Stand with us against evil

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On Sabbath 7 October, on the holiday of Simchat Torah – the end of Sukkoth, at 6:30 AM, Bilha and Amos, a couple in their eighties, woke up in their home in Kibbutz Kfar-Aza to the sound of gunshots. They rushed to their saferoom, but Bilha realized she had forgotten her phone on her club car, used to move in the paths of the kibbutz, and went out to fetch it. A Hamas terrorist shot and killed her on the spot. Bilha, a schoolteacher admired by three generations of students, was murdered on her doorstep.

A few houses away, Bilha’s daughter-in-law told her husband to stay with the children while she must run and check on grandpa Amos and grandma Bilha. She saw Bilha’s dead body lying at the door. She joined Amos in his safe room and told him not to move. In the hours to come, Hamas terrorists moved from door to door, murdering everybody they saw, burning houses on their inhabitants. It might be that they also saw Bilha’s body and assumed that this house was already “finished”.

Amos and his daughter-in-law survived. Bilha  and Amos’ other son-in-law,  Ofir Libstein, Head of the Regional Municipal Council Sha’ar Ha-Negev – who hosted just two days earlier some 180 Fijian pilgrims and showed them his beautiful, green kibbutz and the other peaceful communities dwelling just next to the Gaza border – perished fighting the terrorists, together with Nitzan, his son and Bilha and Amos’ grandson. Another grandson, Netta, died while jumping on a hand grenade thrown in by the terrorists, in order to protect his girlfriend, who survived.

That Saturday morning, over two thousand armed terrorists broke into homes and gunned down whole families in their sleep. They fired RPGs into bedrooms. Mothers hid their children in closets, desperately trying to keep their babies from crying, but Hamas spared neither women nor children. Using iron wire, they bound mother to daughter, grandmother to grandson, and burned them alive. They decapitated babies with knives, they raped young girls, they cut open a pregnant woman’s belly. They set fire to buildings, burning them to the ground while people were hiding inside. They attacked young men and women celebrating at a music festival in a forest clearing. They chased the fleeing revelers, shooting and killing them with indescribable cruelty. A few hundred young men and women were slaughtered right there, in the forest. Using unspeakable violence, they abducted entire families, including six-month-old babies and terrified children whose parents had just been murdered in front of them.

Some 1400 Israelis were murdered in a brutal act of mass slaughter, minute by minute, over many hours. Were the murderers ashamed of their actions? Absolutely not. They enthusiastically documented the atrocities and broadcasted them live. And during the mass slaughter, more than 210 people were violently abducted from their homes to Hamas’ dens of darkness, including an 85-year-old woman and small suckling babies seeking their mothers. The father of one of the murdered children, a sweet 8-year-old girl called Emily, said: “I was relieved when I heard that my little girl was murdered and not taken captive by Hamas.”

The horrific acts of October 7 awakened in the minds of many Israelis emotions of horror and helplessness reminiscent of the cellars of the collective memory of the Holocaust. The State of Israel was established to serve as a home for the Jewish people. To ensure that Jews are never led to their death simply because they are Jews. Hence the terrible shock now prevailing in Israel. There are no smiles, only profound misery and trauma. But there is also a strong feeling of ‘togetherness’ and a deep inner conviction that we must fight against this organization of terror and defeat it. We are fighting for our home. For our right to live!

No, we did not see it coming. We couldn’t believe that people, our neighbours, will go one day on such a pre-planned horrible campaign of mass murder, torture, rape and abduction. Now we realize that Hamas is, simply, ISIS. It uses the same methods, it has the same total disrespect for human lives, for anything human. And while ISIS – “Islamic State”, and Hamas – “Islamic resistance movement” both use ‘Islamic’ in their names, they have nothing to do with Islam, or in fact with any religion, any morality. Freedom fighters? No freedom fighter burns babies alive, abducts elderly men and women.

In the Bible, The Lord tells Ezekiel to go to Gog of the land of Magog and tell him about his fight against the Nation of Israel:   

“And thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates,

To take a spoil, and to take a prey; to turn thine hand upon the desolate places that are now inhabited, and upon the people that are gathered out of the nations, which have gotten cattle and goods, that dwell in the midst of the land”. (Ezekiel 38, 11-12).

Hamas’ terrorists did just that, and much worse. They are not only the enemies of Israel, they are the enemies of humanity.

And like Gog of the land of Magog in the Holy Bible, Hamas is also an ally of Persia – of modern-day Islamic Republic of Iran and its proxies, mainly Hezbollah terrorist organization in Lebanon. Iran apparently had a part in Hamas’ planning and training towards the October 7 massacre, and is currently threatening to use Hezbollah to attack Israel from the north, while fighting against Hamas in the south-west. It is to Iran and its intentions to open another front against Israel, that the US President recently referred to in one word: “Don’t!”.

The Palestinian population of the Gaza Strip is used cynically, for almost two decades, as human shields for Hamas. Hamas uses aid money aimed at building schools and clinics, to acquire more RPGs and rockets. Hamas launches rockets at Israel from backyards and roofs of hospitals and kindergartens. Last week, Hamas stole from UNRWA, the UN relief agency for refugees, water tanks and fuel that were supposed to arrive to hospitals in Gaza. The Palestinians deserve better than Hamas.

Every nation in the world has the right to defend itself. Every government is obliged to defend its citizens.

Israel now must eradicate Hamas, must end this terrorist organization’s control over the Gaza Strip. Israel must make sure that such atrocities like those of October 7th can happen never again. First and foremost, we must have our children and grandparents, kept hostage in Gaza, back.

We express our heartfelt thanks to the people of Samoa, Tonga, Cook Islands, and Niue for the compassion and understanding many of you have shown towards Israel, especially during these challenging times. Your acts of solidarity give us hope and encourage us to continue standing strong. To every Samoan, Tongan, Cook Islander, and Niuean—both women and men—we urge you not to turn away in the face of adversity. Let your moral compass be your guide.

We urge the governments and parliaments of Samoa, Tonga, Cook Islands, and Niue to officially condemn the heinous attacks carried out by Hamas and to designate the terrorist organization in its entirety, in line with globally accepted definitions that identify such groups by their tactics, objectives, and blatant disregard for human life and international law. Furthermore, we call upon you to affirm Israel’s inherent right to defend its citizens and to demand the unconditional release of all Israeli hostages held in Gaza. Your voices are vital. Stand with us against the destructive agendas of terrorists like Hamas and ISIS, as we strive together for peace, justice, and a safer world for all.

Ran Yaakoby

Ambassador of Israel to New Zealand and Samoa, Tonga, Cook Islands and Niue.