This Monday marked 100 days since more than 1,000 people in Israel were killed by Hamas terrorist attacks Oct. 7, 2023 leading to a declaration of war and the Israel Defense Forces killing thousands more in Gaza.
The 100th day of the ongoing conflict was commemorated differently throughout greater Riverdale. For principal of SAR Academy Rabbi Binyamin Krauss, the time since that day is remembered with a piece of masking tape reading “Day 100.”
The principal was inspired by Rachel Goldberg-Polin, whose son was taken hostage on Oct. 7. She called for people on social media to get tape and a marker to write the number of days since hostages have been held in Gaza and wear it on their chest. Krauss heeded that call and has encouraged family members and staff to do the same.
“It’s just natural for people to forget,” Krauss said. “Remembering it has actually been remarkable. ‘Is that a basketball number?’ It generates conversation.”
For Krauss, that day where more than 1,200 were killed in Israel, is an important milestone to mark, not just for him, but the SAR school and community. SAR middle schoolers demonstrated at the United Nations headquarters in Manhattan on “Day 98,” calling for a release of the reportedly more than 130 remaining hostages.
The SAR community has been resilient in their support for the Israeli Defense Forces. Students have sent special requested supplies and letters to several the Israeli units, including some of the more than 75 SAR alumni serving, as well as to Israeli residents who have been displaced as a result of the conflict. According to Krauss, they’ve raised about $1.3 million across different projects.
“Oct. 7 is a day that will live in infamy,” U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres said. “It represents a profound tragedy not only for Israel, but for the Jewish diaspora worldwide including in Riverdale. It’s been 100 days since Hamas murdered 1,200 Israeli’s and abducted over 200 people. And it is tragic that over 100 hostages remain in captivity.”
AP News reported on the 100th day that 790 Israeli citizens and 314 Israeli soldiers were killed on Oct. 7, 187 more soldiers killed in the Gaza ground offensive, nine killed on the northern front and 29 killed by friendly fire or “accidents” in Gaza and the north.
“I am just as upset today about what happened as I was then,” Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz said. “And it was so predictable to so many forces out there it would just take a matter of days until the criticism of Israel started.”
Since Oct. 7 the IDF killed more than 24,000 people, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health, with about half being children. AP News reported that within the first 100 days, 148 U.N. staff — at least 337 health workers and 82 journalists — were killed in Gaza.
“In every place in the world it’s assumed countries have a right to defend themselves,” Dinowitz said. “That’s not the standard many people and countries hold Israel to… I don’t pretend I can put myself in the shoes of Israel but their plan is to try to destroy Hamas and who could blame them?”
Last week during International Court of Justice hearings, South Africa accused Israel of committing genocide in, arguing that “self-defense” does not justify Israel’s response, which has reportedly killed one percent of the population in Gaza.
Jennifer Scarlott, coordinator of North Bronx Racial Justice, agreed with those claims.
Scarlott was one of an estimated 400,000 pro-Palestine protestors in Washington, D.C., last Saturday, calling for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza and protesting against what they call Israel’s “genocide” in Gaza.
“Israel is responding grossly disproportionally,” Scarlott said. “I mean (24,000) is believed to be by all experts a serious underestimation of how many are dead in Gaza since Oct. 7. And when you compare those unbelievable numbers to the number of people killed in Israel on Oct. 7, it’s a grossly disproportionate response.”
The conflict has also damaged 45-56 percent of Gaza buildings, damaged more than 69 percent of Gaza school buildings, displaced 1.9 million Palestinians in Gaza (85 percent of the population) and left 576,000 Palestinian civilians facing “catastrophic hunger and starvation,” AP News reported.
“My feeling as we reach 100 days of the siege of Gaza, is that I can’t believe that in my life ‘Never Again’ is happening again,” Scarlott said. “I feel like I’m seeing the sort of 2023-2024 version of Warsaw Ghetto playing out day after day.”
Steve Siegelbaum, a member of North Bronx Racial Justice North and Jewish Voice For Peace, said the growing death toll continues to bring him anguish, sorrow and anger. He noted while it’s been 100 days since the Oct. 7 attacks, the conflict started much earlier.
“It started at the very least in 1947-1948, at the creation of the State of Israel, when three quarters of a million Palestinians were forcibly driven from their homes, their villages, their lands and made refugees,” Siegelbaum, a historian said. “We know that before 1947-1948 these Zionist movements, generally abetted and backed by the British power, had in mind the expulsion of Palestininans and non Jews in general.”
He said that he did not agree with claims by the IDF that they were taking precautionary measures to avoid civilian casualties since Oct. 7.
Torres continues to lend his support to Israel, while hoping for fewer victims. “I’m a supporter of Israel. I’m no supporter of the Netanyahu government and I support President Biden as he seeks to constructively pressure Israel to transition to lower intensity operations. I think Israel should remove Hamas from power but at the same time minimize casualties.”
Torres added that Hamas’ militarization of the adult civilian population has led to a much higher death toll, saying that the Gaza Strip is a “hellscape of terror tunnels and booby trap buildings and combatants camouflaged as civilians.” He asked New York City residents to imagine that it was their city that was attacked and to picture how they would ask their government to respond.
“I worry in a world of rapidly growing amnesia about Oct. 7, there are few people who fully understand the overwhelming shock and trauma and grief that is so deeply and broadly felt,” Torres said.