Israeli tanks
Israeli tanks are transported to the border with the Gaza Stip on October 8, 2023.
(Photo: Menahem Kahana/AFP via Getty Images)

'We Need Peace': Israelis Who Survived or Lost Loved Ones in Hamas Attack Speak Out Against War

"You can't cure killed babies with more dead babies," said the son of a peace activist likely held hostage in Gaza.

After Hamas launched a surprise attack on southern Israel October 7, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed they would pay an "unprecedented price" as he dropped retaliatory bombs on Gaza. Yet in the nearly two weeks of violence that has followed, some of the most vocal calls for peace have come from survivors of that initial attack and the family members of victims and hostages.

In Israel, the number killed in the Hamas incursion has risen to more than 1,400. Meanwhile, Israeli airstrikes have killed at least 3,785 people in Gaza, the territory's health ministry toldReuters Thursday.

"You can't cure killed babies with more dead babies," Yonatan Zeigen, the son of missing peace activist Vivian Silver, toldChannel 4 News October 13. "We need peace."

Silver, a founding member of the Israeli-Palestinian group Women Wage Peace, was alone at her home in Kibbutz Be'eri when Hamas fighters entered the community, according toTime. Zeigen texted with her as she was hiding in a closet, until the texts stopped coming. Her friends and family now live with the "terrible hope" that she is alive as a hostage in Gaza.

Zeigen told Channel 4 that Silver would be "mortified" by Israel's response to the attack. He said he understood the pain that motivated some Israelis to support retaliation, "but the only way to have safety and to live good lives is with peace," he maintained. "Vengeance isn't a strategy."

Silver wasn't the only peace advocate caught up in the October 7 attack, as many left-wing Israelis live in the areas close to Gaza, The Guardian explained. One was Hayim Katsman, a peace activist who was shot and killed while sheltering in a closet in Kibbutz Holit, as CNN reported. Katsman had testified about his experience in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) as part of the Breaking the Silence project and had spent time protecting Palestinian farmers in the south Hebron Hills, which are occupied by Israel, according to The Guardian.

"Stop the war. Please, just stop the war."

His sibling, Noy Katsman, has been outspoken about ensuring that the manner of his brother's death doesn't overshadow how he lived his life.

"Do not use our death and our pain to bring the death and pain of other people and other families," Noy Katsman said at his brother's funeral, as The Guardian reported. "I have no doubt that even in the face of Hamas people that murdered him… he would still speak out against the killing and violence of innocent people."

The Refuser Solidarity Network, a group offering support to people who refuse to participate in the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, has sponsored a campaign by Israeli human rights groups calling for the release of hostages and an end to the bombing of Gaza. As part of this, the group has started an account on the social media site formerly known as Twitter, sharing testimonies like Noy Katsman's and Zeigen's, under the banner of "Voices Against War."

One of the voices featured on their feed is Maoz Inon, whose parents were killed in the Hamas attack.

"I'm not crying for my parents," he toldBBC News in an interview. "I'm crying for those who are going to lose their life in this war."

Inon called on viewers to put pressure on leaders in a position of power to stop the fighting.

"This is why it was so important to me in this very hard time to go on this interview and to cry to the world: 'Stop the war. Please, just stop the war.'"

Rami Elhanan, who has relatives who survived the attack on Kibbutz Be'eri and whose daughter Smadar was killed by a Hamas suicide bomb 26 years ago, said in a video that the Israeli occupation "creates this endless cycle of violence."

"We have to find a way to share this land," he said, "as one state or two states or 10,000 states. Otherwise we will have to share it as two huge graveyards for our children and the generations to come."

Survivors of the Hamas attacks are also speaking out against escalating violence. One, a 19-year-old who was evacuated from Kibbutz Be'eri, gave an impassioned video address from a hotel by the Dead Sea.

"How am I supposed to get up in the morning, knowing that 4.5 kilometers from Kibbutz Be'eri, in Gaza, there are people for whom this event has not ended?" she asked. "For me, it was over after 12 hours because there was a place to be evacuated to."

She added that those calling for revenge should be ashamed.

"For me, after everything I have been through, I keep losing so much energy every time I hear the word 'revenge,'" she said. "For people to go through what I went through, and not have anyone to extract them, it cannot be."

She dismissed Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system or increased protection from IDF soldiers as "Band-Aids" and called for a political solution.

"Believe me, every missile launched, with only 4.5 kilometers between Gaza and Be'eri, causes the ground to shake the exact same way in both places," she said.

Her words also echoed a widely shared sentiment in Israel that Netanyahu is ultimately to blame for the Hamas attack, with 86% of poll respondents holding him accountable, according to The Jerusalem Post.

"How many people must die for his ego and his personal interests?" she asked.

But she also stated that Netanyahu was part of a "much deeper problem."

"Ask yourselves who it is you vote for," she told viewers. "Ask yourselves what it is that you are demanding of them. I know what I am demanding. I am demanding a just peace."

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