One of Israel’s staunches supporters in Congress — Ritchie Torres, the black, Latino and gay Progressive who represents areas of the Bronx — told a bring-the-hostages-home event in Riverdale on Sunday night that “the abduction of the hostages is not simply an Israeli crisis, it’s not only an American crisis, it’s an international crisis.”
Addressing 300 people at Young Israel Ohab Zedek in North Riverdale, Torres said that “the voices of the survivors deserve to be heard, their stories deserve to be told.”
And he reaffirmed his long-standing support for Israel, “as it seeks to defend itself from the deadliest act of terrorism since the Holocaust.”
Torres scoffed at those voicing support for the terrorist butchers of Hamas or who found words of condemnation for Hamas difficult to come by.
“Dr. King once said that the greatest tragedy is not the strident clamor of the bad people, but it’s the appalling silence of the good people,” Torres said. “And we’ve seen too many in our society, from public officials to college and university presidents, who have shown appalling cowardice and indifference and silence in the face of barbaric antisemitism.”
The evening featured remarks by Or Gat, whose mother Kinneret was murdered by Hamas terrorists at Kibbutz Be’eri near the Gaza border on Oct. 7. His sister Carmel Gat and sister-in-law Yarden Roman Gat are among the estimated 240 hostages still being held captive in Gaza.
For nearly an hour, Or, who was the only member of his family not at his parents’ home when the Hamas killers arrived, recounted the harrowing moments during which the story of his family — and of all Israel — changed forever.
His 69-year-old mother was assassinated at point-blank range, her body identified a few days later.
His brother Alon Gat, 37, daughter Geffen, 3, along with his wife Yarden were all abducted, but they but jumped from the vehicle that was taking them into Gaza when the terrorists were distracted.
Alon, grasping his daughter, escaped as bullets whistled by; his wife, not as fast, is believed to have been recaptured.
“He is a tour guide and familiar with the field so he stayed camoflaged in the bushes for 15 hours.” keeping his daughter calm and quiet.
“The last time Alon saw Yarden, she was hiding behind a tree,” Or said. “We did a lot of searching. The only indication we have that she was taken again was that we didn’t find any blood, we didn’t find a body.”
More than 100 bodies were found in Kibbutz Be-eri, Israeli military officials said.
“Mothers, fathers, babies, young families killed in their beds, in the protection room, in the dining room, in their garden,” Israeli Major General Itai Veruv said, visibly shaken as troops went door-to-door to collect the bodies of residents killed in their homes, Reuters reported.
“It’s not a war, it’s not a battlefield. It’s a massacre,” Veruv said. Some victims were decapitated, he added. “I’ve never seen anything like this, and I’ve served for 40 years.”
Torres told his Young Israel audience that this is what he would tell the pro-Hamas demonstrators who have been raging through American streets and campuses: “Imagine a mother whose child was murdered. I cannot imagine anything more callous and cruel than telling that mother, you had this coming. You and your people brought this terror upon yourself. For me, this is not about geopolitics, this is not about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, this is about human decency.
“It is indecent to blame the victims of terrorism, rather than the terrorists themselves.”
To those calling for a casefire before Israel accomplishes its military objectives, Torres would say that the Jewish state “has every right to do to Hamas what the United States did to ISIS and al Qaeda in the 21st century, what the free world did to the Nazis in the 20th century — it must rid the world of their terror.”
To keep pressure on governments to push for the release of the hostages, Or and members of other hostage families are speaking wherever they can, attempting to reach powerful people and those with connections to powerful people. Attendees at the Young Israel event were asked to do three things:
1. Connect us with federal officials in the Biden Administration.
2. Connect us with influential social medial personalities to help share our story.
3. Pressure your elected officials to enact policy that frees Israeli hostages as soon as possible.
More on the YIOZ event — Out of the horrors of Be'eri Kibbutz: Death, escape, captivity, determination (from The Riverdale Press)