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100 Days: Life on the Israeli Home Front

The bodies of people, some of them elderly, lie on a street after they were killed during a mass-infiltration by Hamas gunmen from the Gaza Strip, in Sderot, southern Israel, Oct. 7, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Ammar Awad

More than 100 days have passed since October 7, when the world changed for Israelis and all Jews.

On that “Black Shabbat,” as we refer to it in Israel, I woke up expecting to celebrate my wedding anniversary and the holiday of Simchat Torah.

Within minutes, it became clear that what was unfolding was a day that would be seared into the Israeli psyche forever. We are still reeling from the shock, trauma, and grief of the barbaric massacre that took place on October 7, and every moment since, we have been grappling with desperation for our hostages, and the effects of a war that was forced upon us by the Iran-backed Hamas.

We Israelis wake up every morning with a sense of dread, checking the news to see the names of fallen soldiers that have been “cleared for publication.” Still living under the threat of rocket barrages, we are also in a state of constant anxiety about the possibility of an additional front escalating on our northern border.

Last Saturday night — Day 99 since the Hamas Massacre — I went to “Hostages Square” in Tel Aviv to demonstrate solidarity with the families of those being held captive in inhumane conditions in Gaza, without having had even one visit from the Red Cross. The next day, bringing to mind some kind of perverse reality TV show, Hamas began releasing “teaser” videos as part of their campaign of psychological warfare, taunting Israelis to guess which hostages were alive and which were dead. In a sick follow-up video, they revealed the results, blaming the IDF, of course, for the deaths of two men from Kibbutz Be’eri.

On Sunday — Day 100 — I met with fellow Israeli members of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) Jewish Diplomatic Corps to discuss the volunteer endeavors we have been engaged in. One person has been documenting testimonies of sexual assault that occurred on October 7th. Another had just been released after 70 days of reserve duty. Another has been involved in initiatives to help the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced Israelis who can’t return to their homes in the north and south of the country. These are just a tiny fraction of the heroic efforts of Israeli civil society in the wake of the war. Indeed, the resilience and solidarity demonstrated by the Israeli people has been a glimmer of light and hope in what is otherwise one of our darkest hours.

On Monday — Day 101 — as I was working away at my desk, my thoughts were interrupted by the sounds of ambulance and police sirens. A terrorist attack by two Palestinians from the West Bank had struck my suburban town of Ra’anana, killing one elderly woman and wounding 17 others, including children, just a couple of minutes away from my home.

My own children were placed in lock-down in their schools and kindergarten until the police gave us the all-clear that they could be picked up. That night, my husband and I comforted them, telling them that it was OK, that they are safe. But we exchanged a look, knowing that as much as we want to promise them that, there are no guarantees.

And all the while, the battles against Hamas in Gaza rage on — a just war if there ever was one, despite what malevolent actors and states around the globe contend. In my capacity as a member of the WJC Jewish Diplomatic Corps, every evening I compile a list of antisemitic incidents around the globe for security officials — a daily reminder that the war is not only being waged here in the Middle East.

And every day, throughout it all, one thought echoes continuously in my mind: We are living in an upside-down world. The fact that Israel is on trial at the International Court of Justice for alleged genocide, the most egregious of all crimes, as it is conducting a war of self-defense against an enemy that truly is genocidal, is a deliberate and malicious inversion of reality.

If the international community truly cared about the Palestinians’ plight for a sovereign state, they would be siding with Israel wholeheartedly, and certainly with not the oppressive terrorist regime who uses its own civilians as human shields, prevents their access to humanitarian aid, and educates its population — with the help of UN funding — to kill Jews wherever they are.

As long as there continue to be forces in this world who sympathize with terrorists, negate Israel’s right to defend itself against those who seek its destruction, and protest Israel’s very right to exist in so-called “pro-Palestinian” marches, the Palestinian leadership has nothing to gain from seeking a two-state solution. They have no incentive to embark on the arduous task of state-building and living alongside a Jewish state, if their wish to destroy Israel is backed by so many.

