October 10, 2023
Good evening, everyone, and thank you for joining us for this unapologetic, absolute, and unified commitment to stand with the State of Israel!
My name is Nammie Ichilov, and I am the President and CEO of the Jewish Federation of San Antonio. I want to thank all my colleagues who helped get the word out so we could gather here during this incredibly painful and difficult time, and to specifically thank our community rabbis, many of whom have a role in this evening’s program. Thank you.
I want to also thank our community dignitaries who have joined us here in person and those who sent messages of support because their schedules have them out of town. We are ever grateful for your partnership, collegiality, and support. When any of us suffer, we all suffer.
I want to share one more special thank you to our law enforcement professionals. To Chief McManus and his SAPD team, and Sheriff Salazar and our Bexar County Sheriffs thank you for all you do. Also, I want to thank our plain clothes FBI agents here with us this evening. We know how hard you work every day to keep our communities safe behind the scenes. Thank you.
Let me share some context and start with a brief insight into one of my most important professional responsibilities, it is a skill I have been honing over my thirty-plus years in Jewish communal service… I am a moderate in every way shape and form. I rarely take positions on controversial topics because I need to hear both sides and acknowledge that there are different ways to see things and understand that sometimes we need to agree to disagree. I have been called “Switzerland,” “non-partisan,” “neutral,” and in some circles even “parve.”
But let me be clear, on the issue of what is taking place in Israel today, there is no “other legitimate side!” There is no “other voice of reason” and there is “no other way of looking” at terrorists attacking and killing civilians, mothers, children, and the elderly with a premeditated plan to create as much terror, fear, and mental anguish across so many innocent lives.
Our families and friends in Israel, our collective loved ones have been murdered, kidnapped, and hospitalized. There is no “other side to this story.”
I was raised to believe in peace. I saw the Cold War come to an end. I saw the Berlin Wall be brought down and I saw Israel sign legitimate peace accords with its neighbors. I, like all of us sitting here this evening, believe in Peace! So, when I see media outlets, local and national rallies, and elected officials trying to create a narrative that Israel brought this upon itself, I am sick to my stomach with despair.
If Israel had a partner to create a real and legitimate peace, it would have happened years ago, even generations ago. The reality is that the last 60 hours have demonstrated what the real motivation is for the leadership in Gaza. It is Hamas’s desire for a total annihilation of the State of Israel and the death of all Jews, and people of all faiths different than their own – Muslims, Druze, and Christians included.
I want you all to know, I genuinely feel sorry for the Palestinians who desire peace and who are also oppressed by Hamas themselves. A leadership who spends international funds on arms and military weapons to maintain their power and attack Israel instead of feed and clothe their hungry, educate their youth, and provide jobs for those seeking legitimate ways of earning a living.
A quick history lesson… Indian citizens did not achieve independence until Gandhi led them in Peace. The Civil Rights Movement in America did not gain ground until Martin Luther King Jr. led them in peace. And Nelson Mandela did not succeed in South Africa until he preached peace. If we are to achieve peace in the Middle East, it will be when a Palestinian leader arises who seeks a genuine and meaningful peace. Terrorism is not a path to peace.
If we are to move forward, we must separate terrorist organizations like Hamas from the Palestinian people. The Palestinian people must disavow Hamas as their leaders, give them up for judgement, and return every hostage alive and every executed Israeli returned for proper Jewish burial.
Anyone, whether abroad or here in the United States, who stands up and rallies to support Hamas’s actions witnessed these last few days is openly supporting terrorism and acts of unprecedented violence. As if we would blame America for the devastation of 9-11? How can any humane, rational, and sane person not be emotionally distraught by what we have seen take place in Israel? How can anyone support these actions?
But we are here this evening to come together and pray for peace. We are here to stand hand in hand, arm in arm, shoulder to shoulder, for a speedy and complete resolution to this nightmare.
Only a few short hours ago, our Texas state legislature passed a resolution unequivocally supporting the State of Israel.
This evening the University Health Robert B. Green Campus in San Antonio will be lighting up its building with blue and white lights in solidarity with Israel.
This is why we are here together right now, to build community. To support one another, and to show Israel that it is not alone during it’s time of greatest need.
Thank you for your attention, your support, and your belief in the truth. Community is built one relationship at a time. We are Stronger Together!