Holocaust survivor Dr Arie Itamar survived Nazi massacres in Ukraine, but is now witnessing something he thought he would never see again, the slaughter of his own people. He brings a message of defiance and hope.
On that black Saturday, 7 October, we were woken by the alarm at 6.30am. I entered the security room, but it was only in the evening that we started to understand what had happened.
Though I am 85, I decided that any terrorist who tried to take my life would pay a high price
After I heard about the horrific events, I took three knives and put one in the security room, one at the main door and one in my car. I do not have any firearms, but though I am 85, I decided that any terrorist who tried to take my life would pay a high price. Our settlement is not on the front line. We are 50 km away from Gaza, but according to the home-front command instructions, our lives would no longer be ‘as normal’; children’s playgrounds and schools have been closed and a special team is organising activities for children.
An armed security team is patrolling the village. We are a small village, therefore not “attractive” for the terrorists. They “save” their bombs for more populated settlements.
From time to time I do some voluntary work either for soldiers or other people, but I am very worried because I have four family members who are mobilised: my elder grandson is an officer in the north; his wife, also an officer, is near Jerusalem; in the heart of the fighting is the boyfriend of my second granddaughter; and my youngest grandson is in Gaza. This is my life now.
The difference between the Nazis and Hamas
More than 80 years have passed since the terrible massacre in the Babi-Yar valley near Kiev in September 1941, and a similar massacre near Odessa, the city where I was born one month later.
I survived because my grand-mother managed to save me – she pushed us both into a train which escaped from Odessa, under fire from which I was wounded. My father, Lieutenant Michael, died on the battlefield near Moscow on 18 January 1942.
Now the question is: ‘What is the difference between Babi-Yar 1941 and Be’eri and other settlements on the borders of Gaza on 7 October 2023?’ I have only heard and read about the horrific events there. I don’t have the courage to look at the photos and videos.
On 7 October 2023, the murderers, including “innocent Gazan civilians” had “intimate relationships” with their victims, men, women, babies, children, old people in wheelchairs — cutting heads off with axes, raping, burning bodies, looting, kidnapping — accompanied by savage expressions of joy and satisfaction. By contrast, in Babi-Yar, the murderers did not want to see the brains of babies. It was too much for their stomachs. So they shot their victims with guns, from a certain distance. It is for you to decide for yourself which pogrom you find more terrible.
These heinous acts are the fault line between the ultimate cruelty and humanity, just as the events of the Nazi era were. There is no place for phrases such as: “I am against, but…”; no room for justification; no space for hypocritical, superficial expressions like “Free Palestine!” And who would control this Palestine? The same murderers?
We have an expression in Hebrew:
“Tell me who your friend is and I will tell you who you are”, which puts all the European organisations supporting Hamas, all Western hypocrites and anti-semites in the same camp as North Korea, Dr Arie Itamar leading a tour in 2022 in Old Tel Aviv, where his family settled when they finally reached Israel Russia, Iran, China, Turkey, Daesh, Al Qaida, Hamas, Cuba, Venezuela… the beautiful society.
Seeing all these gangs and their demonstrations, I admire all those individuals and organisations, in Britain and other countries, honest people who are standing with us in our time of crisis.
They are heroes, but are unfortunately in the minority. The antisemites are the majority. Organisations like March of Life in Germany, and Repairing the Breach (RTB) in England, have the courage and the honesty to expose and dispose of 2000 years of antisemitic education. But the hypocrites, the so called “lefties, greens, progressives” and so on, have no courage. They tell themselves that they “are not against Jews, just against Israel …”
What are we to do? I was a refugee who finally arrived here; participated in several wars, hoping that my children would have a normal life; but the terrible hate does not leave us alone, and my grandchildren have to fight.
But we have no other place in all the world. This is our place, and anybody who tries to uproot us will pay a heavy price.
BROKEN-HEARTED BUT RESOLUTE, ELDERLY HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS ARE HELPING HOWEVER THEY CAN
Gidon and Aliza Ramati fled persecution in Europe and Syria to reach Israel 80 years ago. Now Gidon has written an open letter about the challenge of seeing their grandchildren called up to fight for their country – and volunteering on the home front
All of us are going through difficult days and we are all volunteering as much as we can.
Our hearts are broken to see the babies, the elderly, Holocaust survivors, the boys and the girls who were murdered, those whose heads were torn off and those who were raped and kidnapped at the hands of the terrorists. We must bring all the captives back home, whatever situation they are in.
Our hearts are anxious regarding the fate of our warriors at the front, those who are endangering their lives in order to protect our little nation and be victorious.
“Our hearts are anxious regarding the fate of our warriors at the front”
I came to the Atlit Detention camp [set up in northern Israel after World War 2 by the British to house would-be Jewish immigrants who had survived the Holocaust in Europe] after severe shakings on the ship ‘Atlantic’ and I am also a survivor of the Patria ship, which was bombed on 25 November 1940, when I was just three months old.
Aliza, my wife, came to Israel with the ‘Aliyat HaElef’ (Aliyah of the Thousand) from Damascus, Syria, in 1945, via difficult and dangerous paths, when she, her brothers and her parents escaped from the pogroms there.
When our parents fought in the War of Independence, we children were evacuated to safer locations due to heavy Gidon and Aliza Ramati fled persecution in Europe and Syria to reach Israel 80 years ago. Now Gidon has written an open letter about the challenge of seeing their grandchildren called up to fight for their country – and volunteering on the home front battles taking place at Kibbutz Gvar’am. We raised our three children here and together we participated in battles and wars in our small country.
Today our grandchildren are fighting both in Gaza and in the north. We are saying prayers for their safe return home.
We are helping with the olive harvest at our son Yoav’s place, who lives close to the border with the Gaza Strip. Aliza is also volunteering in the dining room at the Ben Shemen Youth Village where they have taken in a lot of evacuees from Ashkelon and from Kiryat Shmona, who suffered a lot of shelling and were left traumatised.
“As survivors, we are turning now to the whole world, pray for us”
Aliza is also volunteering at a school and a kindergarten. Those of our grandchildren who have not been called up to the army are volunteering, giving water to calves in the barn and going to collection points for dogs who escaped from the south to re-home them with adoptive families.
As survivors, we are turning now to the whole world, pray for us. Your prayers strengthen the soldiers and the home front. Your actions and your donations assist us in building everything anew.
It is certain that we will succeed, and eventually Israel will once again be the nation that is a light to the gentiles.
This letter was written on 30 October 2023. Aliza has written a book, ‘Where Are You My Child’, about her husband Gidon’s escape from Europe and entry to Israel from one of the ships that ran the British blockade. It is available for a donation from email@example.com