Screams Before Silence is a must watch

Screams Before Silence - Sheryl Sandberg's interviews are powerful

I decided to watch the new Sheryl Sandberg documentary Screams Before Silence.  I have seen the 47-minute Hamas video as well as the documentary about the Nova music festival massacre.  Both of those were incredibly impactful and hearing Lee Sasi, a survivor of the Nova music festival massacre speak is something I will never forget.  I’ll be in Israel soon and get to visit the site of the Nova music festival massacre, Sderot, and other areas in the south near Gaza.

Since October 7th, I have been wanting to go back to Israel daily.  My last trip was in November 2022 and while I have an ongoing desire to go to Israel, I have not been able to return since then.  After October 7th, my family would not allow me to go to Israel.  Every time I brought up the topic, I was instantly shut down by them.  It wasn’t until this trip that, while they don’t want me to go, they aren’t stopping me.  I leave in 12 days and am anxiously anticipating getting on the plane and heading to our homeland.  There is a deep need inside of me to be back in Israel, connecting with the land and my people to help start healing my Jewish neshamah (soul).

Many people have asked why I would subject myself to watching the 47-minute Hamas video.  And then also watch the Nova music festival documentary.  And now Screams Before Silence, documenting the rape and abuse of women by Hamas.  My answer used to be simple.  I needed to bear witness for those who were murdered and abused.  Now it is more than that.  In a world where we already have October 7th deniers, where people are saying that Hamas had the right to murder, rape, kidnap and abuse innocent civilians, who call the war between Israel and Hamas “Bibi’s War” or “Netanyahu’s War” I have to do more than just be frustrated and angry.  How can anybody watch these atrocities, much of it filmed BY HAMAS, and hold anybody else responsible?  How can anybody who sees the actual footage, who listens to the survivors, not see the evil that is Hamas and Iran?

In all three videos, they show the IDF arriving at the Nova massacre for the first time.  Each time I hear the soldier counting the dead as he begins to arrive, my heart breaks.  Echad, Shtyim, Shalom, Arba, Chamesh (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).  When he looks into the food and drink tent and sees all the dead bodies strewn on the ground, the pain in his voice is palpable.  “Oh my God. Oh my God.”  His questioning plea, “Is anyone alive here?”  “Give us a sign of life.” “No signs of life.  Anyone?  Please?” is haunting as we know there is nobody alive, but he doesn’t yet know that.  In Screams Before Silence, they are interviewing him in between parts of the video.  The look on his face, the pain in his eyes, cuts deep to my soul.  I think about the students and professors on college campuses that are protesting and wonder if their watching this would make a difference.  Are their hearts and souls already too filled with hatred for Jews that somehow, they would feel satisfied that we got what we deserved.  What a terrible world we live in if that were to be true, yet I fear that it is. When I see people, particularly Jews, who focus only on what is happening in Gaza, I find myself getting angry.  They forget what happened on October 7th that was the cause of the war.  They forget or don’t believe that Hamas uses human shields.  That Hamas was shooting Gazans trying to leave the north for safety in the beginning of the war and it was Israel that created the safe corridors for them.  They don’t want to believe that Hamas would actually turn hospitals, mosques, homes, and ambulances into military structures and make them military targets.  It’s as if they have to find a way to excuse the evil that is Hamas because they can’t bear to believe that there really could be people that evil in the world.  Once again, Jews become the scapegoat.  Instead of Israel being the victim of a horrific and barbaric attack, Israel is the one in the wrong.  Instead of Hamas being war criminals for the taking of the hostages, for the rapes and brutal murders of civilians, for using human shields, for using hospitals and mosques and ambulances as military structures, it is Israel, a country that documents how much they do to minimize civilian loss of life, that gets the blame.

When I watched Screams Before Silence, there are two moments that really stood out and impacted me.  The first was when Sheryl Sandberg, who does the interviews throughout, asks the first responders to see some of the images that they saw in person.  Each image they show her draws a more dramatic reaction from her.  You can see in her eyes and in her face the impact of the images.  She gasps at a number of them.  The first responders are telling us what she is seeing.  As horrific as the descriptions are, you can watch Sheryl’s face to see that the images are far worse.

The second is at the end of the documentary.  Sheryl moves from the interviewer seat to the one where those being interviewed sit.  You can see how much this has impacted her.  The director of the documentary comes to the seat Sheryl just left and asks her about making this film and the impact.  As Sheryl talks about the experience, tears came to my eyes.  It was incredibly moving.  I had a similar experience just watching it and I can’t imagine what it was like for her to talk to the survivors, hear their full stories, see the images that the first responders took.  It was a beautiful and powerful interview that was emotionally powerful.