How can any well-meaning person advocate for a death cult that is supported by the world’s most abhorrent regimes, rather than for the liberal and democratic State of Israel? Is it due to willful ignorance? The success of a disinformation campaign? Plain old antisemitism?

A significant comfort of living here in Israel — even, and perhaps especially, during wartime — is being surrounded by people who “get it.” Jews, Arabs, Israeli citizens from across the political spectrum are painfully aware of who the enemy is and why it is so crucial to defeat them.

Although we disagree on plenty of things, we are united behind one cause, one truth: Israel, though perhaps imperfect, is our home and it must be defended. It is the homeland of all the Jewish people, and it must remain strong, especially in light of the skyrocketing levels of Jew-hatred we are witnessing around the globe. And it is strong.

Israeli society has proven time and time again just how strong, moral, and irrepressible it is. And that is why I know that “Together we will win” is more than just a wartime slogan — it is a promise, and it is our only option.

Ariel Rodal-Spieler is a member of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) Jewish Diplomatic Corps, a worldwide network of 400 members in 60 countries supporting the global Jewish community through diplomacy and public policy, under the vision and leadership of WJC President Ronald S. Lauder. Ariel is a translator and writer.

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Exclusive: Iran Sends Russia Hundreds of Ballistic Missiles, Sources Say

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi during a meeting in Moscow, Russia, Dec. 7, 2023. Photo: Sputnik/Sergei Bobylev/Pool via REUTERS

Iran has provided Russia with a large number of powerful surface-to-surface ballistic missiles, six sources told Reuters, deepening the military cooperation between the two US-sanctioned countries.

Iran‘s provision of around 400 missiles includes many from the Fateh-110 family of short-range ballistic weapons, such as the Zolfaghar, three Iranian sources said. This road-mobile missile is capable of striking targets at a distance of between 300 and 700 km (186 and 435 miles), experts say.

Iran‘s defense ministry and the Revolutionary Guards – an elite force that oversees Iran‘s ballistic missile program – declined to comment. Russia‘s defense ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The shipments began in early January after a deal was finalized in meetings late last year between Iranian and Russian military and security officials that took place in Tehran and Moscow, one of the Iranian sources said.

An Iranian military official – who, like the other sources, asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the information – said there had been at least four shipments of missiles and there would be more in the coming weeks. He declined to provide further details.

Another senior Iranian official said some of the missiles were sent to Russia by ship via the Caspian Sea, while others were transported by plane.

“There will be more shipments,” the second Iranian official said. “There is no reason to hide it. We are allowed to export weapons to any country that we wish to.”

U.N. Security Council restrictions on Iran‘s export of some missiles, drones and other technologies expired in October. However, the United States and European Union retained sanctions on Iran‘s ballistic missile programme amid concerns over exports of weapons to its proxies in the Middle East and to Russia.

A fourth source, familiar with the matter, confirmed that Russia had received a large number of missiles from Iran recently, without providing further details.

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said in early January the United States was concerned that Russia was close to acquiring short-range ballistic weapons from Iran, in addition to missiles already sourced from North Korea.

A US official told Reuters that Washington had seen evidence of talks actively advancing but no indication yet of deliveries having taken place.

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the missile deliveries.

Ukraine’s top prosecutor said on Friday the ballistic missiles supplied by North Korea to Russia had proven unreliable on the battlefield, with only two of 24 hitting their targets. Moscow and Pyongyang have both denied that North Korea has provided Russia with munitions used in Ukraine.

By contrast, Jeffrey Lewis, an expert with the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, said the Fateh-110 family of missiles and the Zolfaghar were precision weapons.

“They are used to point at things that are high value and need precise damage,” said Lewis, adding that 400 munitions could inflict considerable harm if used in Ukraine. He noted, however, that Russian bombardments were already “pretty brutal”.


