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What I saw in Israel was inspiring, despite the horrorscape left by Hamas

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The presence of absence is a powerful thing, and in Israel today it is the coin of the realm. The hostages, including Americans, sit captive in the tunnels of Gaza, enduring a pain we scarcely fathom. They were stolen on October 7. But in the Jewish homeland, the one place where Jews are supposed to feel safe, it is still October 7. That sunset has not fallen. 

This is something that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and the Democrats don’t seem to understand. If he has harsh words for terrorist Hamas holding hostages, including Americans, they are quiet, next to his criticism of Israel and his unprecedented call for regime change. But honestly, Israelis are not interested in America’s domestic politics, though America’s domestic politics are interested in them. 

At a kibbutz, not a half mile from the Gaza border, I walked into the house of two shockingly beautiful 23-year-olds murdered by Hamas. The dishes were still drying by the sink, and the pockmarks of bullets painted a palpable terror. I like to think that they died in each other’s arms. Crazy kids, like I was then, except I wasn’t helpless in the face of inhumanity.  

I don’t know how to handle what I saw, as the husband of the only family who has moved back since the attack walked me through the horrorscape. It’s a beautiful little village of winding paths and lemon trees, the primary colors of fruit dotting the green of its background. 

Not far is the big city. 

In Tel Aviv, I met Gill. His cousin is still held by Hamas. He is an eloquent advocate, but in his eyes, on his face, was the kind of remembered and still lived terror that reminded me of my own parents’ deaths. It’s real, but unlike me, for him, it isn’t over. 

In the north, where GPS stops working in an effort to thwart Hezbollah drone attacks, lies Kibbutz Hanita, where soldiers make barracks of a kindergarten, the town abandoned. In fact, 60,000 Israelis have been evacuated from the north. I smoke cigarettes with some of them staying in my Tel Aviv hotel. They don’t know when they’ll go home.  

And how can they? Hezbollah, which makes Hamas look like a street gang, has 65,000 precision-guided missiles ready to rain the kind of destruction I witnessed there from a mortar attack on a quiet home. In Hanita, the fresh-faced commander of Israeli Defense Forces there was born and raised in New York. A new recruit, a lovely blonde woman from Sweden, has only been in for six months.  

This unlikely duo is there for one reason alone, the same reason why I had to wear a flak jacket and helmet, the same reason that rockets are fired at them. They are Jews and for that, Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran want to kill them. That’s it. Somebody needs to explain that to Schumer. 

In Hostage Square in Tel Aviv, Israelis refuse to forget, or put away the terror they still live under. The long symbolic Shabbat dinner table still waits for the hostages to take their places. 

Public art has sprung up, an installation mimicking the tunnels in Gaza where the innocents are held captive, a makeshift hourglass counting the time. Atop a piano where songs, generally but not always sad, are played reads, ‘You Are Not Alone.’ And they are not, nor are we. 

The square, the city, and the nation are awash in the presence of absence. But it is beautiful, it is so deeply human to create art even in the face of, perhaps in defiance of, a cult of death and evil where murderers gleefully take selfies with dead civilians, congratulating themselves for the slaughter. 

And why shouldn’t they? They won. They achieved their goal not just of killing Jews, but of making Democrats in America side with their horror and terror. Now they await their reward, a state of their own, from which they can finally destroy Israel. To this notion, with a loud and single voice, Israelis say no. And so must we in America. 

Make no mistake, this battle in which cowardly Schumer is bowing to terrorists and the domestic far left, is not about the destruction of Israel. It is about the destruction of the Jews everywhere, and more, the destruction of America and the West. But that will not happen.  

History is littered with those who sought to end Judaism, from Egypt to Rome, now Islamic terror, but they always lose, they always fade away. Israel is a hard and painful place to be today, and by today I mean the lingering day of October 7, but it is also an inspiration for those who side with the Israelis. Let us stand with them. With light, with life, with a tear and a smile, knowing that freedom will always win.  

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