Life as we know it has changed. Sadly though, these are words we have heard throughout history. As an American and an Israeli, in my lifetime it was said in the days following 9/11. I have heard these words used by members of the generations of Pearl Harbor, the Holocaust, the Vietnam War, the Yom Kippur War, and so on and so on. There have been pivotal moments in our lives. This is our pivotal moment here in Israel. In one day, the words “Never Again” became hollow and empty, because it did happen again — on October 7, 2023. Our day that will live in infamy.
Before I became a prosecutor, I spent 10 years studying and teaching Holocaust Studies, most under my mentor and dear friend, Professor Yaffa Eliach, A”H. A woman who changed the face of Holocaust Studies, who humanized all those we lost, by preserving memory via the recording of thousands of oral testimonies of victims, witnesses, and liberators. She made sure the victims were names not numbers. But her story was one I will never forget and one which has been repeated, to our collective disbelief, on our land on October 7, 2023. Yaffa survived the war, after years of hiding only to have Poles commit a pogrom in 1946 — yes after the war — which killed Yaffa’s mother (Tzippora) and baby brother before her eyes, as her mother begged them to kill her first so that she would not see the death of another baby boy she was holding in her arms (Yaffa lost another baby brother while they were in hiding). Sound familiar today? They shot them both, multiple times, and Yaffa’s mother’s body fell onto Yaffa who knew not to move. That is how she survived the Holocaust and the post-war vitriolic hatred of Jews who survived the war.
The stories coming out of Be’eri, Nir Oz, Kfar Aza, Sderot, and many other towns, kibbutzim, and moshavim near Gaza echo Yaffa’s story over a thousand times. The cruelty of Hamas terrorists against Jews has been unprecedented since the Holocaust. The number of Jews killed in a single day has not been so great since the Holocaust. The butchering, the raping, the burning of Jews, the disembowelment of a pregnant woman, and the murder of her fetus, bring back the memories of so many stories I have heard or learned about as I studied that period in the history of my people.
Right now, we are trying to breathe. Right now, we are trying not to watch so many news broadcasts, but we can’t tear ourselves away from the TV. Right now, we check our food and water supplies in our bomb shelter. Right now, our kids sleep in that bomb shelter because we try not to wake them when the sirens go off. Right now, our phones ding and we check to see what alert is coming through. Right now, we are crying. Right now, we are trying to laugh at something – because they will not break our spirit. Right now, we take quicker showers. Right now, we walk our dogs along routes with public bomb shelters we can easily find. Right now, we are trying to figure out if we should leave our homes. Right now, we worry about us as parents getting in the same car to go somewhere without our kids, possibly leaving them orphans, if our car takes a direct rocket hit.
Right now, we hug our kids tighter. Right now, we text friends and family to check on them and all the ones who are serving at the southern and northern borders. Right now, we are praying for their safety. Right now, we are volunteering to help our soldiers and displaced families any way we can. Right now, we are watching the news telling us that Sderot is being evacuated. Right now, we are waiting for Hezbollah to drop their 150,000 rockets (yes, that is an accurate number) on us. Right now, we are listening to Iran threaten us but watch thankfully as America is sending us more backup air-craft carriers. Right now, we are avoiding the graphic videos and trying to search for humorous ones and ones that give us strength. Right now, we see the vigils and rallies in support of us. Right now, we see lights of blue and white lighting up world-wide monuments, bridges, and buildings. Right now, we sing Hatikvah.
Right now, we know that there are so many difficult days ahead. Right now, we know that the truth will come out, despite hatemongers who fill social media with lies. Right now, we know that survivors will tell the truth. Right now, we know that evidence of the atrocities is being gathered. Right now, we know that our sons and daughters, our loved ones, our brave heroes are being buried as I write – and as you read these words. Right now, we see you out there.
Right now, we take strength from you. Right now, we are grateful for your support. Right now, we are so thankful for your aid. Right now, we share in your prayers for us and for all of humanity. Right now, we pray for the triumph of good over evil, for that is what must prevail. Right now, we know we will never utter the words “Never Again.”
Here in Israel, we do not say that when referencing the Holocaust. Here in Israel, we say “Zachor” – “Remember.” Here in Israel, after our modern-day Holocaust, we will say “Zachor;” for that is what we Jews do. The survivors will tell their tales in the face of all the lies sure to be spread. We know there are those out there who hate us and will continue to do so. But we are the people of the book, the people of memory, the people of survival, the people who bring light onto the nations. Stand with us! Stand with good! Stand with Am Yisrael! For as long as you do, and for as long as we know that you are out there – we will have all the strength we need, the strength of lions as we shout in the army, to win the battle for freedom and life over tyranny and death. Am Yisrael Chai!!!