search
Rebeca Permuth de Sabbagh

We will be their voices

We will be their voices.
From the silence, the scream of their plea. (Image courtesy of author)

“How long will you remain in the United States?” the immigration officer asks us.

-“About 4 hours.”

-“Final destination?”

-“Israel.”

-“Be careful. Avoid going to the south.”

We leave early. From our hotel in Jerusalem, Waze marks an hour and thirty-four minutes to reach the vicinity of the Gaza border in the south. The “car graveyard,” a mound of charred vehicles at the side of the road, where terrorists burned alive those who tried to escape, indicates that we are approaching the site of the “Supernova Music Festival.” Of the more than 1,200 victims of Hamas’ genocidal attack in Israel on 7/10, approximately 360 were killed here, mostly young people attending the outdoor concert. Their photographs have been placed on pedestals as a tribute. It is devastating to contemplate their images, taken on previous happy days, knowing now of their tragic fates. I am in an open field, and yet I feel suffocated.

Where is the international condemnation? In the face of terror, instead of solidarity and repudiation of violence, us Jews got a worldwide stark spike of even more antisemitism. For years we knew Jew hatred was on the rise, but the confirmation of it post October 7th, made us turn our clocks back to 1939 and get a glimpse of what our grandparents must have felt, but for them in a world that even lacked a State of Israel.

I think of the UNRWA employee, already identified, who, after Hamas killed Yonathan Samerano – an Israeli participant in the music festival, lifted him into a vehicle belonging to that terrorist organization disguised as an international humanitarian mission. His mother Ayelet cries out: “Mr. Guterres – look at my eyes and answer me now, where is my son?” / … / “How can the UN pay this man who dragged my son’s limp body along the ground and then picked him up as if he was a prize into Gaza. How many more lives have been ruined by this person, hauling my son like he isn’t even a human being into an UNRWA car?”  

I continue standing in the killing field. There are so many photographs of young women. We know of the sadism they endured. In male-dominated societies, victory is defined not only when taking the enemy’s territory, homes, and material possessions but also when they appropriate themselves of the women.

A woman’s body is not a war booty. In Israel, women are not anyone’s property. By their own merit, they are part of military units ranging from combat to intelligence. These courageous women are so much more than the way they were brutally raped and slaughtered. Those that were massacred here while dancing freely, were not prisoners of ideologies, burqas, or any form of oppression that repressed their individuality.

I close my eyes. From the silence, I hear the scream of their pleas: “…don’t allow our deaths to be in vain…” The terrorists who murdered and desecrated the bodies of the innocent, regardless of age or gender, are no longer capable of harming their free souls. But what about us? Will we be their voices, or will we remain indifferent?

We head to the city of Ofakim. Israel requires that any new construction have a bomb shelter; but since here it is mostly old constructions and the town is also in a situation of poverty, the shelters are mostly located outside in the streets. We enter one; stifling and still with traces of blood. Here, a group was able to take refuge on 7/10, but someone realized that their parents were outside. The son’s impossible dilemma: behind the armored door, he heard his parents begging him not to open it to avoid endangering the lives of those inside. Their voices eventually faded away, just like their lives.

We conclude the day at an Israeli military base. The soldiers returning from the battlefield in Gaza, are warmly greeted by their comrades with hot food and brotherhood embraces. The youngness in their faces reminds me when I was also in my early 20s: a college student mainly concerned about my studies. They, on the other hand, are not studying or enjoying any party; the music abruptly stopped for them on October 7th. Not so for those ignorantly chanting as useful fools from the river to the sea, from their plush apartments at elite universities abroad. The lives of these brave Israeli soldiers are on hold while they fight a war they did not start, but that they are committed to finish. They fight for Israel; but in reality and unfairly so, on their shoulders is the weight of a war in favor of everyone in the free world; including those who with their moral blindness, do not see it.

About the Author
Attorney at Law in Guatemala, Harvard Law School LLM, Honorary President of the Jewish Community of Guatemala.
Related Topics
Related Posts