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Shell shock: Footage of Oct. 7 screened in Denver

First person

Shell shock.

It was the term for what we now call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, coined by soldiers returning from the Western Front in WW I, where roughly 100 shells were shot per minute.

It was the term that came immediately to mind at a screening this week at the Tivoli Center of footage from the Hamas massacre of Oct. 7. Gunfire, gunfire, gunfire. A persistent drumbeat of savagery that allowed no respite.

Though, of course, as difficult as the experience was for us in Denver, it was, in reality, nothing. It was images, which is what made it so unbearable. Knowing — seeing — what our brothers and sisters in Israel endured on Oct. 7, some of whom survived, many of whom had their lives brutally wrested from them on that day.

Sitting in that auditorium, I was transported to the chaotic emotions of Oct. 7. I thought that because we were in the US, waking up hours after the massacre started, because it was Shabbat, because it was Shemini Azeret, that’s why we could not fully grasp what was occurring.

What I saw unfolding on the screen before me — what I had read about but had not witnessed — was the magnitude of the chaos experienced by the victims themselves.

The total shock.

Not only of the victims — but by the terrorists. The visceral fear they imposed was reflected in their perverse euphoria.

Then — the shock of the first responders. Begging, amid heaps of corpses, for a sign of life.

In 2010 in Latvia, I stood in the Rumbula Forest, where in 1941 around 25,000 Jews were massacred by the Nazi SS. “Around” because when that many people are murdered in a pogrom, exact numbers will never be known. The vernacular for our time: “At least 1,200 people were murdered on Oct. 7.”

I remember, on that hallowed ground in Latvia, reading about survivors who hid, lying still, under those murdered atop them, daring to emerge only when they were certain the barbarians had left.

In Southern Israel, those EMTs kept pleading, “Show me a sign of life!”

So many of my initial reactions in the immediate aftermath of Oct. 7 returned in full force:

Hamas, a nihilistic death cult that seeks only the destruction of Israel, not the well being of its own people.
Knowing that invading Israel would lead to thousands of civilian deaths of its own people and not caring or, worse, wanting it.

More nihilism: Seeing the terrorists set fire to homes violently emptied of their inhabitants reminding me of Gazans setting fire to greenhouses after Israel’s evacuation of the Gush Katif settlements in 2005.

The goal of the invasion: only to destroy, not even to repossess.

Then there were the new questions I found myself asking: How much did the people in Gaza know? The terrorists were greeted back home as heroes by cheering crowds. Did average Gazans know what was afoot? How were they made aware? Did the terrorists know about the music festival? Was it an intended target?

But also, the terrible question that must be asked: How did Israel allow this to happen?

You might be wondering why it seems that I’m grappling with the footage for the first time.

Aside from a few clips during those first two days, I have avoided watching any footage from Oct. 7. I knew that as a journalist it might be considered a dereliction of my professional duties, but I also knew that I didn’t have the mental wherewithal to do so.

It was why up until about 3 p.m. on Monday I wasn’t certain whether I would actually make it to the screening, hosted by the Israeli American Council together with the Israel Consul for the Pacific Southwest.

But within whatever capacity each and every one of us has, we must bear witness. Why? Because at the same moment when we are seeing how our brethren were brutalized, there are those, literally outside the doors, seeking to deny our humanity.

To be greeted on a public, taxpayer-funded campus, being told that I am a fascist and have no place there because I support the existence of the State of Israel, reinforced for me that I needed to be there.

Those anti-Israel activists, who, outside a screening of the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust called for the erasure of the State of Israel, brought to mind the Westboro Baptist Church, who would protest at funerals of people who died of HIV/AIDS.

Blood brothers.

Whatever one’s theology — and yes, I consider the anti-Israel activism we’re seeing theological as it is faith rather than fact-based — only evil people protest at a funeral.

We will bear witness, for the sake of bearing witness, inherently vital, but also for when the opportunities arise — and they do arise — to share our story with those willing to listen.

Such as our elected representatives — only a few of whom were in attendance.



And, as needed, those unwilling to listen.

Such as at Denver’s City Hall, where at the same time that we were watching footage of a brutal massacre joyfully carried out by barbarians, a proposal was being heard to call for an immediate ceasefire.

(I wonder, do the council people behind the proposal know that just last week Hamas rejected a two-month ceasefire? Have they considered the irony that Gazans had a strong enough WiFi signal to transmit WhatsApp messages of their brutality in real time, but ahead of Israel’s ground invasion shutting down internet service at night was deemed by ignoramuses a “war crime?”)

Instinctively, I thought that anyone who proposes an immediate ceasefire must watch this footage. What happened in Israel that day, were it to happen to their families, to their constituents, would they halt their battle against the crowing perpetrators, who promised to do the same again given the chance?

Could City Council members — in the face of evidence created and shared by the perpetrators themselves — deny Hamas’ barbarity? Possibly not. Israel should attempt to reach those lawmakers.

But people such as these Auraria Campus protesters do not feel revulsion at the massacre.

Many deny the massacre even occurred, despite, again, the proud evidence of the killers themselves.

Even if they do acknowledge it happened, they believe it was deserved, that innocent civilians — men, women, elderly, children crying out for their parents — deserve to die for their crime of being Israeli, or of living in Israel (if the protestors even acknowledge that not all of the victims were Jewish).

“Do not rejoice when your enemy falls” Proverbs instructs, so that even when the Egyptians were defeated at the sea, the Israelites looked away. When faced with evidence of the massacre, these anti-Israel activists would rejoice.

The victims of Oct. 7 have already been violated beyond anyone’s imagination. They should never, ever be revictimized.

Those who survived, those who first encountered the massacre, those who, across the country, were forced to take shelter underground as bombs rained on civilians centers, indeed all of Israel, Jewish, Arab, Christian, Bahai’i and otherwise, are in shell shock, as are we in the Diaspora, to a different degree, in a different context.

We will bear witness. We must.

But we must also preserve our dignity and humanity — and those of the “at least 1,200” who were murdered on that fateful day.

That is a non-negotiable.

Shana Goldberg may be reached at [email protected]

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