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1 month after Oct. 7 massacre, the ruins of Kibbutz Kfar Aza testify to its horrors

KFAR AZA, Israel (JTA) — One month after their bucolic kibbutz turned into a site of carnage, Hanan Dann and Gili Okev returned for a brief visit — alongside two former world leaders, dozens of journalists and a handful of volunteers who were still engaged in the painstaking work of gathering the traces of their neighbors who were murdered.

The motley crew traipsing through Kibbutz Kfar Aza on Sunday had been brought together by the historic horror visited on the community of 750 on Oct. 7, when Hamas terrorists burst in. Between 52 and 60 people were murdered. Seventeen are believed to have been taken hostage in Gaza.

The residents returned to retrieve belongings. The world leaders — former British prime minister Boris Johnson and former Australian prime minister Scott Morris — and journalists had come to bear witness. And the volunteers were doing the same work they had been doing since days after the massacre, when they arrived to retrieve and prepare bodies for burial according to Jewish tradition.

They all carried on their work as the war that Israel launched in response to the attack carried on just kilometers away, its sounds audible and shadow palpable.

The bus carrying the press delegation stopped at the entrance to the kibbutz. David Baruch, who was accompanying the group on behalf of the Israel Defense Force’s spokesperson’s unit, instructed the 40 or so members of the press to walk the rest of the way, explaining that the IDF had received an alert for anti-tank missiles in the area and that the bus was a sitting target.

Baruch warned the journalists not to film any live reports. “The last time someone did that here ended up with four mortars fired from Gaza almost immediately,” he said.

Hanan Dann, right, speaks with the IDF’s David Baruch on Kfar Aza, Dann’s home kibbutz, a month after Hamas terrorists attacked it. (Deborah Danan)

When the group reached the “younger generation” zone, the area earmarked for young couples and families, the cruel capriciousness of the attack was laid bare. Around 40 houses, typical of kibbutz architecture in their modest appearance and size, had sustained varying degrees of destruction. Some were entirely blackened out, their walls pockmarked with holes made from grenade fragments. Others were left with gaping holes in their exterior walls from RPG impacts. All of them bore remnants of the lives that were once lived within their walls: a hammock covered with a thin film of dust, a handful of cards from a children’s game scattered among the rubble, a full mug of coffee on a kitchen table.

One house had the sentence “human remains on the couch” written in black paint on the outer wall. The adjacent wall featured yellow graffiti with the words “terrorist inside” and the date it was written, Oct. 11. One soldier at the site said Hamas terrorists were hiding in homes for days following the attack.

The couch inside the compact living room was stained with blood. Dann said his neighbors Sivan Elkabetz and Naor Hasidim were likely pulled out of their safe room and murdered on the couch.

“For the world this is maybe just another war in the Middle East. For Israelis this is a national tragedy,” Dann told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “But for me, this is a personal tragedy. These are people that are friends of mine.”

It was the second time Dann had toured that area of the kibbutz since the massacre. The first time he “lasted five minutes and couldn’t take it any more,” said Dann, a computer programmer who has been residing in the Tel Aviv suburb of Kfar Shmaryahu in the past weeks. His house, on the other side of the kibbutz, was spared and together with his wife, young children and parents, who had been visiting for the Simchat Torah holiday, he survived the hours-long ordeal in their safe room, reading terror-filled text messages from friends and neighbors, some the last they would ever send.

Dann recounted the harrowing story of the Almog-Goldstein family, in which it took a full week to determine, using DNA samples, that the father, Nadav, was killed alongside his eldest daughter, Yam, and that his wife, Chen, had been abducted to Gaza along with the couple’s younger three children.

“They couldn’t even count how many bodies there were after the murder,” Dann said.

“What would you rather hear? That your family has been all slaughtered and burnt to death? Or that they are being held captive by Hamas in Gaza? Which is the better news?” he asked. “This is the dilemma my friends are dealing with.”

The IDF’s tours of the kibbutz and other sites hard hit during the attack are meant to flood the world with firsthand information about what happened there to counteract the distortion and denial that have spread in the weeks since. As foreign news organizations rotate their staff in and out of the country, more journalists have been able to see what Israel wants them to share — but also locals are being asked to recite over and over the horrors they have seen.

“I saw heads, and I saw bodies,” said ZAKA volunteer Simcha Greineman after being asked by one reporter to verify IDF claims of Hamas beheadings. “I can’t say that I saw someone do [a beheading]. I collected heads without bodies, I collected bodies without heads, I collected children that were stabbed.”

He went on: “One child had his whole body burned but there was a knife stuck in his head from side to side.”

