Yesterday my 87-year-old mother and I spent the afternoon taking down Hamas posters. We like to work with our hands. Our tools include water, scissors, paper. And tape. Our protection is courage. Or at least my mother’s is. My protection is my mother’s courage.

The week after October 7 I spent sleepless trying to do something. Crowds of strangers were coming together to comfort one another, to rally for Israel, to send essentials to the hundreds of thousands displaced by Hamas and then Hezbollah terror. My bedroom in Australia was a war room, of turmoil and disbelief.

At the end of the week, I went to the university campus where I work. This is the campus I have been going to since childhood, my father picking up my mother after she delivered her late lectures, my sisters and brothers and me in pajamas, with dinner on the go that my father had lovingly made. This is the university my mother, my siblings, my children and I have graduated from. Where my mother taught for thirty years. With its Oxford buildings, surrounded by parks. One of the oldest universities in Australia.

The week of the bloodiest attacks on Jews since the last World War, the campus where I work was plastered with Hamas propaganda. Every flat surface and many curved ones, covered with their vituperation. Water fountains, glass walls, direction signs, supporting columns, from one side of the university to the other they were celebrating the murder and mutilation, rape and burning alive of Jews, under the blossoming jacaranda trees of one of the oldest universities in Australia

My father is alive. But his family and that whole civilization was gassed and burned and murdered. And here we are, again, reminded, that those butchers are gone but new ones have arisen. Every generation of butchers had their reasons for eradicating Jews. They didn’t leave a trace except in Jewish history books. We remember them. They had their reasons but there is no reason except this: We are Jews. They don’t want us on Earth.

I got on the phone. Who was dealing with this abomination on the university walls? Who was removing it? And I received the customary bureaucratic nonanswers, until I understood that nothing was going to be done and no one was going to do it.

I am three times the age of the young student who came with me the first night to take Hamas propaganda off the surfaces of my university. We were new at the task, and learning the methods, but ripping their papers off the walls of the much-photographed campus was different from tapping words on a screen, which is my job. It was an action in defiance. We filled bins with wasted paper and sticky tape and went home.

But the machine of our foes is persistent and monied and as soon as we take the posters down, they go up again. We have work to do.

And as I’m reading the psalms in fervent hope for the hostages, in support of my Israeli children in mortal danger, I find in that none of this is new. Yuval Noah Harari writes in his latest book that humans are done with war, but he’s too soon in his prophecy. Jews are always hoping and telling themselves we’re done with war. But our foes are not.

At night, I work with my hands taking down the work of their hands. By day, I write about the medieval mass murder of Jews and how we rejuvenated and thrived, uncannily, like the phoenix.

The sermons of certain Muslim leaders in Sydney call for completing Hamas’ work that began on October 7, eradicating us all. Jews in Sydney and Melbourne and Washington gather in absolute peace and when our foes gather it’s a raging seething crowd. The Jews have shown they can’t protect their babies and women, and so the world joins the fray, calling for the end of us, posting antisemitic screed on postboxes and bus stops and train stations. They have workers and funds without limit.

They have that and, in our defense, on the front lines in Australia, my 87-year-old mother and me. With water and scissors and paper. And tape. We get going outside a big train station. Vile images and slogans. My mother pours water on the posters, softening up the paper, a libation.

Most passersby pay us no mind. Two old ladies. But then a taxi driver without customers is yelling at us. I talk politely back, my mother keeps working, he yells more, she keeps us moving. We go up and down the main thoroughfare removing their propaganda from bus stops, electric poles, postboxes, gas meters, traffic lights, government property, public property. When people threaten us, she stands straight and when they menace us, and I back away, she keeps on.

A mother with young girls watches us from a distance and when we’re done, she chides us, “Please keep safe, do not put yourself at risk, those posters are fine, you will get in trouble.” She means well, but her girls are watching us. And they see we are not intimidated by the men who threaten us. We are Jews. We will endure.

Article by Author/s
Tova Berger is a fifth generation Australian, a writer and teacher of writing.

1 Comment

  1. Marilyn Gross Reply

    Your words brought tears to my eyes. Tears of outrage at what you face daily, of sadness at the indifference of passers- by and of admiration and exultation for the courage and endurance of both of you.
    Thank you.

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