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ESHEL: My Daughter Has Become a Symbol of Hamas Terror

My daughter Roni Eshel is the girl next door. Nineteen years old, bubbly, exuberant and compassionate, a loving older sister, the eldest granddaughter of the family, she loves Taylor Swift and Harry Styles and all things pop. One of my last memories of Roni is the Maroon 5 concert we attended just a few weeks before October 7, when Hamas terrorists overwhelmed her army base.

“I’m OK, Mom,” Roni texted me during the attack. “Don’t worry, I’m in the safe room.”

I read this inconceivable message on my phone, and my heart began to race much quicker than my brain began to process.

“I’m OK Mom, don’t worry about me. I love you.” We have not heard anything from her since.

Roni is missing and could be among the more than 150 Israelis that Hamas abducted that fateful day. For over a week, her family has lived in agony as we endure the unimaginable: subjected to the whim of heinous terrorists who intentionally, mercilessly withhold all information about the condition of their hostages, we find ourselves unable to do anything but wait for any sign of life from our little girl, anything about her at all.

The terrorists, in their barbarism, specifically targeted female soldiers like Roni, defenseless in their beds. At the time of the attack, she was stationed in the communication center, a secure enclave. Unable to breach it, the terrorists resorted to setting it ablaze. Roni found herself in the company of a few fellow soldiers, some of whom managed to escape, some of whom were abducted and transported to Gaza. Several lost their lives, and several, like Roni, remain unaccounted for.

Every waking hour is consumed by the torment of being unable to protect my child. Where is Roni? Is she in pain? Is she frightened? Is she alone? Is she alive?

The fear of the unknown is a torture no family should ever bear. In addition to my husband and me, Roni’s grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and siblings are caught in a never-ending cycle of grief and uncertainty.

And this is not just our individual ordeal; it is the shared reality of hundreds upon hundreds of families across Israel. We feel the same pain countless Israelis who, like us, are grappling with a profound sense of loss and despair.

What we have witnessed and experienced since that Saturday has been nothing short of cold-blooded slaughter in its cruelest, most sadistic form. Innocent children were murdered in their homes, families burned alive, and countless young souls celebrating at a music festival for peace were herded into an open field and ruthlessly slaughtered en masse, with such extreme brutality that the bodies of many innocents were rendered entirely unrecognizable.

To be clear, Hamas did this to us — to my daughter — because its sole mission is to eradicate Jews. It acknowledges as much in its charter (article 7), which states that Hamas “Moslems fight Jews and kill them.”

At the same time, Hamas poses not a threat just to us but to everyone. After all, Hamas has used the same tactics against us that al-Qaeda and ISIS have used to wreak havoc worldwide.

Standing up to Hamas is not just a call to Israel. It is a call to the world to stand up against the global crisis of terrorism and extremism.

All corners of the civilized world must show unwavering solidarity with us in Israel to respect innocent lives and uphold the values and morals that allow for peace.

We implore people from all walks of life to raise their voices for Roni and the countless innocent Israeli hostages whose fates remain unknown. Independent of political beliefs, we can all find common ground in the need to protect all hostages and civilians.

Roni is, first and foremost, our beloved daughter. But now, she has also become a symbol of the universal longing for safety, for justice, and for the desire to live in peace. Her safe return and the safe return of all Israeli hostages would be a gesture to restoring faith in our shared humanity. It would also finally allow us to reunite with our baby girl.

FLOWERS: The Shameful Cowardice of Academic Elites In Face of Hamas Evil

Sunday night, I was sitting in a café watching the Eagles lose to the Jets. Admittedly, I was not in a very good mood to begin with. Alas, a few shots of anisette didn’t lighten my spirits. My lone ray of emotional sunshine was the prospect of a Phillies sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NLDS.

And then I saw the waiters rushing to the door of the restaurant, and I saw police lights glaring through the windows. When I got up to see what was happening, a phalanx of Philadelphians marched by waving Palestinian flags and signs that supported Gaza.

As I inched closer, I noticed a few anti-Israel signs as well. And as if that weren’t bad enough, there were chants of “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be Free.”

Not one to miss the opportunity to have my opinions heard, I grabbed my cell phone and started recording, expressing my views on people marching in support of terrorists. You might quibble with my characterization of support for “Palestine” (not a historically recognized country) and Hamas, and they are not necessarily equivalent.

But the fact that there were seemingly hundreds of Philadelphians wrapping themselves not in the flag of persecuted Israeli women and children but of the people who attacked them infuriated me. And I said so.

Two men behind me called me the “B” word (and I am not referring to “beautiful”) and laughed at my one-woman counterprotest. They were older men, stout and grizzled, with the colors of Palestine in the scarves wrapped around their necks. I glared back at them and asked how they felt about the murder of babies. They laughed again and walked on with fists raised, screaming, “Palestine will soon be free.”

So, you will excuse me if I don’t celebrate the belated attempts at PR triage being done at some of the elite institutions around the country. When Hamas launched its genocidal attack against Israel last Saturday, several student groups at universities like Harvard and Columbia — and locally, like Swarthmore and LaSalle — issued statements blaming Israel for the shed blood of its own people. Others remained silent.

Most notably, Penn, which has a flourishing Jewish community, didn’t issue any words of condemnation for the Palestinian terrorists.

And people started noticing. Donors like Marc Rowan, a Wharton grad, penned an op-ed exhorting other alums to withhold funding from the school unless and until it condemned Hamas. His request went further. Last month, on the eve of Yom Kippur, Penn hosted the Palestine Writes Literature Festival on its campus. This event included well-known, vocal antisemites as featured speakers. This caused a great deal of anguish for Jewish students at Penn, and Rowan condemned the school for not doing enough to take their feelings into consideration before allowing this sort of event to take place.

A few days later, Jon Huntsman, former governor of Utah, former presidential candidate, former ambassador and 1987 Penn grad, announced that his family’s foundation would no longer contribute to Penn, writing in a letter that it would “close its checkbook” to further donations.

This caused Penn President Liz Magill to issue a statement condemning terrorist acts. It was much too little and far too late. Some of the students whose names were affixed to those condemnations of Israel from Harvard also walked back their support for Palestine, claiming that they hadn’t fully understood what they were signing.

All of this is a sign of cowardice, a form of cowardice that is shameful in the face of the greatest attack on the Jewish people since the Holocaust. There should be no place in our society for those who sit back and wait to see which way the wind is blowing before they condemn the gruesome evil we’ve seen inflicted on the people — the children, the babies — of Israel.

The time for speech and support was in the moments after news emerged of the massacres in Gaza, not a week later when job offers were rescinded and checkbooks began to close. There should never have been a “Hamas is bad, but so is Netanyahu” narrative while children were dying in their cribs. The obscenity of the reaction from some in elite academia is appalling, and Magill’s attempt at triage, most likely to keep her donors happy, is repugnant.

There have been courageous voices, but they are not coming from academia. One of the most courageous was the Vatican’s representative in Jerusalem, Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzabella, who offered himself to Hamas in exchange for the release of Israeli children being held hostage. He did not have to wait to see which way the wind was blowing to find his humanity.

It’s a shame that Liz Magill and her colleagues across the country found safety in silence. Only it wasn’t that safe, after all.

MICHAELS: Israel at 75, What It Means to You and Me

May 14 marked Israel’s 75th birthday. For many of us, Israel is simply a fact of life — and, amid renewed fighting with terrorists in Gaza, a subject of recurrent controversy. The debate has been especially pronounced as protests have overshadowed Israel recently.

Israel’s milestone anniversary presents an opportunity to reflect on what that country means to Jews, to America and to the world.

—For Jews, Israel is history coming full circle.

Ninety years ago, Adolf Hitler assumed power in Germany. As the grandson of Holocaust survivors, I know how blessed I am to call America home — but also the importance of Jews’ restored ancestral homeland.

From Poland to Spain to Iraq, one can encounter places where Jews once thrived spiritually and materially but which now have at most a shadow of that presence. Since their dispossession by Roman colonizers 2 millennia ago, Jews experienced frequent persecution in exile. Even today, Jews are a primary target of bigotry and violence.

The birth of Israel represented the fulfillment of a yearning for Jews to be able to return to the center of their religious and historical saga — but also of their right to independence, defense and equality.

—Israel’s aspirations are our aspirations.

The recent Israeli demonstrations have laid bare the ideological differences in many countries. But Israelis overwhelmingly support their nation’s preservation as a democratic Jewish state. Indeed, Israel is not only the world’s sole Jewish state — joining dozens of countries whose symbols are Christian or Muslim — but the only functioning democracy in the Middle East.

As a critical partner in the fight against terrorism, a foremost center of technological innovation and a bridge between Europe, Asia and Africa, Israel is an indispensable ally to the United States. It is also the rare Middle Eastern country where minorities, including Christians, enjoy fundamental civil liberties and have grown continually.

—Despite everything, Israel has strived for peace.

Israel is one of the world’s only parties to conflict whose adversaries seek a country’s complete destruction. This is the explicit doctrine of Iran, which has sought nuclear capabilities, and groups it supports, including Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad. By contrast, Americans, Irish and Indians sought independence from Britain — not its eradication.

But Israel has made incomparable overtures and sacrifices for peace. It has established peace and partnership with every willing Arab interlocutor, including Egypt, Jordan the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco. It has repeatedly agreed to creating a Palestinian state — and offered Palestinians nearly 100 percent of the territory they claim. Israel has even maintained the Islamic administration of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site. But Palestinian and other extremists have answered every Israeli peace proposal with rejection and relentless violence.

Israel withdrew unilaterally from the Gaza Strip — removing every Israeli soldier and settlement — but Hamas seized that territory and used it for intensified, indiscriminate terror.

—Popularity and perception aren’t everything.

Israel receives an extraordinary amount of international criticism. But this can be misleading. Although Israel is one of the world’s smallest countries, it is condemned at the United Nations more than all others — because nearly 60 Arab and Muslim governments enjoy practically an automatic majority there. Israelis are also often shouted down on social media — but there are fewer than 10 million Israelis and more than 1 billion Muslims globally.

Few people realize that far more Muslims have died in one decade of Syria’s civil war or in the last Iran-Iraq war than in fighting Israel over 75 years. Some allege that Israel — and Israel alone — is guilty of “apartheid,” even “ethnic cleansing.” But Israel has maintained a citizenry that’s more than one-fifth Arab — while Palestinian leaders threaten death over the sale of property to Jews and systemically dehumanize them. Israel works to avoid civilian casualties, while Palestinian fanatics aim for maximum carnage.

Since 1948, the Arab population in Israeli-controlled land has increased by millions, while the Jewish population in Arab lands has plunged from 800,000 to under 4,000. One need only visit Israel’s parliament, courts, universities, hospitals or shopping malls to see how false the claim of Israeli “apartheid” is.

Ultimately, there is so much to celebrate as our closest Middle East ally has survived and thrived at the dawn of its 75th year.

No country, including Israel, is perfect. But Israel’s circumstances are exceptionally imperfect — and it has remained a humane, diverse democracy nonetheless.

Israel’s values are our values. Its quest for acceptance is vital to the interests of America and our world.

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