YIR: Oct. 7 Atrocities Video Sickens Atlanta Audience
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YIR: Oct. 7 Atrocities Video Sickens Atlanta Audience

Several also were vexed by the relatively small number of invitees who showed up to watch “Bearing Witness to the October 7 Massacre.”

Dave Schechter is a veteran journalist whose career includes writing and producing reports from Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East.

A house where 40 Israeli civilians were held hostage in Kibbutz Be’eri, Oct. 11, 2023 // Photo Credit: Lazar Berman/The Times of Israel
A house where 40 Israeli civilians were held hostage in Kibbutz Be’eri, Oct. 11, 2023 // Photo Credit: Lazar Berman/The Times of Israel

[Reader caution advised. This article includes descriptions of events on Oct. 7, when terrorists attacked kibbutzim and towns in southern Israel and a music festival in the nearby desert.]

A 43-minute video of atrocities committed by Hamas on Oct. 7 — compiled by the Israel Defense Forces — left the audience at a Nov. 9 screening angry and appalled.

Several also were vexed by the relatively small number of invitees who showed up to watch “Bearing Witness to the October 7 Massacre.”

The Israeli consulate sent hundreds of invitations to news media, academia, clergy and communal organizations, law enforcement, and elected officials. Roughly three dozen people turned up for the screening at the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta.

“We invited very broadly,” a clearly disappointed Israeli Consul General to the Southeast Anat Sultan-Dadon said afterward. “I am grateful for those who are here,” was all she would say when asked about the invitation list, though she noted that none of the invited university presidents attended.

[Note: The Consulate said that a larger, but unspecified number of people attended a subsequent screening.]

Rabbi Peter Berg, senior rabbi at The Temple, called the video “horrifying” and “the worst 45 minutes I can remember.”

Berg said: “Also horrifying — no ministers showed up. No university or school leadership showed up. Countless invitations were extended. A few rabbis. A few news outlets. A few law enforcement officials. A few communal leaders. Watching real footage of Hamas trying to eliminate the Jewish people in an empty room . . . Never felt more alone.”

Eric Robbins, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, called the footage, “Horrendous and sickening. I had to close my eyes through much of it. For me it made it all that much more real and that’s important for everyone!”

Robbins called the attendance “very concerning and I’m not sure what it means, but it left us feeling quite alone.”

The video was produced in response to two issues Israel faced in the aftermath of Oct. 7: Claims that Israel overstated the savagery of the attacks and assertions that the brutality was justifiable as a legitimate act of resistance by Palestinians oppressed by Israel.

“Bearing Witness” contains a fraction of hundreds of hours of recordings from the body cameras and cellphones of captured or killed terrorists, the cellphones of Israelis (some taken by the terrorists who killed them), car dashboard cameras, home security systems, and Hamas social media. Much of the video previously has been accessible online, some previously used by news media.

The video shows the terrorists hunting — moving street by street, house by house, room by room, and in the desert by pursuing fleeing festival goers in open territory and by setting up ambushes on roadways.

The terrorists shot their victims, in some cases multiple times, even as they lay dead; threw grenades into safe rooms in homes and in shelters at the concert. Some were found zip-tied to other people or with their hands bound behind their backs. Houses were burned, trapping victims inside.

The video is replete with blood-streaked walls and floors, bodies lying in random positions, and bodies burned beyond recognition and mutilated so badly (including at least one that appeared to be missing a head) that the work of identifying the dead was taking weeks to complete.

“As much as I thought I could prepare for it based on prior descriptions, I was stunned by the glee that I saw from the terrorists as they were killing innocent civilians just trying to live their lives,” said Democratic state Rep. Esther Panitch.

“Bearing Witness” showed the bodies of those whose families had approved of their use. The video showed the deaths of 138 people, young and old, men and women, individuals, and families. Many of their faces were blurred, particularly those of children, some of whom were shot while in their beds.

The first screening was held Oct. 20 for international journalists in Tel Aviv. Since then, the video has been shown in 30 countries.

“I decided to go to the screening because, as the invitation said, we have a responsibility to bear witness to what happened on Oct. 7. In the same way that I have watched footage and viewed photos of the horrors of the Holocaust at Yad Vashem and other places, I felt an obligation to watch this footage to be able to tell the story, especially when it feels like the rest of the world has forgotten,” Rabbi Loren Lapidus, of The Temple, said.

In the video, a police officer wearing a body camera arrives at the site of the music festival few hours after the attack there. He calls out for the living but there are no answers. Talking into his radio, he counts off the dead found in and around a refreshment tent, until he can go no further and says, “I have dead people, everybody’s dead.”

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