We Struggle with the Aftermath of Oct. 7

We Struggle with the Aftermath of Oct. 7

Quakers, Muslims, Rabbis preach: “We must find the humanity in each other.”

Arlington is a long way from the Gaza Strip and Israeli villages attacked on Oct. 7, but the events have hit local residents like a gut punch. The inhumanity of the attacks, as well as the death of over 30,000 Palestinians in Gaza, haunts many. The impact on families and politics persists here, five months later and counting. 

The day after the Hamas attacks, Kathi was walking back from buying produce at the Westover Farmers market. “I grew up around Palestinians in Michigan. They are great people. Kind people. And Hamas is not all Palestinians. Furthermore, as people who came here to the U.S. from genocide, we don’t want to see the Israeli government engage in killing innocent civilians. I feel very bad right now, which is why I wore this sweatshirt today, to remind people that “Kindness can’t sit down simply because anger has stood up.”

Claire, sitting at Northside Social waiting for her sister, said: “My strongest feeling right now is just overwhelming sadness and why is this the only choice — to bomb a densely populated area in response to Hamas’ attack? I have sympathy for Palestinians and while I am horrified by the Hamas attack, I feel the reaction of Israel is going to be beyond proportional, whatever justification for outrage. I also feel If there were more women in government this wouldn’t be happening. It is particularly disturbing to me that a lot of social media is ramping up divisions in our own country and is not even authentic. It’s time to speak honestly about what is happening in Israel. A lot of people I know feel very uncomfortable with the settlements expansion.”

Diane, on a dog walk in Arlington, said, “Do people not realize how many Israelis were killed who were helping Palestinians? Take this guy for instance, Ofir Liebstein, who lived near the Gaza border. According to an Israeli who has built bridges with Palestinians to save the Dead Dea, Oded Rahav, ‘Ofir was the head of the Sha'ar HaNegev regional council. He worked endlessly to create hope for Palestinians living in Gaza. He began the Arazim Industrial Zone that would provide 10,000 jobs for Palestinainss in Gaza. He embarked on a mission to provide renewable energy with solar power. He allocated land from his council for that and pushed forward a program that would provide fresh water for thousands of Gazans. They actually placed pipes all along the Gaza strip. And what did Hamas do? They dug up the pipes and made rockets from them. On Oct. 7, Ofir woke to the sound of gunfire and died protecting his family. His son was shot and remains missing.” Diane hadn’t heard about another Israeli who was murdered on Oct. 7, an Israeli filmmaker, Yahav Winner, whose short film, “The Boy” captures the dissonance of life along the Israel Gaza border and served as a protest against the policy of the Israeli government.

Nupur, originally from Bangladesh, a driver, said, “How do I feel about what is happening in Gaza? I don’t support what Hamas did but they have lived for years suffering as refugees in their own country. Palestinians have been kicked out of their homes. It’s the British who are to blame. They messed things up everywhere with their ‘divide and conquer’ strategy. We lived through it in Bangladesh. There has to be a solution to this problem so the conflict can end.”

Rez, originally from Kashmir, was demonstrating against the deaths of children, marching to the White House with his wife and young son. “I’m here because the Palestinians are my Muslim brothers and sisters. I cannot stand by and watch children die without protesting. It is costing $3 billion a year to aid Israel and provide the means to bomb and attack Gaza. Think of what we could do with $3 billion a year! These are my tax dollars and I should have a say in whether they are used to attack innocent civilians or not. This conflict has made me question everything. Everything! The Democrats seem unable to act to stop this violence; 1982, when Israeli forces began shelling the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in Beirut, President Reagan just called up Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and told him to stop. The U.S. is sending weapons to many countries: they need to think harder about how they are helping governments put down Kashmiris, or Kurds, or Palestinians, or other minorities who are victims of policies put in place by colonial powers.”