Images of decapitated corpses were shown to the group of journalists.

Greineman recounted a scene in which a family of five, including parents, two children and a grandmother, were found in the bedroom “standing in a circle, hugging each other, locked arms.” He and other volunteers from ZAKA, an organization that specializes in search and rescue for bodies, were tasked with detangling the family.

“We’re taking these last moments of life that they had, this circle, and we’re taking apart every body that was attached to each other, and putting them in the bag,” he said.

“It’s horrifying. People should not be mistaken about the savage attacks that occurred here,”  said Johnson, who resigned as British prime minister last July.

Former British prime minister Boris Johnson, right, and former Australian prime minister Scott Morrison, at left, visit Kibbutz Kfaz Aza one month after the Oct. 7 attack. (Deborah Danan)

“You can’t help but be overwhelmed by the sense of that where we’re standing was once, a month ago, a place of innocence and now has been desecrated beyond comprehension,” said Morrison.

Both Greineman and Dann spoke about the kibbutz families who had helped Palestinian workers from Gaza. Dann said he had a friend who had become close with one of the workers whose daughter was ill with a heart defect, and helped them get medication and medical care.

“We were glad that workers from Gaza were coming to Israel with work permits to have jobs to meet Israelis, to see that we’re not all ‘those devils,’” he said, gesturing with air quotes. “We all really believed that things are changing. That Hamas has maybe matured from being this terrorist group to being the grown up; taking responsibility for their people, worrying for their welfare. And that concept really blew up in our face.”

Members of one family who had hired a Palestinian employee were now in Gaza themselves as hostages, Dann said.

“I can’t tell you if one of those workers was a spy,” he said. “We can assume that probably yes because they had intelligence. They came here with maps. They knew exactly where everyone was.”

Okev, another resident who had returned to the kibbutz to gather some belongings, said he and his fellow kibbutz members were struck by an overwhelming feeling of “disappointment.”

Simcha Greineman of ZAKA, which specializes in search and rescue for bodies, speaks at Kibbutz Kfar Aza, where has been working for nearly a month to extricate the remains of dozens of people murdered there on Oct. 7. (Deborah Danan)

“These people — not people, terrorists — they came to kill you just because you’re Jewish. There’s no other reason. They worked here, they lived here,” Okev told JTA. “We had lots of faith in them. But after seeing them over [in Gaza] celebrating on the streets, we lost faith.”

Okev spent seven hours trapped with his wife in their safe room with the terrorists just on the other side of the wall on the couple’s porch. According to Okev, they used the porch as a kind of headquarters to issue commands. The area was strewn with soot and charred farming tools, the aftermath of a battle between the terrorists and Israeli forces that would later unfold.

During their time inside the safe room, the couple, whose adult sons were not on the kibbutz when the infiltration occurred, sat quietly, prayed occasionally, and set up a blockade by the door.

“It wasn’t a question of whether they would enter or not, it was a question of when,” he said.

But they didn’t. Okev has no explanation as to why his life was spared when 12 of his close friends were murdered.

“Divine providence, what can I tell you,” he said. “There’s someone watching over us. He didn’t watch over the others, apparently. Or they were too good so He took them.”

Dann is unsure about whether he will ever return to the kibbutz.

“Even though my individual house is intact, this place is so full of blood. It’s a question that is still too big for me and still too big for everybody,” he said.

Okev, meanwhile, has a different take.

“We will come back here and we’ll build this place and it will flourish and grow. It won’t stay like this,” he said. “We won’t let them move us.”

The post 1 month after Oct. 7 massacre, the ruins of Kibbutz Kfar Aza testify to its horrors appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Israel Second Best Place in the World to Retire, New Study Finds

The Tel Aviv skyline. Photo: Reuters

Despite its ongoing war with Hamas to the south in Gaza and escalating tensions with Lebanese Hezbollah to the north, Israel has been ranked as the second best country in the world for retirement, according to a new study.

ConfidenceClub, a company based in the United Kingdom dedicated to helping retirees, released its “Aging Gracefully Index,” which examined 39 countries to determine the best places to retire. The study utilized information such as economic data from the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation and the cost of living database known as Numbeo, among other sources, to assign scores to and rank each country.

Israel came in second place, receiving a score of 85, which was only bested by Iceland’s total score of 87. Finland, the Netherlands, and Switzerland rounded out the top five.

South Africa ranked last with a score of 43, slightly edging out Greece, Latvia, Slovakia, and Italy for the other bottom-five countries in descending order.

The study focused on data-driven variables to assign total scores including elder emigration, quality of health care, life expectancy, safety, and life satisfaction.

