Community message from JCCV President, Philip Zajac.
AGAINST ALL ODDS
It has been nine weeks since the atrocities of 7 October unfolded. Nine weeks, and we are still grappling with the aftermath. We are learning about the harsh conditions of the hostages in Gaza from the testimonies of those lucky enough to have been released. It is hard not to have a physical reaction when listening, and it is also understandable that some people can’t stomach the horrible, graphic details that sound as if they came out of horror movie.
It is important to remember that we need to look after our own mental health to continue to remain a strong, united community. Our wellbeing is just as important as our safety.
As well as the rise in antisemitism we are seeing from the far-left, we continue to see neo-Nazis gathering in Victoria. I had the opportunity to speak on Channel 7 news regarding the neo-Nazi rally that took place in Ballarat last Sunday. Their chants were messages of hate to anyone who is different in our society – not just the Jewish community. The JCCV will continue to advocate to Government to strengthen anti-vilification laws to deal with those who spread hate speech.
In addition, I have written a letter to Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton. I outlined our community’s grave concerns stemming from the protest targeting the visiting family and friends of Israeli civilians kidnapped or killed by Hamas. There is no place for behaviour like this and those responsible must be held accountable. We all have many unanswered questions regarding these events. I intend to keep you informed on the outcomes of discussions held with law enforcement agencies.
In response, I met with the Minister for Multicultural Affairs Ingrid Stitt on Thursday, in the hours after the protest to try and help her understand the impact of yet another hateful protest on our Victorian Jewish community. I will be following up with the Police Minister Anthony Carbines as well. How many times does our community need to watch as Victoria Police let these protesters get away with their hate, violence and psychological terror?
It is getting to the point where words of condemnation are no longer enough. If no action is taken against these callous thugs, they will be empowered to continue.
Last Sunday, I spoke at the ‘Walk for Unity’ at Kings Domain. It was beautiful to see not only members of our community, but also friends of our community come together and say – ‘love will always triumph over hate.’ This event served as powerful expressions of our solidarity and determination to foster an inclusive and accepting community.
On Monday, our community said ‘No Excuses for Sexual Violence’ at a vigil in Elsternwick. The event’s message was clear: Australian and international human rights organisation have not only failed to condemn the sexual violence perpetrated against Israeli women and children, but also question if it has happened at all. Around 500 women participated, with mouths taped shut to represent the silence they were protesting.
The initiative taken by so many people in our community to organise vigils, protests and movements is inspiring. It is testament to the strength and energy in our Victorian Jewish community.
We are currently celebrating Hanukkah– a celebration of light within darkness. We should celebrate the strength of our people, who, like Judah the Maccabee, continue to win against all odds. Hanukkah is a story of hope and dedication – a story that has special meaning in our current reality.
I urge all of you reading to attend a communal Hanukkah celebration. We must show our Jewish pride to our children and grandchildren.