Nat, from Arlington, said, “You have to realize that 1400 Israelis (now officially 1200) were killed on Oct. 7: that is as if we lost more than 40,000 Americans in one day. We bombed Afghanistan for less than that. But Jews seem to be easy targets: Israelis bomb and they are accused of committing murder and genocide. Throughout history Jews get blamed — they are easy targets because of the latent anti-semitism that runs as an undercurrent in society.” (Preliminary data from Anti-DefamationLeague Center on Extremism indicates that reported incidents of harassment, vandalism and assault increased by 388 percent over the same period last year.) Had Nat experienced anti-Semitism? “No, that is, yes, but not in direct relation to the attacks, but the other day I was passing a group of girls on a bridge near I-66 and they seemed to hide something when I came closer. I stopped and asked them what they were doing and they hid the item they were holding. Only when I said I was supportive of their cause did they shyly show me an Israeli flag. ‘We are protesting on behalf of Israel,’ they said, almost whispering. They were afraid. No one should ever be afraid in this country of supporting ANY cause.” 

Deena, a local barista, said, “Well, I definitely support the cause of the Palestinian people. As for terrorism, no, I cannot support violence of that kind. But now, how do we stop the attacks on civilians, many of whom have lived for decades as second class citizens?”

Alix, who came to the March for the Children in front of the White House, felt encouraged by the humanity being expressed at the march. Torn between her feelings for both Israelis and Palestinians, she said, “The best thing I’ve heard recently is Ezra Klein’s podcast, “Sermons I needed to Hear This Week. My own view is that we often see injustice and abuse of power but we don’t necessarily take action to stop it. It’s like having an abusive member of the family, an alcoholic or abused spouse that you tolerate, even facilitate, not wanting to, but being unable to intervene. You love your country, and you hope it is better than this, and then it becomes impossible to look the other way.”

Resources for More Understanding

Many remain upset and are anxious to read more, understand more, do more to blunt the pain on both sides of the conflict. Some voices of reason are worth the time to seek a constructive response to the onslaught of social media and digital media reports: in the “Medium” piece by Faraaz Ahmed, whose family lived through the 1992 anti-Muslim attacks in Bombay, he stresses you don’t need to cancel out empathy for the Palestinians just because you feel empathy for the Israelis who had their world turned upside down on Oct. 7. 

As a Muslim, an immigrant, a New Yorker, and a father, my heart breaks for Palestinians being bombed, just as it also does for those Israelis that were murdered. I can weep for a dead child being pulled out of the rubble in Gaza and also pray for one that has been kidnapped from Israel. I can advocate for peace and also shut down any action that even borders on anti-semitism. My humanity is not limited, I can do both. To read the whole post, see: 


For videos that shed some insight into more hopeful stories of the area in conflict, see: “The Gaza Surf Club” and “Dead Sea Guardians.” And also the dark side, portrayed in “The Boy.” 

Josh’s Blog is an equally helpful piece to explain why a call or gesture of support after the attacks was reassuring to Jewish friends in the U.S. who feel a family tie with Israeli Jews and remain wary of being attacked, wherever they live. See: https://joshgilmansblog.wordpress.com/2023/10/13/why-you-might-have-lost-all-your-jewish-friends-this-week-and-didnt-even-know-it/

Ezra Klein’s podcast, “The Sermons I Needed to Hear Right Now” features Rabbi Sharon Brous. Brous is the founding and senior rabbi of IKAR, a Jewish community based in Los Angeles, and the author of the forthcoming book “The Amen Effect: Ancient Wisdom to Mend Our Broken Hearts and World.” She addresses the conscience of the people of Jewish faith and the lessons of reconciliation in the Torah. Her conclusion: we have to find the humanity in each other. 

Bringing the issue home here, Khalid Mekki, the Palestinian owner of the Bawadi restaurant in Seven Corners lost his niece and three of her children in the Gaza bombing; and Director of Philanthropy at the UN Refugee Agency (UNRWA), Hani al Madhoun lost his brother, sister-in-law, and their children in Gaza two hours before the earlier (now ended) ceasefire was signed. To read his account of his family’s destruction, see: https://www.cnn.com/2023/12/02/opinions/gaza-family-killed-israeli-airstrike-almadhoun/index.html

For suggested reading on the origins of the Arab-Israeli conflict, see: https://www.reddit.com/r/CriticalTheory/comments/1777pbu/what_are_your_best_reading_recommendations_on_the/

https://parentscirclefriends.org/ A site for about 700 bereaved parents who have lost children to both sides of the conflict and have committed themselves to reconciliation instead of revenge. 

And to help with the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and the aftermath of the attacks in Israel, donate to: