LAST Saturday was the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust.
On 7 October 2023, almost 80 years after the liberation of the camps of Europe, Jews were murdered in their homes, at a music festival and in the streets of the Jewish state.
Abandoned cars and scattered belongings litter the road after the deadly terror attack on Israel[/caption]
Jewish women were raped, Jewish children were massacred, and Jewish men and women and children were kidnapped and taken into Gaza.
Among them were elderly people, including at least one Holocaust survivor.
At the time of writing this, the death toll stands at over 1,300. This was not perpetrated by ‘militants’ as some have claimed.
This cold-blooded murderous massacre was committed by Hamas terrorists. And we should call them what they are – murderers.
After the Holocaust, rejected by many European countries they called home, many survivors made their way to Israel.
Often with nothing but the clothes on their backs, having lost everything and everyone they loved, people made their way to the place that gave them hope, the place that so many dreamed of in the darkest days in the Holocaust.
Many of them went on to fight to defend Israel, they helped to build Israel, they hoped of a fresh start in a new home where they would be free, they helped to create that place of their dreams – a Jewish homeland.
They had children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren.
And many of those children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren would have been among the victims of the appalling attacks last weekend.
Many of them will today be once again fighting for the homeland that meant so much to Holocaust survivors.
Because Israel represents so much more than land for Jewish people.
When Jews across Europe were being persecuted, when they were being stripped of their citizenship, their possessions, and their jobs; when they were being dragged out of their homes and forced into ghettos; when they were taken in their millions to sites industrially designed to murder them – the world looked on.
There was no nation that felt inherently responsible for the Jews of Europe. There was no army to defend them. There was no sanctuary. There was no escape.
Today, Israel represents that sanctuary for millions of Jews around the world.
So to see the violence and murder being carried out against the people of Israel hurts us all, deeply.
Alone, isolated, and scared
The outpouring of support from our political leaders is reassuring.
I have been proud to see others from our community finding the strength to share the heartbreaking stories they are hearing from friends and family in Israel.
But, sadly, watching so many look on, or even worse cheer on, the terrorists who have murdered our people, the Jewish community risk once again feeling alone, isolated, and scared.
One of the elderly women who was captured by Hamas terrorists and taken to Gaza was a Holocaust survivor.
Who knows what horrors she is enduring today. I think about the fear she must be feeling and I cannot help but wonder if she is remembering another fear, in another place.
I hope and pray that she and the other hostages can be returned to safety and that Israel can once again be their sanctuary.
For the Jewish community, there are, sadly, undeniable echoes of the past.
For survivors of the Holocaust to witness these unspeakable horrors, to feel that fear and hopelessness once again, is unfathomable.
I think about Lily Ebert MBE, a 99-year-old Holocaust survivor shared with me her memories of being in Israel on the day Israeli independence was declared and the sheer joy she felt.
I dread to think how she must feel now.
- Karen Pollock CBE is the Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust