Hanukkah – Flames of Hope Burn During Another Dark Time for Jews

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Hanukkah is a holiday that symbolizes the miracle of light in one of the darkest periods of Jewish history, a past that is sadly now repeating itself. Jews start lighting Hanukkah candles Dec. 7 at a dark time for Jews and Israelis – American Jews are living with unprecedented levels of fear, Iran-backed Hamas terrorists are continuing their war to eradicate Israel, Hamas continues to torment Israeli hostages and various social movements are silent about the rape of Israeli girls and women. The Jewish people are again looking for the rays of light to overcome the shadow of darkness.

‘Hamas forced children to watch the 10/7 atrocity videos’

As more evidence is being released, it becomes even clearer that Hamas held the hostages under deplorable conditions. The hostage testimony of the darkness and evil depravity of this terrorist group is proof that Hamas will stop at nothing to fulfill its mandate to eradicate the Jewish state. After Hamas broke the terms of the ceasefire, which included the release of more hostages, the war has resumed.

Jewish children were physically abused and at least two were even branded during their abduction by Hamas. Brothers Yagil, 12, and Or Ya’akov, 16, were “taken on a motorbike and they took every child, took his leg and put it on the exhaust of that motorbike, so they have a burn so they will be marked if they run, if they escape, so Hamas can find them.” Terrorists threatened the lives of Jewish kids as young as three if they made noise. After weeks of forced silence in tunnels, many children became conditioned to whisper even after being reunited with their families.

Jewish children suffered under extremely difficult conditions. Children, Avigail Idan, 4, and Emily Hand, 9, returned covered in lice. Children were drugged when they were moved between locations. Tom Hand described his daughter Emily: “The most shocking, disturbing part of meeting her was that she was just whispering. She’d been conditioned not to make any noise. She explained that they were constantly being told to whisper. Last night she cried until her face was red and blotchy, she couldn’t stop. She didn’t want any comfort, I guess she’s forgotten how to be comforted.”

Eitan Yahalomi, 12, suffered similar abuse, according to his aunt: “Every time one of the children cried, terrorists threatened them with rifles to shut them up. Hamas forced him to watch horror videos of the 10/7 atrocities. He is thinner, will not smile and doesn’t really speak.”

Food was often a single piece of bread or less. A Filipino hostage was so hungry that he ate toilet paper. A freed Thai hostage explained that Israelis held with him were abused and beaten: “The Jews who were with me were treated more harshly. Sometimes they were beaten with electrical cables.”

Hamas terrorists wounded several of the hostages during their attacks and other hostages died during their imprisonment. Most did not receive any treatment. Yuval Engel, 11, and Ditza Heiman, 84, were both returned to Israel in wheelchairs. Nurit Cooper, 79, had a broken shoulder. Moran Stella Yanai, 40, limped out of captivity. Hamas terrorists shot Mia Schem in the arm on Oct. 7: “A veterinarian operated on her arm. She did physical therapy for herself. She underwent trauma. She’s thin, she’s weak.”

Mia Schem embraced by her mother and brother after being released from captivity, Dec. 1.

Israeli hospitals released heart-breaking photos of the freed hostages as they were reunited with their families and pets. Of the hostages still known to be held by Hamas – for many Israelis, the fate of their relatives is still a mystery – 117 men and 20 women; 126 Israelis and 11 foreigners. All women and children were supposed to be released by Hamas under the terms of the ceasefire agreement. The terrorist group claimed the excuse that all remaining hostages are military age and therefore considered ‘soldiers.’

Me Too Unless You Are a Jew

“We claim we stand against rape and violence against women. We will not let women be victimized and then silenced. We say we believe women, stand with women, speak out for women. Women are still hostage to these rapists and the world has failed to call the situation what it is: an urgent emergency that demands a decisive response. This is our moment as women and allies of women to act.” – Gal Gadot, Wonder Woman actress

Many feminist groups have been silent – most notably, the United Nations Women’s Agency for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment and its president. A bipartisan group of 89 U.S. House members urged UN Women to condemn Hamas. UN Women finally released a statement condemning Hamas on Dec. 1, which Israel’s foreign minister called “tepid and late after turning a blind eye.” It also took the UN secretary general seven weeks before he finally called for an investigation into Hamas sex crimes.

Hadassah, the National Council of Jewish Women and the World Zionist Organization joined a special Israel-led UN session to raise awareness for the Hamas sex crimes and the deafening silence around the world. Israel’s UN ambassador explained the goal of Hamas: “Hamas used rape and sexual violence as weapons of war. These were not spur-of-the-moment decisions to defile and mutilate girls and parade them while onlookers cheered; rather, this was premeditated.”

Former Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg forcefully criticized the absence of condemnations: “silence is complicity, and in the face of terror we cannot be quiet. This silence threatens to undo a movement and decades of progress.” U.S. Sen. Gillibrand of NY watched videos of the Hamas atrocities: “It haunts you. The world must know the heinous, barbaric nature of Hamas.”

New eyewitness testimonies continue to be shared – more than 1,500 in total. A Nova Festival survivor described witnessing a woman surrounded by “eight or ten fighters beating and raping her.” After killing her, “they were laughing.” A volunteer helping to prepare bodies for burial: “Opening the body bags was scary. They were all young women. Most in little clothing or shredded clothing and their bodies bloodied particularly around their underwear and some women shot many times in the face as if to mutilate them.”

CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women, Sheila Katz, spoke about “the secondary trauma of being unheard, ignored and reduced to mere objects for debate.” The disappointment of Jewish feminists is widespread, leading to the launch of the #MeToo_Unless_Ur_A_Jew campaign. The Executive Director of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance believed that “diverse coalitions would benefit Jewish women. Now I fear that Jews are all alone.

Hamas Resumes Its War Against Israel

Hamas ended the temporary truce with Israel when the Iran-backed Palestinian terrorists refused to release additional female and child hostages, required by the ceasefire agreement. The U.S. State Dept. reported that Hamas did not want the Israeli “women to be able to talk about what happened to them.” The terrorist group was supposed to release Shiri Bibas and her two children, including her 10-month-old. Continuing their torturous psychological warfare, Hamas now claims they died in captivity, a claim not verified.

Immediately after Hamas ended negotiations, the terrorist group resumed its rocket fire into Israel. Hamas also took responsibility for the cold-blooded murder of three Israelis waiting at a bus stop in Jerusalem. The brothers who committed the attack prove the false moral equivalency often used by the news media when reporting on the Israeli hostage and Palestinian prisoner exchanges: most freed terrorists return to violence against Israelis. Both brothers previously served time in prison for terrorism.

Israel released terrorists – women and children – some were convicted of attempted murder, shootings and bomb attacks; 64 of 117 were held for violent crimes. One example of the false moral equivalence was a would-be suicide bomber who has scars on her face from her attempted car bombing. Anti-Israel groups made her into a hero for their cause.

The Zaiyde siblings, Bilal and Hamza, are reunited with family after their release on Dec. 1.


1. Everyone has the moral obligation to condemn Hamas sex crimes against Jews

The silence of Americans, international human rights groups and feminist organizations in the face of evidence showing rapes and grotesque sexual abuse, is deeply alarming. Everyone, without reservation, must unequivocally condemn such reprehensible acts. Anything short of this sends the message that Jewish and Israeli women are not worthy of the same protections as any other women. The condemnation of heinous crimes is a fundamental principle that these organizations and individuals must uphold. Silence in the face of sex crimes undermines human rights and gender equality and further harms the innocent victims.

2. Hamas atrocities on 10/7 and its abuses of hostages must be widely shared

Hamas terrorists intentionally filmed their attacks against Israelis and boastfully shared videos on social media – and yet many deny these atrocities. It is outrageous that the victims are forced to constantly relive their horrible trauma just to convince the world of the attacks that Hamas takes pride in broadcasting. What more will it take for individuals and groups to see the pure evil of Hamas? Sharing the factual documentation of these vile acts is crucial for raising awareness, promoting international condemnation and mobilizing efforts to defeat Hamas.

3. Hamas terrorists will stop at nothing to annihilate Israel and all Jews

A Hamas leader glorified the 10/7 attacks as “just a rehearsal.” Despite attempts to present a seemingly kind and gentle face when releasing hostages, the admission by a Hamas leader that their attacks serve as mere practice for future terrorism underscores the malicious intent of the organization. It is imperative for the international community to see through any deceptive tactics and acknowledge the true nature and intent of Hamas. Their blatant disregard for innocent lives – Palestinian and Israeli – and open acknowledgment of planning future attacks against Jews highlight the urgency of destroying Hamas to ensure peace and security.

4. Hamas terrorists can end this war at any time

As Golda Meir stated: “If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more violence. If the Jews put down their weapons today, there would be no more Israel.” The key to ending the current conflict lies in the hands of Hamas. A definitive step towards peace can be taken if Hamas chooses to release all the hostages and voluntarily disarm itself. By relinquishing control over those unlawfully held and renouncing violence, Hamas can demonstrate a genuine commitment to the safety of Israelis and Palestinians. These actions would end the immediate suffering of civilians and also set the stage for constructive dialogue and diplomatic resolutions. Hamas has the power to achieve a peaceful solution and a stable Middle East.

5. Hamas propaganda must be condemned

Hamas supporters keep reiterating that the hostages were treated well. They even point to the smiling faces and waving of freed hostages. Hamas drugged the hostages with tranquilizers so they would look better on camera. In a Hamas propaganda video, it is clear that the hostages were under duress: a terrorist is caught on camera stating, “keep waving.” The relentless dissemination of these false narratives and the glorification of violence by Hamas supporters perpetuate the conflict. The sharing of intentionally misleading information only serves the purposes of Hamas terrorists and their Iranian benefactors. It is imperative to denounce propaganda that fuels hatred and division.

6. Light can overcome darkness

Amid the current challenges faced by Jews and Israelis, the celebration of Hanukkah serves as a powerful reminder that light can overcome darkness. The Festival of Lights symbolizes the triumph of Jews over their oppressors, independence for the Jewish homeland and the rekindling of hope during a dark period. Today, as Iran-backed Hamas terrorists lead an illegal war, torment Israeli hostages and perpetrate crimes against women. Just as the Maccabees overcame adversity, the resilience of the Jewish spirit prevails. By commemorating Hanukkah and sharing stories of triumph, Jews draw strength to confront current challenges, stand united against oppression and foster a commitment to the triumph of light over darkness.


Dispelling Falsehoods, Stating Facts

Click here to read common lies and facts to combat them


A.   Join the annual Shine A Light campaign for Hanukkah

The Shine A Light initiative raises awareness about anti-Jewish hatred through education, community partnerships, workplace engagement and advocacy. The ADL is one of 175 Jewish and non-Jewish organizations, corporations and governors committed to addressing the rise in antisemitism. The ADL recommends sharing content on social media, creating inclusive workplaces, encouraging companies to pledge to fight hatred of Jews and encourages schools to teach about the Holocaust.

B.   Make your voice heard: sign petitions in support of the hostages

The National Council of Jewish Women’s #VoicesForHostages campaign is at the forefront of urging international women’s leaders to raise their voices. NCJW is calling for international pressure for the immediate release of all hostages held by Hamas; humanitarian aid and medical care to be provided until the hostages are released; and the enforcement of international humanitarian law. The NCJW site also has forms for emailing your lawmakers and emailing ambassadors to demand the release of all hostages.

C. Make your voice heard: sign petitions against UN Women’s response to sexual assaults against Israeli girls and women

Hadassah – America’s largest Jewish women’s organization – is leading the fight against the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. Hadassah is calling for women’s rights and victims’ organizations to sign their names to a statement for the UN to take urgent action to protect Israeli girls and women. Also, the Israeli #MeToo_Unless_Ur_A_Jew campaign calls for signatures from those who believe that every woman’s life is valuable.



‘Death Everywhere’ – Married Couple Narrowly Escapes, Hopes for Better Future

Rita Yadid, 33, and her husband Guy, 38, attended the Nova Peace Festival on October 7. Rita “hopes we will become stronger by sharing our story, giving hope to this amazing Jewish community all over the world.”

My husband Guy convinced me that this was one party we couldn’t miss. A huge production never before seen in Israel. We arrived with my sister Eden, who worked in the ticket booth at the entrance.

At 10 p.m. on Friday night, we parked our car right in front of the entrance and waited for the police to allow everyone entry to the festival grounds. At 11:15, we entered the huge area where the stage and grounds were still being set up, with crews working through the wee hours of the night.

