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Why October 7 Is Our New Never Again

Israelis understand that Hamas's cruelty is ultimately responsible for the tragic deaths that have occurred since Oct. 7— yes, both Jewish and Palestinian.
[additional-authors]
June 9, 2024
Israeli solders and visitors walk among a display of photos of people killed during the Hamas attack at the ‘Nova’ festival site, on December 21, 2023 in Re’im, Israel. (Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images)

Every time I think I’ve fully processed the singular horror of October 7, something comes along to bring me back to square one.

It happened a few days ago when I put on these large goggles to see a virtual reality depiction of the now infamous scenes of destruction.

It’s everything you’d expect from that day—the crumbled homes, the burned-out cars, the children’s bedrooms littered with bullet holes, all the visual cues of the savagery— only now, you feel as if you’re there.

It’s virtual reality in name only. You don’t feel the virtual.

As I encountered in yet another way that darkest of days, listening to the soul-crushing words of survivors, I couldn’t help thinking the obvious: This day will never go away.

The images, the stories, the testimonies, the agony, are simply too real, too graphic. They overwhelm the senses. It’s as if any reminder of the 1200 Israelis murdered and the hundreds taken captive makes a volcano of pain erupt in our brains and brings us right back to that day.

The volcano erupted again this weekend, but this time, instead of pain we got the ecstasy of seeing four Israeli hostages rescued from the clutches of Hamas.

“The focus remained steadfastly on the hostages,” Amir Bobot wrote in JPost, describing the heroic rescue inside an urban maze deep inside Gaza, “with Yamam and Shin Bet fighters shielding them with their bodies.”

It was that little phrase—shielding them with their bodies—that especially got to me.

It got to me because the difference with Hamas was so stark. While Israeli commandos stepped in front of the Israeli hostages to protect them, the cowards from Hamas put their fellow Palestinians in front of them for their own protection. Indeed, since the beginning of the war, the only civilians Hamas has shown any interest in protecting are those they can use as bargaining chips.

These twin evils of Hamas using terrified captives to blackmail Israel, and using their own civilians as human shields, are savage truths that have further cemented Oct. 7 in our memories.

These twin evils of Hamas using terrified captives to blackmail Israel, and using their own civilians as human shields, are savage truths that have further cemented Oct. 7 in our memories.

No dark Jewish memory, of course, can compete with the Holocaust, the lowest point of Jewish history.

But the Holocaust happened more than 80 years ago. The great majority of Jews today were not alive then, but they were all alive to see Oct. 7 explode on their smart phones over and over again.

They didn’t just see a massacre; they saw terrorists showing off these massacres on digital cameras for the world to see. They saw depravity boosted by glee. They saw murderers who were just as ecstatic at the rape and mutilation and beheading of Jews as Israelis were ecstatic this past weekend celebrating the return of four hostages.

But here again, the dark cloud of Oct. 7 is never too far away. As Israelis welcomed the liberated hostages, it was impossible to forget all the hostages who are still languishing in Hamas hell.

I used to think I had a special talent to put myself in other people’s shoes. Oct. 7 has introduced me to my limit. No matter how hard I try, I can’t do it.

I can’t put myself in one of those bedrooms or shelters where the worst nightmares imaginable happened on that Black Shabbat. As a parent, I can’t put myself in the shoes of a father or mother whose children have been hostages for 248 days and counting.

I have empathy, I have pain, but I can’t come close to the real pain of a relative of those who perished or those who are still hostages.

But memory is something else. It’s a muscle that is awakened by stories and images. Oct. 7 has awakened that collective Jewish muscle like nothing else.

It’s a question of degree. Oct. 7 was hardly the first instance of Palestinian terrorists murdering Jews, but it was on a level none of us have could have ever imagined. Because its horror was so surreal, so otherworldly, it has lodged itself indelibly in our memories.

This helps explain why so many Jews continue to rally to Israel’s side. It’s not that they like Netanyahu’s government (I certainly don’t), or that they have no empathy for the tragic loss of Palestinian lives (I certainly do). It’s that they’re connecting two dots: the extraordinary cruelty of Hamas and the extraordinary pain of Israelis who faced that cruelty.

Israelis understand that Hamas’s cruelty is ultimately responsible for the tragic deaths that have occurred since Oct. 7— yes, both Jewish and Palestinian.

More than anything, it is this surreal cruelty of Hamas that inflicted surreal pain on Israelis that makes Oct.7 a day that will never go away—a day that is our new never again.

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