Notably, the survey – conducted after Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel — placed the Jewish state among the safest countries to retire to. Israel’s safety score was equivalent to those of Denmark and Switzerland. According to the study, “safety isn’t just about low crime rates, it’s about creating an environment where seniors can enjoy their golden years with peace of mind.”

The Aging Gracefully Index also ranked Israel high in its “Elder Balance” variable — meaning Israel’s aging population is supported by a strong working one. Alternatively, the study found that a country like Japan struggles from a high aging population and a relatively small working age one.

Israel ranked highly for retiree life satisfaction. The survey defined life satisfaction as a reflection of “how content people are with their lives, considering factors like economic stability, social connections, and personal fulfillment.”

Similar to the index’s life satisfaction variable, Israel routinely ranks toward the top of the United Nations’ World Happiness Report. In March, Israel dropped one spot to fifth in the list of the world’s happiest countries. Finland was ranked the happiest country.

The Aging Gracefully Index also examined the best cities to retire to with the same criteria as it did with countries. Tel Aviv ranked the third best city for retirement after Reykjavik and The Hague — which came in first and second, respectively.

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The Ongoing Crisis of Antisemitism in K-12 Education

An empty classroom. Photo: Wiki Commons.

If you think antisemitism is bad at the university level, wait until you read what’s happening in K-12 schools across the country.

A concerned teacher recently reached out to me, horrified by the content being used to educate students about antisemitism. The materials provided by the National Education Association (NEA), particularly a document from Jews for Racial & Economic Justice (JFREJ), are filled with misinformation and, in my view, are themselves antisemitic.

This teacher has tirelessly sought support from various Jewish organizations to address these concerns, but she keeps hitting a wall. It seems that many organizations are reluctant to do battle with a powerful union like the NEA, leaving this teacher and others like her without the necessary support to combat these problematic educational materials.

The JFREJ document propagates a specific political agenda, portraying Israel as a white settler colonial state and ignoring the complex history and diverse demographics of Israel and the Jewish people.

JFREJ’s document suggests that Jews with light skin are complicit in white supremacy — and that’s not the only Jew-hating piece of trash in this document.

By choosing to use this material, the NEA is making a political statement. This choice reflects an alignment with far-left perspectives rather than a balanced approach to addressing antisemitism.

By choosing a Jewish organization that does not represent mainstream Jewish thought, and in fact, an organization that most of the Jewish community believes spreads antisemitism, the NEA is insulting the Jewish community by defining antisemitism according to its radical agenda.

Jews for Racial & Economic Justice is a fringe group that has aligned with far-left ideologies, and partners with other ostensibly Jewish, but really antisemitic, organizations like Jewish Voice for Peace.

Recent headlines have been filled with reports of rising antisemitism on college campuses, but the more insidious threat lies in our K-12 schools. Ethnic studies programs, particularly those following the radical Liberatory Ethnic Studies (LES) model, are indoctrinating young students against Israel by falsely labeling it a white settler colonial state. This biased education fosters a generation of young antisemites.

There are disturbing trends in K-12 education. Jewish students are being targeted not only by their peers, but also by teachers and administrators. Parents have described their alarm as antisemitism infiltrates their children’s curriculum.

In Washington State, ethnic studies have infiltrated every aspect of K-12 education, evolving from a vague legislative suggestion into a mandate. Aggressive advocacy groups with deep pockets push for ethnic studies to be the lens through which all education is viewed, promoting a Marxist and Maoist-based liberatory model.

This model explicitly positions Palestinians as marginalized and Israel as a white colonialist oppressor, distorting history and legitimizing antisemitic views among young students.

The Liberatory Ethnic Studies (LES) model, rooted in power and oppression analysis, aims to transform the school system into an agent of change, often at the expense of academic excellence and democratic values.

Throughout California and other states, antisemitism in K-12 schools has become increasingly prevalent, particularly following the October 7 mass murder and rape of Israelis.

Reports detail shocking behaviors such as second-graders being told to write anti-Israel messages, teachers encouraging unsanctioned student protests in support of Gaza, and Jewish students being harassed with antisemitic slurs. Some teachers have even suggested that Israelis were responsible for the violence inflicted on them.

The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law and other Jewish organizations have been inundated with calls from concerned parents, especially in the Bay Area, reporting these incidents.

The Israeli American Council reported a 690 percent increase in antisemitic and anti-Israel incidents in K-12 schools within three months of the October 7 attack. These incidents ranged from student bullying and vandalism, to discriminatory class materials and teacher statements.

