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Horror too ghastly to comprehend

Oct 9, 2023 | Joel Burnie

Sderot, Israel. 7th Oct, 2023. Bodies of dead Israelis lie on the ground following the attacks of Hamas (Image: Ilia Yefimovich/dpa/Alamy Live News)
Sderot, Israel. 7th Oct, 2023. Bodies of dead Israelis lie on the ground following the attacks of Hamas (Image: Ilia Yefimovich/dpa/Alamy Live News)

The Age – October 9, 2023

 

There are few words that can convey the feelings that are running through my body right now.

There is horror and anger and confusion and disbelief and revulsion, but none can adequately describe or do justice to what has happened and is currently happening to my Jewish homeland, Israel. An unprecedented national apocalypse has descended upon her, bringing with it all the darkness and evil that we thought and prayed were just echoes of history, when the world was more brutal and less civilised.

It seems unreal, like mere figments of our imaginations. But the scenes of horror are all too real and being paraded before our very eyes, in the media and online.

More than 700 Israelis have been murdered and more than 2000 injured so far, with a depravity and brutality that defy the comprehension of ordinary people like myself. That’s 700 lives that have been stolen from their families and their friends. That’s 700 souls than have been vanquished from this earth.

But as horrifying as that figure is, it gets worse. There are more than 100 people who have been kidnapped and dragged to Gaza. Children, old people in wheelchairs, young women. We cannot even begin to imagine the horror they are being subjected to.

I have seen videos over the past few days that no one should see – images etched in my mind that will haunt me forever. And the voices of the cries of desperation and helplessness cannot be silenced.

The Jewish people has had a long and troubled history. There is no people that has been more widely persecuted by so many for so long. During the Holocaust, six million Jews were murdered on an industrial scale simply for being Jews. They were slain in the streets by their neighbours, murdered in forest pits by death squads, and gassed to death in chambers disguised as showers.

There is no equivalence, and yet to my horror, what I saw in Israel is reminiscent of those times. Hamas terrorists chased down innocent people fleeing for their lives and shot them dead. They kicked open the doors of homes, dragged out screaming children, some of who saw their parents executed in front of them. These were scenes that Jews have not seen since World War II and could indeed represent the highest number of Jews murdered in a single day since the Holocaust.

And it all feels very close to home. Israel is not a far-off foreign place for me. Even though I was born in Australia, I married an Israeli and my children are Israeli. It’s part of who I am, etched into my identity as a Jew. I have family there and friends there – what is happening in Israel is something that affects all Jews worldwide. Earlier today, someone I know told me of a cousin of a friend of his who was killed fighting the terrorists in a kibbutz alongside the Gaza Strip, while his father was hiding in a darkened room for 22 hours. I feel shattered, not least because the security that Israel provides is to guarantee that the horrors of the Holocaust can never reoccur. When that security has been breached, the effects of it are deeply felt on a level that few others can ever understand.

Jews worldwide and in Australia are in severe emotional pain right now – pain and worry for our relatives and friends who live alongside an evil terror entity, determined to eliminate Israel, that few in Australia can ever begin to imagine.

And yet even here in Australia, we see that horror duplicated in the attitude of a small number of our fellow citizens who celebrate the massacres and the mayhem that has been unleashed.

Today, footage emerged from Sunday evening of a ute travelling through a main road in south-west Sydney with passengers waving Palestinians flags and releasing fireworks in celebration. That same evening, a large crowd gathered where a fiery speaker praised the violence, telling a cheering crowd, “I’m smiling and I’m happy. I’m elated … It’s a day of pride. It’s a day of victory … and the day we’ve been waiting for!” The mob responded gleefully by chanting “Allahu Akbar” – the same chant shouted by the Hamas terrorists as they massacred families on the streets and in their homes in Israel.

I cannot comprehend how, in my country, there are groups of people celebrating the murder and brutality against my fellow Jews in Israel – who were targeted simply for being Jews – revelling in the evil that has been unleashed upon vulnerable civilians.

Israel is a part of my Jewish identity, and that of most Jews. The horrendous crimes being committed there are very personal. So as a Jew, I have to stand up with my fellows Jews, and protest against an enemy that recognises no morals and no boundaries.

It is what all decent people should do.

Joel Burnie is the executive manager at the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council.

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