To acquire wisdom, one must observe

Letter to The Hoot: Brandeis students reflect on deaths in Israel

Editor’s note: As an independent news source for the Brandeis community, The Hoot and its editorial board support publishing all opinions of our students, faculty and staff. As such, The Hoot does not serve as an arbiter on the sensitive topics herein. The views expressed within are not necessarily reflective of the beliefs of The Brandeis Hoot or its editorial board.

Preface by Carol S. Kornworcel ’26:

On Oct. 11, approximately 200 students, faculty and staff attended a candlelight vigil to remember the lives we’ve lost during the war in Israel. We want to share some stories of those affecting our community here at Brandeis, as this is affecting many in our community directly. We will not stay silent and we will always stand with Israel.

Statement by Kornworcel:

There are no words to properly describe how I’m feeling right now.

I’m angry. Angry that we are having to explain why murder, torture, terrorism and kidnapping is wrong.

I’m scared and worried about my family and friends who are all along the border, evacuating and hiding in shelters for their lives.

I’m confused, heartbroken, horrified.

But I’m also so proud. Proud of my friends who are on a flight up to Israel right now to go back to base and defend our country and our people. Proud of our community who came together in support of everyone who is struggling and hurting right now. Proud of my family and friends who have not wasted a single second since the start of the war and are working hard to support everyone and every cause they can to help our brothers and sisters in Israel.

Over the weekend, the Tribe of Nova music festival was celebrating friends, love and infinite freedom at Kibbutz Re’im.

Not even 24 hours after the festival began, 260 participants were brutally murdered for being Israeli. Jews, Christians, Muslims, human beings celebrating peace and life killed for where they live. But Hamas didn’t stop there. They kidnapped the participants, raped them, tortured them and paraded their dead bodies all over the streets of Gaza.

This is not resistance. This is not humanity, dignity or a call for peace.

This is terrorism, full stop.

We cannot stay silent about these lives being taken so soon from us. We cannot stay silent about those who are risking their lives to defend our country. We have the ability in the United States to advocate for our family and friends in Israel. Raise money, awareness, support. Stand with our friends on our campus, support one another. We are united and we cannot let this pass by.

I want to teach you all something that the festival community worldwide preaches and holds as one of its core values:

Peace, Love, Unity, Respect.

I pray that this be the last time we gather to pray for our loved ones to return home safely, and may we always hold the values of peace, love, unity and respect in our lives.

Anonymous statement:

Dear friends,

We’re facing the hardest time that Israel has ever faced. And we have faced hard times before. 

Since the beginning of the attack by Hamas on Israel on Saturday, the predictions are that we currently have more than 1,200 Israelis killed, with more than 200 kidnapped by Hamas. This is the worst nightmare of every Israeli.

Only now, the details about what happened in the south of Israel are beginning to emerge: The massacres. The slaughtering. Houses being burned down with families still inside. Kids, women, elderly, are being held hostages by terrorists that do not deserve to be called human. 

The pain is immense. 

But we are facing forward. I need you to channel all your feelings right now—despair, grief, fear—into hope, and actions.

Let me tell you why you have to be hopeful.

Because the people of Israel are. This is not the time to lose hope. It’s time to get ourselves together and fight. Hamas started a war on our home. Never again? Never again is now.

Here are just a few examples of how hopeful the people of Israel really are, taken from my Instagram account. Ready?

– Hundreds of Israeli civilians standing in line to donate blood in malls. 

– Thousands of boxes are packed with food and essentials to be delivered to soldiers and families.

– On the roads, civilians give water bottles and sandwiches for our children, our beloved soldiers, in the tanks on their way to the front.

– Private civilians open their own houses to host families escaping the horror in the south.

– Israelis from all around the world who are currently safe abroad, fighting to go back and help their people.

– People singing “Hatikvah” from their balconies.

The people of Israel do all of this, while crazy numbers of rockets from the Gaza Strip are fired at them.

This is the spirit of the Israeli people, guys. You know Israelis. They’re fucking awesome. 

And if this is what they do from there, we, from here, have to help our people. We can help our people. We have so much power. 

Here’s how:

  1. First of all and before all. Take care of yourselves. Take some time off the news, let your soul time to heal. And stay safe.
  2. Show compassion. Look at all these people. Sometimes even giving a hug helps. Or bringing someone a muffin. Or sending a text message of support.
  3. Donate whatever you can. We need every dollar. It’s saving lives. 
  4. And last but not least: Half the war is the war on the media. I’ll repeat that. Half the war is the war on the media. People still post terrible, ignorant things that justify the terror and the killing of innocent civilians in Israel just because they’re Israelis, because they’re Jewish. You must be there. You MUST. To spread the truth, to tell the stories, to show the pictures, do not remain silent. Do not let twisted narratives become facts. You have the power to change. We need you there, I need you there.

