Tragedy and destruction in the 21st Century


The week of the 7 October 2023 will be forever etched in our minds as Jews worldwide. We have witnessed the greatest mass killings of Jews since the Shoah. People who, for just being Jews, were murdered in cold blood by Hamas, a terrorist organisation operating in Gaza. Their leadership, who are in Lebanon, Qatar, and Iran, lauded this attack not on Israel, but on innocent Jewish civilians. Hamas were praised, not only by other countries in the Middle East who have been enemies of Israel since its inception in 1948, but from democracies and liberal groups around the world, including South Africa. How despicable!

Hamas is a terrorist organisation that is bent on killing Jews. It is not there to be a mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is not there to assist in the creation of a two-state solution. In fact, in its charter, the Hamas Covenant (Article 13) states that “[Peace] initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement… Those conferences are no more than a means to appoint the infidels as arbitrators in the lands of Islam… There is no solution for the Palestinian problem except by Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are but a waste of time, an exercise in futility.” 

In the attack, 1 300 innocent individuals were killed, including babies, children, women, men, and elderly people. Amidst the carnage, some disturbing comments were made in the media and on social media. Did you read the tweet that said, “Hamas did not behead 40 babies. They killed 40 and some were beheaded.”? As if that makes it OK. I mean, how in the world can you even think that, let alone tweet it? Other awful protests occurred around the world, including in Sydney, where my family and I live.

On the Monday morning following the attack, the leadership of the Jewish Communal Appeal (JCA), where I work, briefed us on extra security measures placed on the building, which is a Jewish community centre that houses most of the Jewish communal organisations in Sydney, including the Sydney Jewish Museum. I was quite nervous to walk outside and had terrible flashbacks of the nervousness I had in Cape Town during anti-Israel flare-ups. I once again felt unsafe to walk in the streets, even though I don’t look overtly Jewish. I don’t wear a kippah, tzitzit, or a Magen David or Chai around my neck. On Wednesday I had to go to an education symposium at Moriah College, a Jewish Day School. I needed to either catch a bus or an Uber. I chose to catch the bus because I didn’t want to be in a car with a potential antisemite, or with someone who did not condemn the terrorist attacks in Israel. 

Like so many of you, I’m sure, I was continuously checking the news and social media – which was very bad for my mental health. 

However, I did check in with my friends. One thing that this atrocity has done is bring people together and re-establish bonds we may have lost over the past few months or years. I reached out to people living in Israel that I hadn’t seen or spoken to for a long time, to see how they were faring. No one was feeling OK. One of the posts many friends and influencers in the Jewish space were sharing was “Physically, I am OK. 

Emotionally, I am shattered.” One close friend in New York could not sleep at all, so she, another friend in Melbourne and I made a group on WhatsApp to debrief with one another across time zones. It was really helpful to get everything out and assisted me with my feelings during this awful time.

One thing that struck me was the amazing way the Jewish community came together. We did not protest or call for the murder of Gazans or even Hamas. We held vigils and community gatherings to mourn, comfort each other and show how much we care about our fellow Jews in Israel. I hear the words “Am Yisrael Chai” again and again from my fellow Jews, regardless of religious or political affiliation. 

This month’s article may seem a little like a stream of consciousness. I’m still processing my thoughts and feelings into a logical, intellectual argument. For now, though, this is one small way that I can show solidarity with my Jewish brothers and sisters in Israel, South Africa, Australia – and wherever else you may be reading this. I hope for a peaceful solution after this war – no more innocent lives should be taken.

Am Yisrael Chai.

A former Capetonian, Craig Nudelman is now based in Sydney, where he has settled into Australian life with his wife Gabi, and two daughters, Jessica and Livi. He works for the Jewish Communal Appeal and enjoys singing as a member of Sydney’s Central Synagogue choir and the Sydney Philharmonia Choir. The Cape Jewish Chronicle is privileged to continue to receive regular articles written by Craig.

• Published in the November 2023 issue – Click here to start reading.

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