Community message from JCCV President, Philip Zajac.
THE HOME FRONT
A few short weeks ago, Iris Haim, mother of Yotam, travelled to Melbourne in a delegation of Israelis whose loved ones had been captured or killed by Hamas on October 7.
Last Shabbat, we learned that Yotam had been tragically and accidentally killed in Gaza by the IDF, alongside two other Israelis, Alon Shamriz and Samer Talalka. This news knocked the wind out of my lungs, I cannot imagine the grief felt by Iris, who is a wise, gentle and kind woman.
It did not surprise me that Iris recorded a message for the battalion that was behind the heartbreaking killing.
Please take a moment to read her words:
“This is Iris Haim, I’m Yotam’s mother.
I wanted to tell you that I love you very much and I hug you from afar. I know that everything that happened is completely not your fault, it’s nobody’s fault – except Hamas, may their name and memory be wiped off the face of the earth.
We invite you to come visit us at the earliest opportunity, whoever is willing, we want to see you with our own eyes and embrace you and tell you that what you have done – as painful as it is to say, and as sad as it is – was likely the right thing to do at that moment, and none of us are judging you or angry with you. Not me, not my husband Raviv, not my daughter Noya, not Yotam, of blessed memory, and not Tuval, Yotam’s brother.
We love you very much, and that’s it.”
For the past few weeks, the JCCV has been working tirelessly with councillors across Melbourne, and also with Victorian Government ministers, to try and prevent local government from weighing in on the Israeli-Hamas conflict, a matter well beyond their remit. We have worked successfully with a couple of councils to tone down motions, insert additional clauses and convince individual councillors to oppose motions.
We have been contacted by many Jewish residents in these council areas, as well as Jewish employees at some of these councils. These motions are creating fear, anxiety and anger in communities. Jewish residents are not being consulted by councillors and, in many cases, do not feel safe to attend council meetings and speak out.
It is highly regrettable that the cities of Merri-Bek, Maribyrnong, Greater Dandenong, Yarra, Darebin, Hume and Wyndham have all passed motions on Gaza that are damaging social cohesion, creating unsafe neighbourhoods and alienating local residents.
The Minister for Local Government, Melissa Horne, has told the JCCV that while the Israel-Hamas conflict should be negotiated by world leaders, not local councils, she does not have the power to intervene under the Local Government Act.
The JCCV will continue its work in this area. It is not good enough that Jewish Victorians are being made to feel unsafe by the people elected to represent them.
THE TRUAMA OF INTIFADA
For many years, the JCCV has been an active participant in the Victorian Multicultural Commission, in fact, one of our past presidents, Jennifer Huppert, is currently serving as a commissioner.
It was a shock to us, therefore, to see a photo of our friend, VMC chair Vivienne Nguyen, at a small event outside Parliament called the #sitintifada, alongside the president of the Islamic Council of Victoria, Adel Salman.
We all know what an “intifada” is – and it is highly distressing to see Palestinian advocates openly calling for “intifada” on the streets of Melbourne. Many of us have vivid memories of the Second Intifada, a period in the early 2000s when no one in Israel was safe to travel on busses, eat in restaurants or celebrate at events, as Palestinian suicide bombers terrorised innocent Israelis.
I have spoken with Viv about her regrettable attendance at this event. She explained it was not planned, she just happened to be walking past and stopped to speak with Adel. She apologised to the Jewish community for the hurt and pain she has inadvertently caused.
The JCCV will use this as an opportunity to continue to educate Victorians from different backgrounds, including those in leadership positions. Our greatest fight is against ignorance and indifference.
HAPPY NEW YEAR - LOOKING FORWARD TO 2024
I will be taking a break through January, but the JCCV will remain in touch with you in the new year.