Chanukah: Flames of hope burn during another dark time for Jews

As Golda Meir stated: “If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more violence. If the Jews put down their weapons today, there would be no more Israel.”

Relatives of Israelis held hostage by Hamas in Gaza hold a press conference in Tel Aviv, Nov. 29, 2023. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.
Relatives of Israelis held hostage by Hamas in Gaza hold a press conference in Tel Aviv, Nov. 29, 2023. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.

Chanukah is a holiday that symbolizes the miracle of light in one of the darkest periods of Jewish history, a past that is sadly now repeating itself. Jews start lighting Chanukah candles on Dec. 7 during a dark time for Jews and Israelis. American Jews are living with unprecedented levels of fear; Iran-backed Hamas terrorists are continuing their war to eradicate Israel; Hamas continues to torment Israeli hostages; and various social movements remain silent about the rape of Israeli girls and women. The Jewish people are again looking for the rays of light to overcome the shadow of darkness.

‘Hamas Forced Children to Watch Oct. 7 Atrocity Videos’

As more evidence is being released, it becomes clearer that Hamas held the hostages under deplorable conditions. The hostage testimony of the darkness and depravity of this terrorist group is proof that Hamas will stop at nothing to fulfill its mandate to eradicate the Jewish state. After it broke the terms of the ceasefire, which included the release of more hostages, the war resumed on Dec. 1.

Jewish children were physically abused, and at least two were branded during their abduction by Hamas. Brothers Yagil, 12, and Or Ya’akov, 16, were “taken on a motorbike; they took every child, took his leg and put it on the exhaust of that motorbike, so they have a burn so they will be marked if they run, if they escape, so Hamas can find them.” Terrorists threatened the lives of Jewish kids as young as 3 if they made noise. After weeks of forced silence in tunnels, many children became conditioned to whisper even after being reunited with their families.

Jewish children suffered under extremely difficult conditions. Children Avigail Idan, 4, and Emily Hand, 9, returned covered in lice. Children were drugged when they were moved between locations. Thomas Hand described his daughter Emily: “The most shocking, disturbing part of meeting her was that she was just whispering. She’d been conditioned not to make any noise. She explained that they were constantly being told to whisper. Last night, she cried until her face was red and blotchy, she couldn’t stop. She didn’t want any comfort; I guess she’s forgotten how to be comforted.”

Eitan Yahalomi, 12, suffered similar abuse, according to his aunt: “Every time one of the children cried, terrorists threatened them with rifles to shut them up. Hamas forced him to watch horror videos of the 10/7 atrocities. He is thinner, will not smile and doesn’t really speak.”

Mia Schem is embraced by her mother and brother after being released from Hamas captivity in the Gaza Strip, Dec. 1, 2023. Credit: Courtesy.

Food was often a single piece of bread or less. A Filipino hostage was so hungry that he ate toilet paper. A freed Thai hostage explained that Israelis held with him were abused and beaten: “The Jews who were with me were treated more harshly. Sometimes, they were beaten with electrical cables.”

Hamas terrorists wounded several of the hostages during their attacks, and other hostages died during their imprisonment. Most did not receive any treatment. Yuval Engel, 11, and Ditza Heiman, 84, were both returned to Israel in wheelchairs. Nurit Cooper, 79, had a broken shoulder. Moran Stella Yanai, 40, limped out of captivity. Hamas terrorists shot Mia Schem in the arm on Oct. 7: “A veterinarian operated on her arm. She did physical therapy for herself. She underwent trauma. She’s thin, she’s weak.”

Israeli hospitals released heart-breaking photos of the freed hostages as they were reunited with their families and pets. Of the hostages still known to be held by Hamas (for many Israelis, the fate of their relatives is still a mystery) are 117 men and 20 women; 126 Israelis and 11 foreigners. All women and children were supposed to be released by Hamas under the terms of the ceasefire agreement. The terrorist group claimed the excuse that all remaining hostages are military age and therefore considered “soldiers.”

#MeToo Unless You Are a Jew

“We claim we stand against rape and violence against women. We will not let women be victimized and then silenced. We say we believe women, stand with women, speak out for women. Women are still hostage to these rapists and the world has failed to call the situation what it is: an urgent emergency that demands a decisive response. This is our moment as women and allies of women to act.”

— Gal Gadot, Wonder Woman actress

Many feminist groups have been silent—most notably, the U.N. Women’s Agency for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, and its president. A bipartisan group of 89 U.S. House members urged U.N. Women to condemn Hamas. U.N. Women finally released a statement condemning Hamas on Dec. 1, which Israel’s foreign minister called “tepid and late after turning a blind eye.” It also took U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres seven weeks before he finally called for an investigation into Hamas sex crimes.

Hadassah, the National Council of Jewish Women and the World Zionist Organization joined a special Israel-led U.N. session to raise awareness for the Hamas sex crimes and the deafening silence around the world. Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan explained the goal of Hamas: “Hamas used rape and sexual violence as weapons of war. These were not spur-of-the-moment decisions to defile and mutilate girls and parade them while onlookers cheered; rather, this was premeditated.”

Former Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg forcefully criticized the absence of condemnations, saying that “silence is complicity, and in the face of terror we cannot be quiet. This silence threatens to undo a movement and decades of progress.” U.S. Sen. Gillibrand of NY watched videos of the Hamas atrocities: “It haunts you. The world must know the heinous, barbaric nature of Hamas.”

