mowed down by the terrorists who infiltrated their city, waiting for them to return to their homes. I must speak for the police of Ofakim, who ran toward the sounds of gunshots, only to be murdered as soon as they showed up searching for the source of the gunfire. The families of the many victims, who must go on living while their fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, grandparents, children were lost to the vile, heinous, genocidal Hamas terrorists. I must share their pain and how they are rebuilding their lives. They honor their dead and memorialize them as the heroes they were.

I must speak for the Jews in the Diaspora, who have been attacked with a wave of antisemitism, unseen since the Holocaust. The antisemitism is rampant, vicious and in all areas of the world. Places where Jews have always felt safe, Jews are now feeling at risk. Hearing people say, in response to October 7th, “Its about time.”, makes Jews realize we had a false sense of security. We must all stand up for what’s right. We must be proud of who we are because we must prevail. We must not let the haters win.

I am home, but my heart is with my people in Israel. I am responsible to let the world know what happened. We must support our Jewish family and keep up the pressure on the world to stand for what is right and not what is wrong. I take this responsibility seriously and will continue to speak out. The Jewish People deserve a homeland and deserve the right to live in peace with their neighbors. The Jewish People deserve the right to live in safety wherever they happen to live. I am home but we must never stop calling on the world to “Bring Them Home Now!” Am Yisrael Chai!

About the Author
Stephanie Z. Bonder is a proud Jew and lifelong Zionist. Stephanie studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem for her junior year abroad and is currently pursuing her masters in Jewish Education at the Hebrew University Melton School of Education. In her volunteer hours, she is a National Board member of Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America where she currently serves on the Antisemitism and Zionist Education Teams. Stephanie teaches teens and adults on Jewish Peoplehood, Zionism and current events in Israel through her involvement with the Jewish Federation of Greater Metrowest and her synagogue, Congregation Agudath Israel. All of her blogs are her own personal opinions and do not represent the organizations with which she is affiliated.
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