Let me finish with the words of President Joe Biden from his remarkable speech yesterday. In his speech, he said he met with Prime Minister Golda Meir in Israel, right before the Yom Kippur War in 1973. When he looked nervous, she leaned and whispered to his ear—“Don’t worry. We have a secret weapon. We have nowhere else to go.”

We are going to win this thing. Together.

Statement by Omer Barash ’25:

I know that everyone here tonight is feeling, in the rawest sense of the word.

In a way that we don’t quite know how to describe or articulate, but exists, nonetheless.

I also know that nothing I, or anybody else standing up here, can say will make any of this any better.

Nothing I say will bring back loved ones we lost. Will bring back a sense of security that’s been shattered. Nothing I can say will restore our home.

So why are we here?

I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m here because I don’t know where else to be. I fluctuate between mental haze, a blaspheming anger, an immovable sadness.

I’m here because I don’t know what to do with any of that, with any of the feelings that I can’t quite seem to describe.

I’m here because I think maybe others feel the same way.

I’m here because I know they do. I know you do. I know that beyond any differences and beliefs and politics, everyone standing here has an unequivocal and unapologetic love for the beauty and sanctity of life.

I’m here because in times of chaos and uncertainty, we must find a way through, and we must do this because there is no alternative.

This is the underlying belief that has guided Israel, and the Jewish people since their inception.

“We will, because we must”.

And so, we will. Surrounded by our brothers and sisters, we will.

So lean on each other. Support each other. Love each other.

Love like you have never loved before, because if there is anything that these past few days have reminded us, it is that family runs deeper than blood.

And the feelings are okay.

And the loss is indescribable.

And the contradiction makes sense.

And not making sense just might be the most sensical thing of all.

So please. Pray for the family we lost. And love the family that’s still here.

Until brighter days come.

Anonymous statement:

There are no words to encapsulate the feelings, the events and the pain. What’s happening in Israel is not an individual tragedy; it’s an attack on our nation. It’s a war on our brothers and sisters. It’s really easy to be in constant consumption of the news, to see the horrific atrocities and to keep scrolling, and consuming, and scrolling more. I urge you all to sit in the pain. To remember the brave warriors who have fallen protecting our country. Omer Wolf, a Golani Commander, was 22, his sole dream was to find the love of his life, a wife and to have children. That’s all he wanted. He has tragically fallen and that dream was stolen from him. May his memory be for a blessing. My cousin, Eden, was at the Re’im music festival, and through a miracle from HaShem, she left before the terrorists attacked; and she is now suffering through unthinkable trauma and devastation, unable to move. They are real people, they are not stories, they are not Instagram posts. They are people with families, lives, dreams, and it’s our duty to remember them and to honor them. So I urge you all to read a name, find a face, learn their story and carry out their legacy.

Statement by Steven Berchin ’25:

Good evening, everyone; times have been heavy for many throughout Brandeis. The university’s Israeli community, many Jewish students and faculty members worry for the safety of their families, friends, colleagues and other loved ones who have spent five days either hiding in shelters or defending the country by answering the calls for reserve duty.

I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for coming to honor the lives of the less fortunate: the countless Israelis of all ages who have lost their lives over the past five days in the worst display of barbaric violence I, along with many others, thought to be of a world long behind us. 

One of the first things my father taught me about Judaism, which I’m sure many of you have heard, is that in Judaism, taking a life is like destroying an entire world—while saving a life is like saving an entire world. I do not want to waste the short time up here to remind you of the numbers and statistics you have seen on your social media pages. 

Instead, I ask that you join me, as hard as it may be, in remembering the many worlds we lost over the past five days. We stand by and send our thoughts and prayers to Professor Ilan Troen, a professor at our very own university, who was on the phone with his daughter Deborah while Hamas terrorists stormed the family’s shelter and slew her alongside her husband, Shlomi Matias. 

We commemorate the lives of innocent and defenseless women, children, toddlers and elderly murdered since Oct. 7, whose only “crime” was living as Jews in Israel. We support and pray for the speedy recovery of the injured and survivors of these acts of barbarism. We remember the many non-Israelis and other foreign nationals from 17 different countries either working in Israel, enjoying the country as tourists, or visiting family who have perished, been taken hostage, or are missing.

My parents, grandparents, faculty and peers told me that the world is far different than 80 years ago, especially regarding the attitude towards Jewish people that would never reach the rock bottom of the ’30s and ’40s. I would like to end this message by reminding all of you of a chilling reality: More Jews were murdered four days ago than any other single day outside of the Holocaust. I would like to remind everyone about how the world stayed silent as millions upon millions of our Jewish brothers and sisters during the Second World War—these past few days, we watched as a similar deafening silence came from our peers and “social activists” regarding the tragedies we watched unfold these past days. We are not alone, and this is not the same story as 80 years ago—one of the ways we can ensure this is by coming together as a community, showing our strength in numbers and making sure that our voices are heard loud and clear when we say ENOUGH.

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