A Message From Jerusalem to my Berkeley Colleagues

October 15, 2023

Kenneth Bamberger is the Co-Faculty Director of the Helen Diller Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies. He wrote this letter to his colleagues at Berkeley Law, and published it on the Times of Israel Blog on October 15, 2023. 

Dear Berkeley Colleagues:

I write to you from Jerusalem, where I have spent the past few weeks doing research for a book. My return flight to Berkeley this weekend has been canceled. I have just come from a house of mourning; there are other visits to be made this afternoon, a funeral this evening, and another house of mourning early tomorrow. All while sirens sound as Hamas continues to launch hundreds of missiles daily.

The neighborhood where I am in Jerusalem has been spared missile impacts. Yet no one has escaped the shock of the calculated and purposeful campaign to slaughter civilians perpetrated by over 1500 Hamas terrorists armed by Iran, leading to the equivalent (by population) of eleven “9/11s.” In just one day.

Friends burying children. Or learning that their child was taken hostage while attending a peace concert at which 270 young people were massacred in cold blood. A colleague’s daughter and her husband shot and killed in their kitchen — as terrorists went door-to-door wiping out whole families — after they threw themselves on the body of their teenage son, saving his life.

The victims have included Palestinian-Israelis, Thai students, and German tourists, among others.

The videos, taken and circulated by the perpetrators themselves, reveal the brutality. Young people running through the desert to escape the peace concert, Hamas terrorists hunting and capturing them like fleeing animals. A grandmother’s murder livestreamed on her Facebook page for her family to watch. A toddler murdered in front of their parents and young siblings. Women raped and abused; their naked bodies paraded. Over 150 children, infants, the elderly in wheelchairs, women and men, taken as captives, to be used as human shields, or worse. And now, threats to begin televised executions.

Some in our campus community have responded to these events with celebration, calling them a “historic win,” and pledging unwavering support in “blood and arms,” and “glory.”

This response is repugnant.

The Israel-Palestinian conflict is complicated. Our Berkeley campus does, and should, provide a space for members with passionately held, and radically different, views of the conflict, for strong critiques of Israel and Israeli policy, and for advocacy for justice for Palestinians. And we must recognize the devastating losses for both Israeli and Palestinian civilians; members of our community with ties to both Israelis and Palestinians are feeling so much pain.

But President Biden had it right when he characterized the purposeful annihilation, rape, kidnapping, and execution of civilians as pure evil. As a violation of every code of human morality. And as behavior that reopens scars left by millennia of antisemitism and genocide of the Jewish people.

I am hopeful that as educators, we can promote a more humane campus by recognizing and mourning the losses felt by all members of our community, by continuing to strive for a just and lasting peace for Israelis and Palestinians alike, and also by making clear that some acts are simply wrong.

May we see better days,

Ken Bamberger

Times of Israel