"This is a global humanitarian catastrophe," is how Rachel Goldberg-Polin, the mother of 23-year-old Hersh who was kidnapped to Gaza after the massacre at the Nova music festival in Re'im, described the living hell she, her family and the other families of the hostages, missing and murdered have been in since the massacre in the Gaza border communities on October 7. She spoke at the United Nations on Tuesday.
"The very cruelest of questions that each of us is asked every day, without intended malice is 'How are you?' Well picture your own mother and then picture her being told there are only two options. You are either dead or you had your arm blown off and you are kidnapped at gunpoint to Gaza, and no one knows where you are, or if you bled to death in that pickup truck 18 days ago. Or if you died yesterday. Or if you died 5 minutes ago. Picture your own mother, and those are (her) only two options when you ask 'how are you'." Goldberg-Polin told the UN representatives.
"In an article I read, it so eloquently stated that when you only get outraged when one side's babies are killed then your moral compass is broken and your humanity is broken," the heartbroken mother said. "And therefore in your quiet moments alone, all of us everywhere on planet Earth need to really ask ourselves: Do I aspire to be human? Or am I swept up in the enticing and delicious world of hatred? This is not a phenomenon unique to Israel or Gaza, this is everywhere on our planet. I understand that hatred of the other, whoever we decide that other is, is seductive sensuous and most importantly it's easy. Hatred is easy," she said bitterly.
"I know that Israel is being cautious not just because Israel knows there are 200 hostages that were stolen into Gaza on Oct 7 but also because Israel knows that there are more than 2 million Palestinian civilians who are trapped in Gaza and this is why Israel gives warnings to civilians before it strikes in Gaza. But there were no warnings given to the women, the children, the babies and the music lovers before the attack on Oct. 7," she said.
"In a competition of pain there is never a winner," she added.
She said that one thing that gave her "a whisper of hope" after the horror of October 7 is a story told to her by one of the witnesses. He told her that when the rockets started raining down on the music festival many of the young people ran to the shelters, a Bedouin man who was a guard at one of the kibbutzes entered with them for cover.
"And as Hamas closed ion on the bomb shelter the man told the young people shh stay quiet and let me talk to them," she said. The witness told her the Bedouin man went out to the terrorists and spoke in Arabic to them, telling them that everyone in the shelter were his family members and that they were Muslim, and they should not kill them.
"He tried to save them. He could have just said I am a Muslim and just save himself," she said. He was brutally beaten, and no one knows what happened to him. But, Goldberg-Polin said, the story gives her "comfort" knowing there was someone "trying to do the right thing," when the world was "turned upside-down."
"I implore world leaders, both seen and unseen… because the time is running out to save them," she said.
Hersh, who was born in California and completed his service in the IDF this year, was at the music festival in Re'im when the surprise attack by Hamas was launched on October 7. Terrorists entered the shelter where he was with many others, shot at them and detonated grenades. Videos show him "with a stump where his left arm used to be," his mother described. The terrorists said that anyone who can walk should stand up and went with five other young men into a Hamas pick-up truck. The last signal from his cell phone was at the border with Gaza.
On Tuesday night in New York, Israeli activists chanted "Shame!" during the speech of Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, who participated in a solidarity march with the Stand With Us organization for the release of the hostages held by Hamas in Gaza.
"I am here on behalf of October 7, when we experienced a black Sabbath for the State of Israel and the Jewish people," Cohen began, trying to overcome the voices and shouts of the protesters. According to the protesters, Cohen's participation in the march is a display of hypocrisy, since he is calling for the release of the abductees while he is not working to overthrow the government that is responsible for the series of failures that led to the massacre in the communities surrounding Gaza, and the failures that have continued since then in the public arena, on the front and in the rear.
Cohen arrived at the solidarity march after speaking at a special discussion of the UN Security Council regarding the Hamas-Israel war, during which Secretary General Antonio Guterres stated that: "It is important to also recognize the attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum. The Palestinian people have been subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation."
Cohen opened his remarks by reading the names of the kidnapped children who are being held by Hamas in Gaza and called out to Guterres: "What world do you live in? This must not be our world." Cohen also said the Mourners' Kaddish and made it clear: "Hamas are the new Nazis." During the speech, Cohen revealed a recording of a Hamas terrorist's cellphone call with his parents in Gaza, during which he repeated proudly that he had murdered 10 Jews with his own hands. After the recording was played, Cohen turned again to Guterres and told him: "This is the world we live in. We evacuated Gaza and you poured in hundreds of millions of dollars, and instead of building a prosperous Gaza they built terror tunnels and weapons factories."