We pitched our tent, inflated our double mattress and even put bedding on it to make it comfortable and cozy. Around midnight, we decided to go to bed for a few hours so that we would have enough energy to dance non-stop later on.

We woke up at 4 a.m. and joined in the celebration. We danced, we drank and we couldn’t stop smiling! We returned to our tent at 6:30, sat down for a moment to rest, drink and have a bite to eat. Eden, my sister, happened to walk by just then with a drink in her hand, and said hello to us.

At the exact same time, from a small corner of the sky to our left, among the pastoral trees, we heard loud booms, while the speakers echoed loudly to our right. It took us a few minutes to realize that these were not fireworks. Then a Red Alert sounded, indicating incoming rockets. The police ordered the music shut down and told everyone to disperse and head home. The party was over.

Madness erupted. People ran frantically to their cars and left everything behind. Already then, the party area around us began to look like a war zone. Guy and I decided to load the car with our equipment and get ready to move. But we didn’t think it was the right time to drive home, figuring that staying put in the party enclosure was probably the safest, so we wouldn’t be caught in the long line of traffic while missiles were raining above. My sister Eden decided at the last minute to join us and return with us to Ashdod – where our parents live.

It was 7:30 in the morning, we were sitting waiting for the missiles to stop, when someone started running back and forth shouting that his brother had just been shot at a gas station near the exit from Kibbutz Re’im. We thought he was hallucinating, that maybe he was high. But sometime later we started hearing gunshots, getting closer and closer.

Eden got very anxious and asked us to go to the command and ambulance area of the festival, where there were still security guards and policemen. The area was full of panicked people, some who had a bad night and we assumed there would be lots of people who could help.

Ten minutes were enough for us to realize that we had to run away from there, as we saw two young girls running into the ambulance area, screaming and crying for help, with gunshot wounds, bleeding all over their bodies. Guy realized that this was not the right place to stay and we started running in the other direction – towards the festival’s entrance.

From the moment I saw those two girls, I couldn’t stop shaking with fear. Running with all our might we reached the ticket booth, a mobile trailer with eight windows all across and a door. We saw three guys sitting outside. I sat down next to them and anxiously explained what we saw. I was so nervous that I couldn’t continue sitting so I went inside the trailer with Eden and Guy and we laid down on the floor.

Later on, I recognized those three guys on the missing persons list. To this day, I have no idea what happened to them.

We heard screaming, as the gunshots got closer and louder. Suddenly, someone was pounding on the window – a boy named Gal, who asked us to let him hide inside. He was followed by two others, Michael and Tomer. We all laid down on the floor, convincing each other to just urinate on ourselves so as not to make any noise. We just couldn’t hold our pee anymore.

All the shame disappeared instantaneously the moment bullets began to spray our trailer. Guy immediately laid on top of me and protected me with his body.

“Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, Itbach el Yahud, Itbach el Yahud” (“Allah is great, slaughter the Jews”) the damn terrorists kept screaming and chanting.

The bullets penetrated the trailer. Then silence. We didn’t dare utter a word. Smell of gunpowder. Water dripped directly down my face. We kept our mouths shut. Barely breathing, quietly making sure that everyone was still alive.

Gal was hit by a bullet to his knees, blood spilled out of him like water. Eden and Michael tied what they could find around his knee. I couldn’t stop shaking, and suddenly we realized that Guy was injured. A bullet penetrated his hip and also began to trickle down on us. I looked over my left shoulder and I just couldn’t move, function, or breathe.

We still had our phones and sent our family as many updates as we could, telling them how we were doing, begging them to send forces to help us get out alive.

At around 11:30 a.m., we saw the shadow of someone peering into the trailer from the window behind us and, after noticing our presence, he went to the windows opposite us, and saw us all laying there, bleeding, crying.

I was sure that he was from the security forces because he wore a military jacket and had a radio. Guy said straight away – he’s a terrorist! “Money, money, telephone, telephone!” the terrorist from Gaza shouted as he robbed us. We tossed him everything we had and he left. The earth must have swallowed him. We didn’t hear him again, we didn’t see him, and no one came to kidnap us.

