JERUSALEM: “I believed in peace with Gaza, but I was mistaken,” said Avida Bachar, a resident of kibbutz Beeri near the Gaza Strip, speaking from his hospital bed.
Bachar lost his wife and son in the bloody October 7 attack by Hamas, the single deadliest event in Israel since the country’s creation in 1948.
“We must destroy the enemy because if we don’t we have no possible future,” Bachar, who is in his fifties, told AFP.
Once a long-time supporter of peace with Gaza, now he is willing only to consider radical solutions to “eradicate” the Islamist Palestinian group that has run the territory since 2007.
He rejected any possibility of negotiations, and said Israelis had been the victims of “absolute evil.”
At least 1,400 people were killed, mostly civilians, on the Israeli side during the attack, according to Israeli authorities.
The agricultural community of Beeri, located less than five kilometers (three miles) from the border with the Gaza Strip, was the site of one of the worst massacres ever committed on Israeli soil, with 85 residents killed and 30 more missing or presumed taken hostage by Hamas.
Founded in 1946, the kibbutz is known for being a bastion of the Israeli left, an increasingly minority position in present-day Israel.
At the last legislative elections in 2022, the Labour party won more than 35 percent of the vote in Beeri, compared to just 3.6 percent nationwide, while the far-left Meretz won 16.4 percent.
Support for a peaceful approach to Gaza appears to have disappeared. Another survivor of last month’s massacre, Inbal Reich-Alon, 58, spoke of a “rupture.”
Reich-Alon is the daughter of founding members of the kibbutz, and calls herself a pacifist.
“It pains me to say this, because I have always thought that there were also (in Gaza) children, women and people who wanted to live in peace, and maybe there still are today — but there are more who don’t want us alive,” she said.
It was a view shared by Alon Pauker, 57, one of the kibbutz leaders.
“I suffer for every child killed in Gaza,” he said, but Hamas “murdered our children, our women, our elderly and our men for the pleasure of killing.”
Pauker said Hamas “will not rest until it has murdered every Israeli or destroyed the State of Israel.”
Nevertheless, some Israelis, such as Yonatan Zeigen, still want to believe in peace.
Zeigen is the son of Vivian Silver, a 74-year-old Israeli-Canadian peace activist who has been missing since the attack.
“She defends righteous ideas… I stand by my position: the only way of living in security is to have piece,” said Zeigen, who lives in Tel Aviv but grew up in Beeri.
On October 7, he was on the phone to his mother when the shooting began at 11 am.
She then messaged him that armed Hamas men were in her house, but since then, he has not heard from her.
Zeigen said his mother had set up aid programs for Gaza residents and helped them obtain medical treatment in Israel.
Silver has won numerous prizes for her peace work, and in 2014 was a founder of the Women Wage Peace group.
Like so many relatives of Israeli hostages, her son is asking his government to negotiate their release without delay, “whatever the price.”
According to the latest information from the Israeli authorities, 239 people were kidnapped and taken to Gaza as hostages.
Inside the Palestinian territory, the Hamas-run health ministry says that more than 10,500 people have been killed, most of them civilians, in Israel’s retaliatory war.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the objective of the war is to destroy Hamas.
Zeigen said he was “sad and angry,” but “confident in the future, because there are people from both sides who just want to live and thrive.”
“We can live alongside each other,” he insisted.


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