The reluctance of Jewish organizations to confront the NEA underscores the significant influence that powerful unions hold over educational policies. The struggle of the teacher I mentioned to gain support highlights a broader issue, where political considerations often overshadow the need to address serious concerns like antisemitism. The NEA’s powerful position makes it daunting for individuals and smaller organizations to challenge their decisions.

For educators seeking comprehensive and balanced resources on antisemitism, organizations like the ADL offer materials designed to combat hate and educate students without political bias. Their resources help ensure that schools promote understanding and respect rather than division and misinformation.

The current wave of antisemitism in our schools is a serious issue that requires immediate attention. It is time for the Jewish community and other concerned groups to take a stand and demand better from powerful unions like the NEA. Only then can we hope to create an educational environment that is truly inclusive and free from antisemitism. This effort is not just about addressing the present concerns, but is part of a broader mission I discuss in my forthcoming book, From Outrage to Action: A Practical Guide to Fighting Antisemitism.

Howard Lovy is a Michigan-based author, book editor, and journalist who specializes in Jewish issues. He is currently working on a book, From Outrage to Action: A Practical Guide to Fighting Antisemitism. His novel, Found and Lost: The Jake and Cait Story, will be released in 2025. You can find him on his website or on X.

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The Associated Press Removes Threats of Violence and Hamas Support From Articles

Vandalism outside the home of Brooklyn Museum Director Anne Pasternak. Photo: New York Mayor Eric Adams’ Twitter account.

Even as authorities from Sydney to Brooklyn were still investigating and removing pro-Hamas graffiti, the Associated Press engaged in a scrubbing of a different sort.

In a June 10 article about the anti-Israel vandalism of the US consulate in Sydney, the Associated Press initially whitewashed a menacing symbol used to denote support for Hamas since the terror organization’s Oct. 7 terror massacre of murder, rape and countless other atrocities (“Australia PM urges activists to ‘turn down the heat’ after US consulate vandalized over Gaza war“).

The AP euphemistically reported about the symbols used to express support for the designated terror organization as follows:

Two inverted red triangles, seen by many as a symbol of Palestinian resistance, were also painted on the front of the building.

A screenshot of the AP’s headline about the vandalism in Australia, along with an accompanying video which briefly shows the red triangles:

Given that Hamas uses the red triangle in its videos documenting attacks on Israelis, it signifies support for the designated terror organization. “Resistance” doesn’t quite convey the horrors that went down on Oct. 7.

The New York Post detailed the association of the red triangles with Hamas terrorism:

The triangle became a prevalent symbol online and offline beginning in November 2023 following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel and Israel’s aggressive retaliatory offensive, according to the Anti Defamation League.

It first appeared in propaganda videos from the al-Qassam brigades — Hamas’ military wing — to highlight an Israeli soldier that was about to be killed or wounded in a targeted attack by the terrorists.

In the clips, the red triangle followed the target, which was then hit with a sniper’s bullet, a rocket-propelled grenade or another deadly blast.

“Though it can be used innocuously in general pro-Palestine social media posts, the inverted red triangle is now used to represent Hamas itself and glorify its use of violence in many popular anti-Zionist memes and political cartoons,” the ADL says on its website.

For example, the group said, anti-Israel protesters will put the symbol over an image of Israeli soldiers or on a Star of David “as a way to call for further violent resistance.”

In response to communication from CAMERA’s Israel office, the AP moderately improved its explanation of the red triangles, revising the sentence to at least include reference to Hamas:

Two inverted red triangles, seen by some as a symbol of Palestinian resistance but by others as supporting the militant group Hamas, were also painted on the front of the building.

While an AP video paired with the article briefly showed the red triangles defacing the US consulate, the AP’s still photographs made do with boarded up windows. The accompanying captions also ignored the sinister red triangles:

A couple walks past the boarded windows at the U.S. consulate as police investigate the vandalism in Sydney, Monday, June 10, 2024. A suspect is believed to have smashed nine holes in the reinforced glass windows of the building in North Sydney after 3 a.m., a police statement said. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

Meanwhile, red triangle vandalism took an even darker turn when the pro-terror symbol, used repeatedly to mark targets, appeared June 11 on the New York co-op building where Anne Pasternak, the Jewish director of the Brooklyn Museum, lives.

In coverage of that incident, the AP didn’t simply scrub the pro-Hamas significance of the symbol. Instead, the AP entirely sliced the ominous red triangles out of the story, which referred only to red paint. In his Jan. 13 article, Philip Marcelo selectively reported (“Apparent Gaza activists hurl paint at homes of Brooklyn Museum leaders, including Jewish director“):

People purporting to be pro-Palestinian activists hurled red paint at the homes of top leaders at the Brooklyn Museum, including its Jewish director, and also splashed paint across the front of diplomatic buildings for Germany and the Palestinian Authority early Wednesday, prompting a police investigation and condemnation from city authorities.

