On Saturday morning, at a synagogue in New Jersey, Rabbi Marcus suddenly stopped the prayers and burst into tears. It seemed as if his heart was breaking, because it was. A war had broken out in Israel, he wept; one hundred people dead. Turning on my phone, I saw that the Rabbi was wrong: the numbers were much higher. But numbers don’t tell the whole story.
On Sunday, like many other Israelis, I was on a plane back to Israel in order to join my unit as a reservist of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). The reality to which I was shortly to be exposed proved more murderous than anyone could have imagined. I’m not sure that we will ever be able to come to grips with the full horror of what occurred.
We will never be able entirely to comprehend how other apparently sane, thinking, modern human beings willfully, deliberately slaughtered a pregnant woman by cutting her fœtus from her womb, decapitated babies, tied children together and burned them alive, and tortured to death 90-year-old people. And yet, unimaginably, this barbaric murder spree of over 1,400 people, from the elderly to babies and even fœtuses, still does not even begin to tell the story.
Many women were repeatedly and brutally raped until they died in ways that cannot be published in a newspaper. In their final moments of life, some mothers managed to save their babies by hiding them in any place they could find.
In the aftermath, I received a message that I never thought I would get: “We are looking for breastfeeding mothers who can breastfeed the orphans and the babies of the mothers who were kidnapped into Gaza.” Children as young as one month old were abducted to Gaza, where they are now held in chicken cages.
Thomas Hand, father of one of the abducted children, received “good news.” His eight-year-old daughter, who had been kidnapped and taken to Gaza, died of her injuries on the way. Through tears of relief, this grieving father explained to a TV reporter that this horrific outcome, amongst the worst that any parent can experience, was nevertheless “good news” compared to the alternative—compared to what Hamas would surely have done to her before she eventually died. He said, “They called me after two days and said, ‘We found Emily, she’s dead.’ I jumped up and shouted, ‘Yes!’ Out of all the possible outcomes we had, this was the best news I could get. If you have any idea how they treat captives in Gaza, it is worse than death.”