My Israel Journal: Day 2

January 17, 2024

By Barak Hermann, CEO, JCC of Greater Baltimore

Barak is travelling with 30+ leaders representing JCCs and Jewish communities throughout North America on a four-day Solidarity Mission led by the JCC Association of North America and Ministry of Diaspora Affairs.  

Day 2: January 16, 2024 

Yesterday, we traveled south to many communities in the Gaza Envelope – the populated areas in the Southern District of Israel that is within (4.3 mi) of the Gaza Strip border. We witnessed the site of the massacres by Hamas.  It was a “pogrom” (the term historically refers to violent attacks on Jews).  

We began our day learning with Avi Melamed, an expert Middle East strategic intelligence analyst, as he explained the deep-rooted history of terror and the ring of fire that includes Hamas, Hezbollah, Al-Qaeda….all backed by Iran.  We made stops in Sderot to see and hear about the destruction and devastation from the October 7 attacks including the Communications Center and Community Center (in Sderot) where we heard horrifying and heroic stories. We had lunch in a home of survivors in Sderot.  We then went to witness the massacre at the Nova Music festival and at Kibbutz Nir Oz that set off the war.  

Witnessing the Massacre at the Nova Music Festival and at Kibbutz Nir Or 

Midday, we visited the site of the NOVA music festival where 2500-3000 attended a 24-hour music festival. At 6:22am, Hamas entered on motorcycles and cars and murdered 346 mostly young people on the spot and injured hundreds more. Many concert goers were camping and awoke from sleeping to this unimagined evil.  50 kidnapped, women raped and killed and dragged into Gaza.  This was the largest terror attack in one place in Israeli history. It’s now become a memorial created unofficially by family and friends. It’s day 103 since the war began and many hostages still haven’t been released.  As they say in Israel, “there are no words”. 

We then went to Kibbutz Nir Oz which before October 7 had a population of 400 people. Hamas broke the security fence and ravaged this beautiful community and killed or kidnapped 100 people.  The terrorists spent eight hours there until the IDF could drive them out. We walked to the kibbutz to bear witness to the horrific destruction led by two survivors who shared the names and stories of each home. The acts of heroism are amazing as many sacrificed their lives for someone they loved. 

Late afternoon, we traveled to another kibbutz that was evacuated where 80 IDF soldiers are living. We had a BBQ dinner together and were able to express our appreciation to the soldiers in the reserves who have left their families–many with very young children– to protect the county. 

We promised to not only bear witness, but to serve as the voice for Israelis in our respective communities in North America.  

My Take Aways for Day 2 

It is difficult to fathom the following:  

Why hasn’t everyone condemned the orchestrated mass rape and mutilation of girls and women. Is it because they are Jewish and have no legitimacy? 

I am driven to ask everyone I can reach to please not eradicate Jewish history to defend your opinions of Israel’s response to Oct 7th. Hamas are Nazis.  This isn’t a war about land. This is a deep hatred that calls for Jewish people to not exist. Israel would only be their first stage of a gruesome master plan to eliminate Jews from the world. After the Holocaust, we said Never Again.  Well…it could happen only 80 years since the Shoah if we don’t support Israel’s right to exist and be a protector of Jewish identity and peoplehood. 

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