Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Hamas' attack brings a moment of clarity

Hamas' attack brings a moment of clarity


A version was published in the Waterbury Republican-American (Connecticut) on October 15, 2023.

We have just experienced a watershed moment, a day when it became crystal clear to everyone who understands the difference between good and evil that Israel is in an unavoidable fight against forces of evil.

Since my retirement from the University of Connecticut after teaching there for 37 years, my wife and I have been living in Israel each winter.

This year, we had plane reservations to leave for Israel on Sunday, Oct. 8, the day of Simchat Torah, when Jews finish our annual reading of the Torah and start over again with Genesis, one of the most joyous days of the year.

In Israel, Simchat Torah is celebrated a day earlier, simultaneously with Shmini Atzeret. This year that fell on Shabbat, so it was a triple Holy Day and expected to be triply joyous.

Except. Palestinian Arabs traditionally plan terror attacks designed to ruin Jewish holidays.

This year, they outdid themselves with a massive terror attack instantly compared to 9/11. I remember exactly where I was when I heard about 9/11, driving home from the tennis courts at Chase Park in Waterbury, Connecticut. I remember exactly where I was when I heard President Kennedy was shot, browsing in the Paperbound Book Store on 164th Street in Flushing, Queens before immediately riding my bike back home. And I'll always remember where I was when I heard about Hamas' 10/7 attack, waking up in our condo in Natick, Massachusetts and realizing I wasn't going to be able to fly to Israel the next day.

As more details have emerged, and more bodies are found - as I write this the total passed 1,300 - the horror has only increased. The current fatality count, on an absolute basis, is not quite half of that inflicted on us by Al Qaeda on 9/11. But our population in the United States is roughly 37 times that of tiny Israel. Hamas also fired roughly 3,500 rockets at Israeli cities and towns and took an estimated 150 hostages, dragging them into Gaza where they have been tortured, raped and even paraded around the streets naked while the "ordinary" people in Gaza celebrated. These hostages are almost all ordinary civilians, including babies, children, and elderly women, even an ill 97-year-old woman with dementia who doesn't realize she's a hostage. Some are Americans, as are at least 25 of those murdered. Now many have been moved to the bases used by terrorists, being used as human shields.

To visualize the effect on Israeli society, imagine that on 9/11 Al Qaeda had murdered over 48,000 people, launched more than 125,000 rockets at American cities and towns, and taken more than 3,500 Americans hostage and brought them to Afghanistan. All in one day.

Imagine how much more traumatic 9/11 would have been for us if it had been on that scale!

Just as there were many heroes responding to 9/11, there have been many heroes in Israel. One of them happens to be a relative of mine. I'll call him Chaim. (Not his real name, to avoid possible security repercussions. Chaim is appropriate, since Chaim means life and he saved many lives.) I never knew about Chaim until being sent the following story about him by another, close cousin of mine living in southern Israel.

Chaim lives on a kibbutz in what's called the "Gaza envelope" and he is part of a 15-man "standby class." Early morning last Saturday, 30 terrorists attempted to infiltrate. Miraculously, despite the terrorists having attacked with the element of surprise and being twice the number of the standby squad, those heroes fought for five hours and managed to "neutralize" 10 of the terrorists before the rest fled and army finally arrived, saving the lives of every single member of the kibbutz. Three members of the squad were injured, with Chaim taking two bullets in his leg after about two hours but continuing to fight until the end. Tragically, the terrorists managed to murder 16 foreign workers, wounding 4 more and as I write this 4 more are missing, most likely being held hostage in Gaza.

No such miracle occurred at a nearby kibbutz, where Hamas terrorists slaughtered more than 100 of their 1000 members!

My cousin's story was accompanied by a picture of his wife - once a child refugee forced to flee Tunisia - smiling together with Chaim in the hospital he was brought to be treated for his wounds, the very hospital where she worked as a physical therapist for decades and helped many other terror victims recover from injuries!

A moment of clarity. As a citizen of both, I am proud that America and Israel share more of the same values than any other countries in the world. They also share the same enemies.

As Israelis were shocked by 9/11, shared America's pain and even built the only 9/11 memorial outside the United States, Americans are sharing Israel's pain from the Simchat Torah massacre. As Palestinian Arabs danced on the roofs of Ramallah in celebration of 9/11. their children have been dancing in Ramallah in celebration of the Simchat Torah massacre.

Ronald Reagan provided clarity when he referred to the Soviet Union as the "evil empire."

After the fall of the Soviet Union, George Bush provided clarity when he dubbed Iran, Iraq and North Korea the "axis of evil."

This week, Hamas provided clarity by showing that it and Iran's other terror proxies are part of the axis of evil.

Ronald Reagan provided another moment of clarity when he revealed his strategy for the Cold War: "We win, they lose."

Our strategy today must again be "We win, they lose."

Israel is on the front line in this battle and we must stand strongly together as it battles to make sure good wins and evil loses.

In Hebrew, "Am Yisrael Chai" means the Israeli people live.

Together with Israel, we must make sure "Am Artzot HaBrit Chai," the American people live.

May God bless Israel and may God bless the United States of America.

Alan Stein, Ph.D., was formerly a long time resident of Waterbury. He and his wife Marsha currently split their time between Netanya in Israel and Natick, Massachusetts. He is President Emeritus of PRIMER-Connecticut (Promoting Responsibility in Middle East Reporting) and the founder of PRIMER-Massachusetts and PRIMER-Israel.

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