All contact with our parents was then cut off, and we were left frightened, trembling, and confident that we would never get out alive. Then silence set in, deafening silence. I fell asleep. We all fell asleep – our body’s defense mechanism helped us pass the time which felt like an eternity. I woke up to the sound of a helicopter, coming and going. I begged G-d to get us out of there for OM, we didn’t move.

Suddenly, we heard: “White shirt running away – shots – 50 meters, 20 meters.” Michael shouted “Help”, and we immediately told him, “Quiet”. We were afraid that those were more terrorists looking for Jews who were still alive.

I couldn’t resist and lifted my head up and saw them, our soldiers, coming to save us. We called out to them that we were Israelis and opened the door to the trailer. I hugged the soldier so tightly, he gave me my breath again. By then it was 2 o’clock in the afternoon, and we couldn’t believe everything we saw around us.

Bodies everywhere, destruction, fires, guys and girls bleeding from every possible area of their body. And soldiers. Lots of soldiers who came to save us. We immediately called our parents to let them know we were still alive. My mother broke down on the phone and cried and cried out to G-d with thanks.

It took a long time until all the wounded were evacuated to the hospital, first the most urgent cases. During that time, I held the hand of Na’ama, who survived after being hit with three bullets, and gave a pillow to a guy who was shot in the buttocks. Anyone who had previous experience whether from the military or civilian life tried to help.

Guy was evacuated to Soroka Hospital in Be’er Sheva, and Eden and I were left alone with the other, non-critical, survivors. Finally, around 3:30, a vehicle arrived to take the rest of us. We all packed into the van on top of each other and headed towards Moshav Patish.

The horrors we saw on the way out were unbearable. I couldn’t watch but there was no way to miss it.



Children who will never return home to their parents.


Anti-Israel Resolutions and Anti-Jewish Hate Spreading Like Wildfire Across America

The surge in anti-Jewish hate in the U.S. is happening increasingly at city council meetings, on university campuses and at holiday festivals. A Jewish Federations of North American survey revealed that an astonishing 70% of American Jews feel less safe in America now. Also alarming is an ADL report showing that 73% of Jewish college students have experienced or witnessed some form of antisemitism since the beginning of the 2023-2024 school year.

City councils, unions, university student governments and local political party chapters are releasing anti-Israel – and even pro-Hamas statements. Professional organizations of teachers and auto workers that seemingly have no reason to weigh in on the Hamas-Israel war are speaking out against Israel. The City Council of Richmond, CA, repeated Hamas talking points falsely accusing Israel of ethnic cleansing and apartheid. Speakers who mentioned Hamas sex crimes were booed at an Oakland City Council. Sen. Schumer delivered a landmark speech in Congress on the rising hatred against Jews: “Can you understand why the Jewish people feel isolated when we hear some praise Hamas and chant its vicious slogan?”

Hanukkah celebrations are being targeted this year. A Virginia cultural festival reneged on it’s agreement with a local Jewish group to hold a menorah lighting. The organizers fear that the Jewish celebration could be seen as an endorsement of Israel and can only be held if an Islamic group is allowed to attend. A pair of swastikas were spotted at a pro-Palestinian rally at the annual NY Christmas tree lighting.

Pro-Hamas activists targeted a falafel shop in Philadelphia owned by a Jewish celebrity chef. The governor acknowledged that the “restaurant was targeted and mobbed because its owner is Jewish and Israeli. This hate and bigotry is reminiscent of a dark time in history,” alluding to the Holocaust. Sen. Fetterman called out the mob for supporting Hamas at the expense of innocent civilians: “They could be protesting Hamas’ systematic rape of Israeli women and girls.”

The unprecedented global threats to Jews led Israel to raise its travel alert level for 80 countries, including Western Europe.

We are continuing to monitor this issue and will cover it in subsequent editions, including actions you can take to make a difference.

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The Focus Project develops and distributes news, background, history and weekly talking points on timely issues to inform individuals and organizations about issues affecting the American Jewish community and Israel, and help readers speak with more consistency and clarity. The editions also provide potential responses for addressing incidents of antisemitism and anti-Zionism. With input from a spectrum of major American Jewish organizations, we focus on that which unites us, rising above political and individual agendas.
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