Rachel Goldberg, whose 23-year old son Hersh Polin Goldberg was taken hostage from the Nova music festival on October 7, invoked Cain and Abel as well as the Holocaust in a fiery speech at the Israel rally last Tuesday in Washington, DC, advocating for more activism on behalf of the hostages.
Goldberg, who emigrated from Virginia to Israel with her family when Hersh was eight, has been one of the most vocal family members of hostages to speak out on the international stage on behalf of the hostages' plight. A couple of weeks after the massacre, she was the focus of a 35-minute podcast episode of The New York Times' "The Daily," in which she recounted in detail the events of the day, what they knew about her son's condition, and stories of unity and love among the family members of the kidnapped and dead—who through their shared circumstances have become a community of their own.
Posters of Hersh—larger and more distinct than the typical "kidnapped" signs featuring different hostages—have been displayed in many places throughout Israel and the world.
"Right now, how we are living is hard to describe to you," Goldberg told the crowd of nearly 300,000 at the National Mall in Washington last Tuesday. "We hostage families have lived the last 39 days in slow motion torment. For 38 nights none of us have slept the real sleep of 'the before.' We all have third-degree burns on our souls. Our hearts are bruised and seeping with misery.
"But the real souls suffering are those of the hostages," she continued. "And they want to ask everyone in the world —all the screamers, the indifferent, the experts, the academics, the knowledgeable, the passives, the perfectly outraged, the righteous, the indignant, the haters, the leaders, the lovers—every single one of us: Why? Why is the world accepting that 240 human beings from almost 30 countries have been stolen and buried alive?
"These children of God ranged in age from nine months to 87 years. They are Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and Hindu. Why are they being left underground in the dirt?" she asked.
"Abigail Mor Idan is three years old; she watched her parents get murdered in front of her and was then kidnapped, and she would like me to ask the world, why are you letting her stay in the dark in her trauma, buried in the Earth's crust?" she asked. "And Joshua Mollel, who is a Tanzanian African graduate student studying agribusiness, would like for me to ask you why somehow his life actually doesn't matter. The world must prepare what we will say to them."
Comparing the current situation to significant moments in history, Goldberg told of a Christian German who hid Jews during the Holocaust. When he was asked why he risked so much to do this, he answered: "at least I will know when I die and stand before God, He will not ask me what he asked Cain in the Bible: 'Where were you when your brother's blood cried out from the ground?'
"What the world needs to start thinking about today is, 'what will your excuse be?'"