Not since the Holocaust have more Jews been murdered on one day. The numbers of dead in the Simchat Torah Massacre are still rising as Israel’s soldiers and rescue services discover more and more families murdered in their homes.
Not since the Holocaust have we seen such images of innocent Jewish mothers and children, teenagers and old women loaded into trucks and taken away into captivity.
Not since the vile crimes of ISIS, have we witnessed such barbarity. Indeed, this is what Hamas have done: imported, adopted, and replicated the savagery of ISIS. Whole families have been wiped out. Mothers and fathers, with babes in arms, murdered in cold blood. Young people at a party. Old people—even Holocaust survivors themselves. Massacred. Their bodies burned and abused. Along with dozens of Israelis taken away are other nationalities.
Many have labelled this Israel’s 9/11—a national catastrophe inflicted by bloodthirsty terrorists. Indeed, in terms of proportion for a nation of 9.3 million, the fatalities number more than seven times those of the Twin Towers.
So as President of Israel, what do I say to you, readers around the world? Do I tell you of some of the personal stories? Of the young couple Tamar and Yonatan, murdered in their home along with their 6-year-old twin daughters Shachar and Arbel, and 4-year-old son Omer? Do I tell you of the wheelchair-bound Holocaust survivor in her 80s who was taken into captivity by Hamas terrorists? Do I tell you of the young women at a dance party rounded up by terrorists from Gaza to be murdered and their bodies violated?
I can tell you that from the depths, the light is clearest. From our darkest moments can arise Israel’s finest hour. Israel will remain united and strong. Israel will act firmly and with full force to defend its people and eliminate this threat. This is our solemn duty, and we will not rest day or night in the defense of our people.
However, the international community also has a duty to fulfill here. For too long, when Israel has faced incursions or rockets from Gaza, elements of the international community have called for restraint or sought to justify Hamas’s actions, swallowing their lies as they killed their own people and blamed Israel, while hiding rockets in hospitals, schools, and mosques.
The world can no longer turn a blind eye. Any justification or attempts to rationalize this terrible attack will only encourage them further.
It is important to remember that Israel has no presence in Gaza. For months the border has been ostensibly peaceful. Instead of seeking a brighter future, Hamas has brought havoc on its own people. Tens of thousands of Gazans would cross each day into Israel to work and support their families, working alongside peace-loving Israelis—many of whom I knew well, and sadly have been murdered in this onslaught.
Over the past days, I have spoken with leaders from around the world. I appreciate their support for Israel’s right to defend its people in the face of this abhorrent evil. I appreciate the outpouring of good will we have seen around the world with national landmarks and monuments illuminated with Israeli flags in solidarity with our people.
But platitudes and sympathies must translate into tangible support. Over the next days and weeks, Israel will be doing all it can to secure its borders, to remove the threat posed by Hamas, and to return its captive civilians and soldiers. I am under no illusion that this will be a swift or easy process—but one thing is for sure, it will demand the support of the international community.
History will judge Hamas for its crimes against humanity, along with all those who fail to stand against them. I urge all the international community, those who have always stood by us, and those who have traditionally taken a different stance. Now is the time to speak out. Now is the time to take action in support of Israel by word and deed—at home and in the international institutions. To our Muslim neighbors and friends in the region who represent a different face of Islam—I say now is the time to show that we all share an inalienable and mutual respect for human life.
The days ahead are certainly shadowed with cloudy skies, as Israel embarks on a difficult and painful mission to secure its borders, to eliminate the threat to its people, and to return the hostages to their families. However, just like in the past, even in the face of the most difficult times, Israel will overcome, the Israeli spirit will overcome, and we will emerge stronger, more resilient, and above all, united.