A Ukrainian military source told Reuters that Kyiv had not registered any use of Iranian ballistic missiles by Russian forces in the conflict. The Ukrainian defence ministry did not immediately reply to Reuters’ request for comment.

Following the publication of this story, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s Air Force told national television that it had no official information on Russia obtaining such missiles. He said that ballistic missiles would pose a serious threat to Ukraine.

Former Ukrainian defense minister Andriy Zagorodnyuk said that Russia wanted to supplement its missile arsenal at a time when delays in approving a major package of US military aid in Congress has left Ukraine short of ammunition and other material.

“The lack of US support means shortages of ground-based air defense in Ukraine. So they want to accumulate a mass of rockets and break through Ukrainian air defense,” said Zagorodnyuk, who chairs the Kyiv-based Centre for Defense Strategies, a security think tank, and advises the government.

Kyiv has repeatedly asked Tehran to stop supplying Shahed drones to Russia, which have become a staple of Moscow’s long-range assaults on Ukrainian cities and infrastructure, alongside an array of missiles.

Ukraine’s air force said in December that Russia had launched 3,700 Shahed drones during the war, which can fly hundreds of kilometres and explode on impact. Ukrainians call them “mopeds” because of the distinctive sound of their engines; air defenses down dozens of them each week.

Iran initially denied supplying drones to Russia but months later said it had provided a small number before Moscow launched the war on Ukraine in 2022.

“Those who accuse Iran of providing weapons to one of the sides in the Ukraine war are doing so for political purposes,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said on Monday, when asked about Tehran’s delivery of drones to Russia. “We have not given any drones to take part in that war.”

Rob Lee, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a Philadelphia-based think tank, said a supply of Fateh-100 and Zolfaghar missiles from Iran would hand Russia an even greater advantage on the battlefield.

“They could be used to strike military targets at operational depths, and ballistic missiles are more difficult for Ukrainian air defences to intercept,” Lee said.


Iran‘s hardline clerical rulers have steadily sought to deepen ties with Russia and China, betting that would help Tehran to resist US sanctions and to end its political isolation.

Defence cooperation between Iran and Russia has intensified since Moscow sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine in February 2022.

Russia‘s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu met the head of Iran‘s Revolutionary Guards Aerospace Force, Amirali Hajizadeh, in Tehran in September, when Iran‘s drones, missiles and air defence systems were displayed for him, Iranian state media reported.

And last month, Russia‘s foreign ministry said it expected President Vladimir Putin and his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi to sign a broad new cooperation treaty soon, following talks in Moscow in December.

“This military partnership with Russia has shown the world Iran‘s defense capabilities,” said the military official. “It does not mean we are taking sides with Russia in the Ukraine conflict.”

The stakes are high for Iran‘s clerical rulers amid the war between Israel and Palestinian Islamist group Hamas that erupted after Oct. 7. They also face growing dissent at home over economic woes and social restrictions.

While Tehran tries to avoid a direct confrontation with Israel that could draw in the United States, its Axis of Resistance allies – including Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen – have attacked Israeli and US targets.

A Western diplomat briefed on the matter confirmed the delivery of Iranian ballistic missiles to Russia in the recent weeks, without providing more details.

He said Western nations were concerned that Russia‘s reciprocal transfer of weapons to Iran could strengthen its position in any possible conflict with the United States and Israel.

Iran said in November it had finalized arrangements for Russia to provide it with Su-35 fighter jets, Mi-28 attack helicopters and Yak-130 pilot training aircraft.

Analyst Gregory Brew at Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy, said Russia is an ally of convenience for Iran.

“The relationship is transactional: in exchange for drones, Iran expects more security cooperation and advanced weaponry, particularly modern aircraft,” he said.

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Middlebury College Response to Antisemitism Allegations Slammed by Watchdog Group

Signage for the U.S. Department of Education – Federal Student Aid Office at 830 First Street NE Washington, D.C., USA, on November 28, 2023. Photo: Gen Namer via REUTERS CONNECT

Middlebury College on Tuesday issued, as well as deleted, statements which indirectly responded to allegations of institutional antisemitism that a civil rights group lodged against its administration last week.