Mayor Eric Adams, in a post on the social platform X, shared images of a brick building splashed with red paint with a banner hung in front of the door that called the museum’s director, Anne Pasternak, a “white-supremacist Zionist.”

But the images that Mayor Adams shared didn’t merely show “a brick building splashed with red paint” and a banner denouncing Pasternak as a “white supremacist Zionist.”

Adams’ post on X includes four photographs of the vandalism, all displaying the huge red triangles which absolutely cannot be missed. And yet AP chose not to note the presence of the threatening imagery, much less explain its significance.

This is not peaceful protest or free speech. This is a crime, and it’s overt, unacceptable antisemitism.

These actions will never be tolerated in New York City for any reason. I’m sorry to Anne Pasternak and members of @brooklynmuseum‘s board who woke up to hatred like this.


— Mayor Eric Adams (@NYCMayor) June 12, 2024

The AP’s ubiquitous photographers — the prolific bunch churns out 1.2 million images annually — also didn’t manage to capture the shocking scene of Pasternak’s home defaced with what amounts to a murder threat.

Instead, the cadre of photojournalists suffice with an image of the German consulate, which was vandalized with red paint, apparently applied in an abstract arrangement, sans red triangles. Like Marcelo’s article, the photograph’s caption also paints over the pro-Hamas imagery, referring to a random splashing of color:

Red paint covers portions of the entrance to the German consulate building, Wednesday, June 12, 2024, in New York. Pro-Palestinian protesters have vandalized locations associated with the Brooklyn Museum and United Nations in New York City, throwing red paint across their entrances in opposition to the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. (AP Photo/Sophie Rosenbaum)

Not only does the caption neglect to note the Hamas-linked graphic, it also ignores that the “locations associated with the Brooklyn Museum” were private homes.

It’s not just Hamas graphics that are subjected to AP’s scrubbing. A pro-Hamas organization also gets sanitized.

Here’s how the AP’s Marcelo whitewashes the pro-Hamas Within Our Lifetime group:

The protest group Within Our Lifetime and other organizers of that demonstration said the museum is “deeply invested in and complicit” in Israel’s military actions in Gaza through its leadership, trustees, corporate sponsors and donors — a claim museum officials have denied.

He says not a word about the organization’s support for Hamas. According to ADL, Within Our Lifetime:

has hosted or co-sponsored at least 78 anti-Israel rallies many of which included explicit support for violence against Israeli civilians by U.S. designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations  Hamas, The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Hezbollahthe Houthis and affiliated individuals such as Leila Khaled and Hamas’ military wing spokesperson Abu Obaida. WOL also expressed enthusiastic support for Iran’s unprecedented April 13 drone-and-missile attack on Israel.

Marcelo similarly sluices down Within Our Lifetime’s horrifying and deep embrace of terror at the demonstration outside the Nova Festival massacre last week. His censored account states:

The paint attacks came the same week that Within Our Lifetime organized a large demonstration outside a New York City exhibition memorializing victims of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on the Tribe of Nova music festival. The group called it “Zionist propaganda” and dismissed the music festival, where hundreds died, as “a rave next to a concentration camp.”

The AP spares its readers from the most disturbing aspects from the event. As The Times of Israel reported:
Protesters set off flares, flew flags of Hamas’s armed al-Qassam Brigades terror wing and of the Hezbollah terror group, and carried banners with slogans such as “Long live October 7” and “The Zionists are not Jews and not humans.”
 On June 11, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) denounced the antisemitism of the pro-Hamas crowd outside the Nova Festival exhibit, twice citing those most heinous lines:

What was even worse, or at least adding salt into the wounds was that just a day or two after I visited the exhibit, protestors gathered outside the exhibit chanting repugnant antisemitic phrases, donning banners that read “Long Live October 7th” and “The Zionists are not Jews and not humans.” How low can you go ?

Having visited the exhibit and seeing those young people and then knowing and seeing on film what happened to them at the vicious hands of Hamas, and then having people come outside and protest and say “Long Live October 7th” and “The Zionists are not Jews and not humans.” How repugnant. How despicable. How terribly unnerving that humanity could sink that low.

And yet, at this low point for humanity, AP has relegated these repugnant slogans glorifying mass murder to the dustbin of history.

Tamar Sternthal is the director of CAMERA’s Israel Office. A version of this article previously appeared on the CAMERA website.

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