44°
UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

How to be a freedom fighter

Walking on campus, you can feel the desire to fight for freedom.  To fight for national liberation.  To fight for humanity.  Students and faculty protesting and standing vigil, side by side. 

My grandparents fought actual existential battles for freedom, with resilience and survival instincts, while adapting in the most difficult circumstances imaginable. They built a home on sand dunes and out of the ashes, full of hopes for peace for their grandchildren.  

My great-grandmother, Yocheved, fought for freedom to live in her homeland. She was born within the walls of old Jerusalem, as was her mother, under the British Mandate in the 1920s. My great-grandfather was born in Tiberias, by the Sea of Galilee, just like his mother, and that’s where Yocheved moved when they married. 

I was a teen when Yocheved told me her story as we sat watching telenovelas and Egyptian movies. 

“Mia Ermoza,” she said in Ladino, “when I was a child, I had to risk going out to the thorny fields to pick khubeizah for our meals. Neighbors would taunt us, or worse. Your great-uncle was a child when he was slaughtered in the Nablus massacre. You should never know of such things.” 

“Were you scared?” I asked. 

She replied, “Yes, of course. The danger was everywhere. We lived across the Western Wall, but the narrow path where Jews were allowed to pray was treated as a dump. Even when I moved to Tiberias, we needed arms for protection. Once, the British came looking for guns meant for the Jewish resistance. I quickly hid them under my mattress. We were fighting for existence. I still remember how Tiberian neighbors who were once our friends chanted for our death in the streets. No one was coming to save us. Thank G-d we have our army to defend us today, but I urge you, never forget they still want to kill us.” 

I empathized with my great-grandmother. I was born, raised and educated in Israel. As a child, I lived through the bus bombings of the second Intifada and had to carry a gas mask to class in fear of Iraqi missiles. In high school, I would shelter in safe rooms from Hamas missiles when visiting friends in Nir Yitzchak and Sderot. And at 18, I would shelter in our building’s basement from Hezbollah’s rocket attacks. I proudly served in the Israeli Defense Force for the two mandatory years after high school. 

Still, I had more hope for the future than my great-grandmother Yocheved had. I went on to study anthropology of religion and focused on Islam and Arab culture with intentions to advance co-existence. I believe in a two-state solution and have worked on interfaith peacebuilding programs. And yet, it was my grandparent’s struggle for Israeli independence which allowed for my very own existence.  

My grandfather Mordechai was born in 1930s Hungary, only a few years before Hitler took power over Germany. His mother, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins—all but a few—were killed in the Holocaust; some in Auschwitz, some in pogroms. He was only a young boy when Nazis and their allies searched with fervor for anyone who fit their definition of Jewish, gathered them, and led them to death.  

Mordechai escaped certain death once, when ally air raids collapsed a part of the building he was sheltering in only 16 feet away. In another instance, soldiers marched him and other Jewish orphans to the river Danube to be shot, but he managed to flee. It is miraculous my grandfather survived the genocide that brought definition to the act of genocide. 

Once soviet soldiers took over Budapest, during the winter of 1945, my grandfather was “free” to travel. There was no family or hometown for him to return to, and antisemitism was still very much alive. Hungry, sick, in tatters and on foot, my grandfather searched for anyone who would offer help to a Jewish orphan. Choices were limited. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee got him a certificate allowing legal immigration to the British Mandate of Palestine. Later that year, he arrived at Kibbutz Na’an—his new home.

The United Nations designated an area of the British Mandate of Palestine for a Jewish state in 1947. Mordechai, a refugee, and Yocheved, indigenous to the land, both fought for their home in the battles that ensued when forces from Egypt, Transjordan, Syria and Iraq attacked. 

Israel was created a democracy, and its army called the Israeli Defense Force, because that’s what it was meant to be since inception. Israel, the home my grandparents fought to free, was a home that felt protected, even when people called time and again for its destruction and for my people’s expulsion, as Hamas does in its charter. [1] 

Oct. 7 changed this perception of protection. All the way here in Boston, I personally felt the terror of a pogrom, and of the intentional and indiscriminate attack on children, babies, men and women. There were no trigger warnings to shield me from the reality of what was happening that day. Messages poured in, uncensored, from family and friends as events continued to unfold in their hometowns. 

On Oct. 7, Hamas murderers raided 22 towns and two music festivals, from which they kidnapped 240 men and women, toddlers, babies and elderly. They pulled children from their beds and killed their mothers and fathers. [2] Testimonies from medical experts continue to surface about why it’s taking so long to identify the bodies and body parts of the 1200 Jewish, Muslim and Christian Israelis brutally massacred in the attack. DNA samples had to be collected from family members to identify the victims, who suffered mutilation and torture. Some were burned alive. [3]  

Shame on Hamas. Shame on those who fight with intention to harm innocents.  

Shame on those in city squares and campus quads encouraging and supporting their efforts, confused as to what real freedom fighters look like. Real freedom fighters look like my grandparents. My grandparents fought for Jewish freedom from Nazis, fascists and British colonialism. They did not take babies hostage. They did not use torture as a weapon.

As I write this article, some hostages have been rescued by the IDF, and others released by Hamas under pressure from the IDF’s military operation in Gaza. This cannot be done without help from the Red Cross, though most are still held hostage in unknown conditions, without access to aid. [4,5]  

Be a freedom fighter. Free Palestine from Hamas. Respect the history of persecution that makes Israel’s existence a necessity for me. Stand with me as I defend my family’s right to fight for existence in my homeland. Stand with me as I call for my people to be released from their abductors. Remember Oct. 7, and bring them home now.  

 

[1] https://www.wilsoncenter.org/article/doctrine-hamas  

[2] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/abigail-mor-edan-4-year-old-israeli-american-hostage-hamas-free-what-to-know/ 

[3] https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2023/10/31/israel-attack-victims-forensic-identification/  

[4] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-67520263

[5] https://stories.bringthemhomenow.net/