As The Algemeiner previously reported, StandWithUs (SWU), a nonprofit that promotes education about Israel, filed a complaint with the US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) alleging that high level officials at the school fostered a “pervasively hostile climate” for Jewish students by refusing, in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, to enforce anti-discrimination policies equally.

A timeline of events laid out in documents provided by SWU begins after Hamas’ massacre across southern Israel on Oct. 7, when the school issued a statement that did not acknowledge the deaths of Israelis, but instead only alluded to “violence happening now in Israel in Palestine.” The following week, the administration allegedly obstructed Jewish students’ efforts to publicly mourn Jews murdered on Oct. 7., denying them police protection for a vigil, forcing them to hold it outside, and demanding that the event avoid specifically mentioning Jewish suffering.

Middlebury responded to the charges on Tuesday, explaining the college’s “Educational Approach to the War in Gaza and Israel,” in two statements, the first of which was later deleted and replaced with a revision containing numerous “stealth” edits.

The first defended chanting “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” a slogan widely considered as a call for a genocide of Jews in Israel, as utterance protected by its free speech policy.

“We are fully aware that, while this phrase is divisive, it is experienced and interpreted differently by different groups,” the school said. “Middlebury has extensive structures in place for mitigating ham that controversial speech can cause, and our open expression policy safeguards a learning environment ‘where all voices can be heard and have the opportunity to contribute to the conversation.’”

According to the StandWithUs Center for Legal Justice, Middlebury’s response did not directly address its handling of a vigil that Jewish students organized on Oct. 9 to mourn the victims of Hamas’ massacre across southern Israel, which happened two days prior. In its complaint, SWU alleged that Middlebury roadblocked the event, denying Jewish students police protection and demanding that they omit direct references to Jewish suffering in their remarks and promotional materials. In an email to the Jewish group that planned the vigil, Vice President and Dean of Students Derek Doucet said, “I wonder if such a public gather in such a charged moment might be more inclusive.”

Additionally, no high level administrators agreed to speak at the vigil and condemn antisemitic violence, as well as terrorism. However, a month later, the administration accommodated Students for Justice in Palestine’s “Vigil for Palestine,” providing campus police, space on campus, and a speech from a high ranking official diversity-equity-and-inclusion (DEI) official, a request, StandWithUs insists, which organizers of the Jewish vigil had been denied.

In Tuesday’s deleted statement, Middlebury claimed that president Laurie Patton provided the Jewish students “remarks that were read at the vigil, condemning Hamas and pledging support and care for students.” Not true, StandWithUs, explained. Patton’s statements, like Middlebury’s previous statements about Oct. 7, mentioned only “violence we have seen in Israel and Gaza,” a description of the conflict at which SWU takes umbrage for its equating Hamas’ atrocities with Israel’s self-defense.

StandWithUs said in a press release on Wednesday that Middlebury’s statement is “mendacious,” noting that members of the Coalition for Dismantling Antisemitism at Middlebury are all hired faculty and staff, some of whom are accused of antisemitism in its complaint. SWU also charged that Middlebury’s claim to collaborate with a local Chabad organization is misleading as well, noting that “for over six years” the school has denied the group’s entreaties for formal recognition, a designation that would qualify it for funding and the privilege to reserve space on campus for events and other activities.

“It is no wonder that by the morning of February 20, 2024, Middlebury took its statement down from its website entirely and replaced it with an even more misleading post,” StandWithUs CEO Roz Rothstein said. “Middlebury can no longer hide from its legal and moral duty to provide a campus environment for its Jewish students free from discrimination and harassment.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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Courage to disagree, with respect: York University student initiative Bridging the Gap promotes civil dialogue on Israel

How a campus initiative was revived following Oct. 7.

The post Courage to disagree, with respect: York University student initiative Bridging the Gap promotes civil dialogue on Israel appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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