Medical responders carry a body bag in Sderot, Israel, Oct. 8, 2023. (Photo/JTA-Saeed Qaq-Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Medical responders carry a body bag in Sderot, Israel, Oct. 8, 2023. (Photo/JTA-Saeed Qaq-Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

A ‘terrorist attack’? No, it was a diabolical pogrom, and the world’s response has left me little time to mourn

The only photo I have of my great-uncle, Boris Grossman, features him presciently blurred in a sepia-toned family portrait, circa 1911. It wasn’t long after the picture was taken that Boris was murdered in a pogrom. His death forced a family exodus from Ukraine.

It’s hardly a new story — this idea of Jews in desperate search of a better world. We’ve wandered deserts, we’ve huddled on ships, we’ve survived concentration camps. And we did all this for the glimmer of an opportunity to make something out of nothing, to find safety, to practice our religion, to gain freedom from oppression, to fulfill the universal dream of living with a degree of dignity in a place of peace. The tyranny that has gripped our people for centuries led to the formation of the State of Israel.

In 1976, my need to get personally acquainted with the Promised Land prompted me to live there for a year. I spent nearly half of that year at Kibbutz Alumim. It was a Modern Orthodox community filled with sun-drenched groves of avocados and lush fields of watermelons. I observed Shabbat with the incredibly generous families who offered me a seat at their tables, I worked the soil, fed the chickens, and prayed with these people three times a day. There was a pool when we wanted to kick back and an adviser when we needed to talk. Kibbutz Alumim is two miles from Gaza.

Imagining those same watermelon fields soaked in blood, the groves where I picked avocados now strewn with bodies, is absolutely devastating. I close my eyes and see the men, women and children of Alumim waking up to pure evil. I can’t get their faces  out of my head; none of us can. News outlets refer to the events of Oct. 7 as a terrorist attack, but make no mistake, we have witnessed yet another diabolically well-planned, tragically well-executed pogrom against our people.

The Bible tells us that everything has its season: “a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time for war and a time for peace.” But for those of us staring in disbelief at Hamas’ savage rampage, the seasons were compressed.

Through my grief, I wondered how it could be so difficult to denounce a terrorist organization’s complete contempt for the sanctity of life.

I had no time to mourn before being confronted by Russia and China’s refusal to denounce this attack, before seeing Iran stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Hamas, before hearing Syria and Lebanon suggest that Israel provoked the massacre. I had no time to wrap my head around the full-throated justification of terrorism being shouted across college campuses. Even as we wept, many of our most respected academic institutions failed to rebuke Hamas. Some suggested an outright moral equivalence between a murderous pogrom on the one hand and a military effort to dislodge Hamas on the other. Through my grief, I wondered how it could be so difficult to denounce a terrorist organization’s complete contempt for the sanctity of life.

As I made my way first to synagogue to say Kaddish for our dead, and then to City Hall to express support for Israel and demand the release of hostages, I had to pass through metal detectors, waves of police officers and air thick with anxiety. Hamas declared Friday, Oct. 13 a “day of rage” and urged attacks on Israeli and Jewish institutions around the world. To date, I’ve not spoken to a single friend who feels entirely safe.

Israel is now responding — as any state would — by demanding the return of the hostages, ensuring justice for its victims and bringing security to its borders. I am confident that the new unity government will continue to abide by international law in a manner that Hamas has not, and will not. Their charter clearly states that “the Day of Judgment will not come about until Moslems fight Jews and kill them,” and it goes on to explain that their goal is to “obliterate” Israel. As this war continues, I pray for the safety of all Israelis as well as for all Palestinian civilians caught in the crossfire.

Israelis know something about rebuilding from war, just as my family rebuilt their lives after my great-uncle was killed. The Jewish people have faith, they have resilience, and they have guts. The State of Israel was founded on these things; they’re traits that are embedded in that country’s collective DNA.

Israel will find a time to mourn. A time to heal. And ultimately, a time to rebuild.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of J.

Danny Grossman
Danny Grossman

Danny Grossman is the former CEO of the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund. He is currently writing a memoir of his time as a U.S. diplomat/human rights officer stationed in Leningrad during the Cold War.