Standing Strong in the Face of Evil
Last week we marked one month since the October 7 massacre.
We also marked the 85th anniversary of Kristallnacht—a series of Nazi pogroms consisting of vandalism, arson, violence and the murder of Jews.
It is unfathomable that less than a century later, the Jewish people are yet again confronted with an enemy that seeks our annihilation.
Israel is at war. We are at war.
This is a war for the preservation and security of the Jewish people, not just in Israel but worldwide. Just like World War II and the defeat of Nazi Germany, this is a war between good and evil. This is a war between light and darkness.
On October 7, I heard the sirens in Tel Aviv just like millions of other Israelis. Right away, I had a feeling that something was wrong. This siren in the center of Israel felt different. There was no advanced warning; it came out of nowhere.
As my husband and I grabbed our two young children to head to our building’s bomb shelter, I started to panic. My worst nightmare in that moment, however, would prove to be much better than the horrific reality that was about to befall our beautiful people and country.
Parents and children brutally murdered in their homes, women raped and killed, pregnant women’s bellies torn open and their unborn babies stabbed, babies and Holocaust survivors taken hostage. We know all this not only from the accounts of survivors and first responders—but also because the Hamas terrorists livestreamed their carnage.
I am horrified that my 85-year-old grandmother, Reli Gringlas, a Holocaust survivor, has to yet again witness such barbaric acts against Jews during her lifetime.
In May 1981, in a meeting with American Jewish leaders, Menachem Begin, then Israel’s prime minister, famously outlined several lessons following the Holocaust.
First, if an enemy of our people says he seeks to destroy us, believe him. Don’t doubt him for a moment. Don’t make light of it. Do all in your power to deny him the means of carrying out their satanic intent.
Hamas’s charter explicitly calls for the destruction of Jews and Israel.
Living in Israel for the past seven years after my aliyah, and spending time serving in an Israel Defense Forces intelligence unit and later in government, I was horrified—though sadly not surprised—at how viciously and inhumanely the Hamas terrorists carried out their attack.
What was surprising, however, was how Hamas terrorists were able to infiltrate Israel and carry out such a large-scale massacre. It was a disastrous, cataclysmic failure—not only failing to pre-empt the attack at the border but failing to stop the atrocities as they were happening.
With the birth of the modern State of Israel in 1948, it seemed that we had broken the historic cycle of mass persecution, trading destruction and massacre for security and liberty.
October 7 changed this sense of security that Israelis, and I imagine many Jews around the world, have felt for the past 75 years. Thankfully, unlike in the 1940s, today we have a sovereign state and an army as well as the resolve, will and resources to restore our security.
What must Israel do? Israel must destroy Hamas because its vicious attacks threaten the state’s very existence. If the war ends in a ceasefire, Hamas will have faced no consequences for committing mass atrocities on Israeli soil. We will never be secure from future onslaughts and many Israelis will choose to raise their children elsewhere.
Israel will prevail, because we have no other choice. When Hamas is destroyed, Israelis will not only be safer, but the Gazans whom Hamas use as human shields will also have a chance for a better future. The choice between good and evil has never been more clear.
Do you stand with a terror organization that kills women, children and the elderly in cold blood? Or do you stand with a peace-seeking, democratic country whose main priority is to protect human life? Do you stand with the Hamas terrorists who call their parents in Gaza to brag about how many Jews they have killed, or do you stand with the innocent Israeli civilians who were massacred, many of whom devoted their life to achieving peace with our neighbors?
Presented with such an obvious choice, you might expect to see opponents of the one and only Jewish state temper their attacks. Instead, from mass rallies around the globe to American college campuses to mainstream media outlets to social media, we are seeing the vilification of Israel only intensify.
It is unnerving to see Jew haters (and how many there are) doubling down in their hatred at a time of so much pain and loss for the Jewish people. But perhaps even more unsettling is to see peers, colleagues and administrators—people we once considered allies and even friends—show a total disregard for Jewish slaughter and for the hostages being held for so long.
Friends who call for an immediate ceasefire, essentially negating Israel’s right to defend itself. Friends who only seem to be concerned with the fate of the Palestinians and blame Israel for the fate of murdered Israeli babies and grandparents.
Friends who remain silent in the face of evil.
This week I saw a post online that seems more relevant than ever:
First they came for LGTBQ, and I stood up, because love is love.
Then they came for Immigrants, and I stood up, because families belong together.
Then they came for the Black community, and I stood up, because Black lives matter.
Then they came for me, but I stood alone, because I am Jew.
Around the world, as antisemitic attacks against Jews escalate, the Jewish people have never felt so isolated, so alone in modern times.
I grew up hearing stories about the Holocaust from two of my grandparents who were survivors. But I always heard them with a distant ear. I knew antisemitism still existed, but we lived in a different world—a world where Jews could not only defend themselves, but also a world that had learned about the danger of allowing hatred to run unchecked.
I was wrong. The weeks since October 7 have shown us how much hatred really exists and how easily it spreads—like an unchecked wildfire.
The last weeks have also helped us to answer a question we never really understood: How was it possible that Germany, a country that prided itself on its ethics, academia and the arts, could carry out the mass murder of millions of Jews? How was it possible that half of the Nazis that voted for the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question” at the Wannsee Conference in 1942 held the title “Doctor”?
Today, as I witness academics shout “From the River to the Sea…,”
librarians tearing down posters of kidnapped children held by Hamas in Gaza, medical students saying it was the Israeli police, and not Hamas, that carried out the attacks, I now understand what I never understood: Even the most educated among us can be the most morally bankrupt.
My husband, like hundreds of thousands of Israelis, was called up for reserve duty. We decided that it would be best for our two young children if I traveled with them temporarily to the United States to be with my family.
This was an extremely difficult decision. I feel far away from him, from our family and friends in Israel, from our home, our country. I feel helpless. Some days it is hard to get out of bed. But I have no choice. There is so much work to do.
Which brings me to Begin’s second lesson after the Holocaust:
When a Jew anywhere in the world is threatened or under attack, do all in your power to come to his aid. Never pause to wonder what the world will think or say. The world will never pity slaughtered Jews. The world may not necessarily like the fighting Jew, but the world will have to take account of him.
Now is the time to stand up for our people. We will not be silent until all the innocent hostages are safely returned. We will not be silent until Hamas is destroyed. We will not be silent until Israel’s northern border with Lebanon is quiet and secure and Hezbollah ceases to fire rockets and send terrorists to infiltrate our towns and cities. And we will not be silent until our institutions, our politicians, our universities, our media, our neighbors and, yes, our friends take a clear moral stand.
Now is the time to raise our voices. Support Israel and the Jewish people’s right to defend ourselves on your social media platforms. Call out peers and colleagues who are aligning themselves with a terror organization. Demand action from your university administrators and local and national politicians to condemn antisemitism and stand in solidarity with Israel. There has never been a more critical moment to defend Israel and the Jewish people.
Begin’s fifth lesson after the Holocaust was: We must stand united in the face of the enemy.
While the journey may be lonely at times, together, and only together, we shall overcome. Am Yisrael Chai.
Sara Greenberg served as an advisor for foreign affairs and English speechwriter in the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office. She also served in an Israel Defense Forces’ intelligence unit and is a graduate of Yale University (BA) and Harvard University (MBA/MPP).