Photo by Jim Delcid of Rebel News

This week has been full of events related to Israel and the war with Hamas.  The first lawsuit was filed against Columbia University for their failure to protect Jewish students.  The Columbia University President set a 2 pm deadline for the end of the encampment and then let it pass with no consequences.  Senator Bernie Sanders called the war “an illegal war”, forgetting or not caring that Hamas attacked Israel on October 7th, murdering more than 1200 civilians, kidnapping more than 250 civilians and still has over 130 hostages.  A number of members of Congress are calling for the federal funding to be removed from the Universities that aren’t protecting Jewish students.  The body of an Israeli hostage was discovered near Gaza, somebody killed on October 7th that was thought to be a hostage.  At UCLA, an anonymous group built a giant screen with loudspeakers outside the UCLA protest showing footage from October 7 on a loop. After being instructed not to put up tents at the University of South Florida in Tampa, a few protesters decided they would anyway and were arrested.  That’s what effective leaders do, they follow the rules and regulations in place for everybody.  There are rumors of a potential peace deal brokered by Egypt. Sinwar was seen publicly in Rafah.  Caitlyn Jenner took on the anti-Israel crowd in a publicly shared video. The leadership of Washington University in St. Louis put out a powerful statement about hateful protest on their campus and the arrests made because of the violation of their policies.  Israel is preparing for the ICC to issue arrest warrants for their leaders for war crimes.  The United States seems willing to sit back and allow it to happen although there are members of congress who are urging President Biden to step in and stop this farce. The rise of antisemitism is growing everywhere we look.  At McGill University in Canada, a man dressed up as a terrorist with a mock suicide bomb attached to his chest.  How long until they are no longer fake bombs and we see suicide bombers active in the US and Canada? Jewish students are being blocked from entering campus at UCLA and Columbia. As students they have the right to be on campus and attend class. Their rights are being denied by people who are breaking the campus rules. Where are the Presidents of these campuses? Where are the Governors of California and New York?

We live in a world and a time where activism against prejudice and hate is more important than ever.  The truth and facts don’t seem to matter.  A group of Christians joined the pro-Israel counter protest at Columbia today.  That’s what we need.  People to stand up to hate, especially antisemitism, even when it’s not their group being targeted.  Over the past few years, I have been interviewed on the TV news about the rise in antisemitism far too often.  My message has always been the same.  We need to stand together, speak out together, against all hate.  When we allow hate to grow, we get the evil of Hamas.  We get the uninformed students at Columbia, Harvard, Yale, NYU, and many other Universities who wouldn’t dream of saying what they are about Jews about anybody else.

The question for each of us is, what are we going to do?  Are we going to sit back and hope it goes away?  Are we going to hide so that we can try to stay safe?  Are we going to speak out, speak up, and be loud about how this is wrong?  Are we going to challenge our friends and family who spew Jew hatred couched in anti-Israel or anti-Zionism troupes?  Are we going to reach out to our US Representatives and Senators and demand that they protect not just Jewish students on campus but Jews everywhere in the United States?

I started by talking about the film Screams Before Silence.  It is something everybody should watch.  It’s not easy.  It’s painful.  It’s hard. It’s necessary.  It’s available to watch on their website or YouTube.  I urge you to watch it.  I urge you to watch it with others.  I urge you to have your friends watch it, especially those who are critical of Israel.

I’m doing my part with the film.  And I’m going to Israel on May 11th to not just visit my homeland but to do my part in the healing after October 7th both for myself and for Israel.  I’ll pick produce.  I’ll visit the sites of the horrific October 7th attack.  I’ll cook for IDF soldiers and serve them dinner.  I’ll be there for Yom HaZikaron (Israel’s Memorial Day) which will be very different than the other times I’ve been there for it.  I’ll be there for Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day) which will also be different than any other time I have been there.  I’ll spend Shabbat at the Kotel (the Western Wall).  I’ll spend time with my Israeli friends who are like family to me.  And I am planning to meet with at least one of my Palestinian friends for a powerful conversation about how we move forward. I’m not asking you to do what I’m doing.  I am asking you to do something.  Are you up for the challenge?

About the Author
Keith is a Partner at Amplify Partners, a consulting firm specializing in fundraising and campaign design, organizational development, and family philanthropy. With 25 years experience leading Jewish nonprofits, he has been in the Hillel, Federation, and JCC worlds.
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