Last week, I had the honor and privilege to visit Israel on an organized solidarity mission hosted by the World Zionist Organization and Chairman Yaakov Hagoel. Roughly three months ago, I was landing in Budapest for a Pro-Israel Summit organized by the Center for Fundamental Rights.
As news started to come in about the atrocities unfolding in Israel, I found myself in a foreign country as Jews were being murdered inside Israel.
It was a helpless and dark feeling.
I didn’t know anyone other than some of my friends who were also attending the conference. We were all in a state of shock and disbelief. We were angry as we watched countless videos and images coming in of dead Israelis. We didn’t know what to do.
The Center made a decision to move forward with the conference and they quickly pivoted into a Pro-Israel Summit that would stand in solidarity with Israel and the Jewish people.
When I arrived at the conference, I was welcomed with open arms, hugs and words of strong support from my new friends at the Center for Fundamental Rights, senior figures of the Hungarian government and in particular by Hungary’s Ambassador to the United States, Szabolcs Takács.
I recall Defense Minister Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky giving a very passionate speech and I went up to greet him afterwards to say thank you for standing with the Jewish people. He pulled me close, put his hand on my shoulder, looked me in the eyes and said: ‘Bryan,
Fast forward to last week in Israel, I was on the ground to bear witness to the carnage that I saw come across my phone when I was in Budapest. What I saw and the testimony I heard will stick with me for the rest of my life.
On Day Two, we traveled to Okafim in Southern Israel to meet with the Israeli police officer that saved countless lives and meet with families who survived the onslaught by Hamas.
We heard his testimony of how he threw himself on top of bodies in hopes of shielding them from the bullets by Hamas and how his resiliency and calmness under pressure resulted in saving the lives of many of his friends and killing Hamas terrorists.
Then we boarded the buses towards Kfar Aza to bear witness to the atrocities committed by Hamas terrorists on October 7th. As we walked through the Kibbutz, there wasn’t a dry eye in our group as we bore witness to the destruction caused by Hamas. Houses burned to the ground while other houses were covered with bullet holes on the inside and outside.
The Israeli spokesperson giving us the tour told us that the red circles on the houses designated these were the homes where dead bodies were found inside. As we walked down one of the road, with houses on either side, probably around 15 houses, every single house had a red circle.
Walking inside of the houses was surreal to see the bullet holes and grenade shrapnel in the walls knowing all too well that the kitchen I was standing on was where dead Israeli bodies were lying just three months ago. Outside of the homes, some of the families have put up banners with pictures of their loved ones who were murdered.
During our visit to Kfar Aza, we also met with senior members of the IDF who were part of the first responders on the scene. Their testimony about what they saw when they arrived was something I’ve never experienced before. To watch such strong men and women cry as they told us about the carnage they saw was something I will never forget.
After our tour at Kfar Aza, our next stop was to the site of the Nova Music Festival at Kibbutz Re’im.
There I was, standing on the ground where 364 Jews were killed, hundreds more injured as Israeli fighter jets screeched across the sky and Apache helicopter gunships hovered overhead at 1,000 feet.
While we sang Hativakh and locked arms with our Israeli brothers and sisters, we could hear machine gun fire in Northern Gaza and the IDF firing artillery shells every 30 seconds. We were in the middle of a war zone.
Hamas could have launched rockets at us at any moment
but we weren’t scared—we were empowered.
While we sang Hatikvah, which means ‘Hope’ in Hebrew, I was overcome with emotions as I stood on the land where hundreds of Jews were butchered and raped alive and dead for one reason only – they were Jews.
That was the only ‘crime’ they committed—being a Jew. The bloodthirst from Hamas on that day is like nothing ever replicated in the world. They cut off the body parts of Israelis. They raped Israeli women in front of their friends. They burned bodies alive.
And when they were done killing and raping, they took hostages and in all likelihood, the raping didn’t end in Re’Im.
While Day two of the mission was filled with heartbreak, tears and unanswered questions about how this could have ever happened in the first place, it was also filled with ‘Hatikvah’, a hope for a better tomorrow.
Throughout our solidarity mission, the Israeli people and MKs that I met from the left and the right told me that national unity and defeating Hamas were the only things that mattered to them. Internal politics were a distant thought and survival as a Jewish state was the only thing that matters right now.
While there was hope from the Israelis I met with, they are also still stuck on October 7th like almost being trapped in time. While it’s some 90 days later for many of us in the Diaspora, for Israelis, they are stuck in time in disbelief, sadness, anger and frustration.
In closing, I can say with confidence that I know the Israeli people will dance again and they can count on me and millions of Jews in the diaspora to stand by their side as they dance once again.
I also believe they can count on the non-Jews in Hungary to dance with them again.
Ever since October 7th, the Hungarian government and their people have shown the world that in words and actions that they stand resolutely with the State of Israel and the Jewish community.
One of those actions is the Hungarian government approving citizenship and issued passports to Israeli hostages in the Gaza Strip to facilitate their release. Well done, Hungary!
While countries around the world, including my own here in America, have witnessed thousands of pro-Hamas protests in our streets, not a single one of these protests has occurred inside Hungary.
My message to the Hungarian people is this: The spirit of the Jewish people has taken a lot of hits over the years but we always come together to fight for our future and that is exactly what we will do again. We will all dance again, and I know the Hungarian people will dance with us. Thank you for your unwavering support.