New eyewitness testimonies continue to be shared—more than 1,500 in total. A Nova Festival survivor described witnessing a woman surrounded by “eight or 10 fighters beating and raping her.” After killing her, “they were laughing.” A volunteer helping to prepare bodies for burial: “Opening the body bags was scary. They were all young women. Most in little clothing or shredded clothing, and their bodies bloodied, particularly around their underwear, and some women shot many times in the face as if to mutilate them.”

CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women, Sheila Katz, spoke about “the secondary trauma of being unheard, ignored and reduced to mere objects for debate.” The disappointment of Jewish feminists is widespread, leading to the launch of the #MeToo_Unless_Ur_A_Jew campaign. The executive director of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance believed that “diverse coalitions would benefit Jewish women. Now I fear that Jews are all alone.

Hamas Resumes Its War Against Israel

Hamas ended the temporary truce with Israel when the Iran-backed Palestinian terrorists refused to release additional female and child hostages, required by the ceasefire agreement. The U.S. State Dept. reported that Hamas did not want the Israeli “women to be able to talk about what happened to them.” The terrorist group was supposed to release Shiri Bibas and her two children, including her 10-month-old. Continuing their torturous psychological warfare, Hamas now claims they died in captivity, a claim not verified.

Immediately after Hamas ended negotiations, the terrorist group resumed its rocket fire into Israel. Hamas also took responsibility for the cold-blooded murder of three Israelis waiting at a bus stop in Jerusalem. The brothers who committed the attack prove the false moral equivalency often used by the news media when reporting on the Israeli hostage and Palestinian prisoner exchanges: most freed terrorists return to violence against Israelis. Both brothers previously served time in prison for terrorism.

Israel released terrorists—women and children—some were convicted of attempted murder, shootings and bomb attacks; 64 of 117 were held for violent crimes. One example of false moral equivalence was a would-be suicide bomber who has scars on her face from her attempted car bombing. Anti-Israel groups made her into a hero for their cause.

Released Hostages Bilal and Hamza Zaiyde
The Zaiyde siblings, Bilal and Hamza, with family members after being released from captivity by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Dec. 1, 2023. Credit: Courtesy.

Points to consider:

  1. Everyone has the moral obligation to condemn Hamas sex crimes against Jews.

The silence of Americans, international human-rights groups and feminist organizations in the face of evidence showing rapes and grotesque sexual abuse is deeply alarming. Everyone, without reservation, must unequivocally condemn such reprehensible acts. Anything short of this sends the message that Jewish and Israeli women are not worthy of the same protections as any other women. The condemnation of heinous crimes is a fundamental principle that these organizations and individuals must uphold. Silence in the face of sex crimes undermines human rights and gender equality and further harms innocent victims.

  1. Hamas atrocities on Oct. 7 and its abuses of hostages must be widely shared.

Hamas terrorists intentionally filmed their attacks against Israelis and boastfully shared videos on social media, and yet many deny these atrocities. It is outrageous that the victims are forced to constantly relive their trauma just to convince the world of the attacks that Hamas takes pride in broadcasting. What more will it take for individuals and groups to see the pure evil of Hamas? Sharing the factual documentation of these vile acts is crucial for raising awareness, promoting international condemnation and mobilizing efforts to defeat Hamas.

  1. Hamas terrorists will stop at nothing to annihilate Israel and all Jews.

A Hamas leader glorified the Oct. 7 attacks as “just a rehearsal.” Despite attempts to present a seemingly kind and gentle face when releasing hostages, the admission by a Hamas leader that their attacks serve as mere practice for future terrorism underscores the malicious intent of the organization. It is imperative for the international community to see through any deceptive tactics and acknowledge the true nature and intent of Hamas. Their blatant disregard for innocent lives—Palestinian and Israeli—and open acknowledgment of planning future attacks against Jews highlight the urgency of destroying Hamas to ensure peace and security.

  1. Hamas terrorists can end this war at any time.

As Golda Meir stated: “If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more violence. If the Jews put down their weapons today, there would be no more Israel.” The key to ending the current conflict lies in the hands of Hamas. A definitive step towards peace can be taken if Hamas chooses to release all the hostages and voluntarily disarm itself. By relinquishing control over those unlawfully held and renouncing violence, Hamas can demonstrate a genuine commitment to the safety of Israelis and Palestinians. These actions would end the immediate suffering of civilians and also set the stage for constructive dialogue and diplomatic resolutions. Hamas has the power to achieve a peaceful solution and a stable Middle East.

  1. Hamas propaganda must be condemned.

Hamas supporters keep reiterating that the hostages were treated well. They even point to the smiling faces and waving of freed hostages. Hamas drugged the hostages with tranquilizers so they would look better on camera. In a Hamas propaganda video, it is clear that the hostages were under duress: a terrorist is caught on camera stating “keep waving.” The relentless dissemination of these false narratives and the glorification of violence by Hamas supporters perpetuate the conflict. The sharing of intentionally misleading information only serves the purposes of Hamas terrorists and their Iranian benefactors. It is imperative to denounce propaganda that fuels hatred and division.

  1. Light can overcome darkness.

Amid the current challenges faced by Jews and Israelis, the celebration of Chanukah serves as a powerful reminder that light can overcome darkness. “The Festival of Lights” symbolizes the triumph of Jews over their oppressors, independence for the Jewish homeland and the rekindling of hope during a dark period. Today, Iran-backed Hamas terrorists lead an illegal war, torment Israeli hostages and perpetrate crimes against women. Just as the Maccabees overcame adversity, the resilience of the Jewish spirit prevails. By commemorating Chanukah and sharing stories of triumph, Jews draw strength to confront current challenges, stand united against oppression and foster a commitment to the triumph of light over darkness.

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