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Charla Huber: Israel-Hamas war leads to a phone call with a childhood friend

When tragic things occur in the world, it’s hard to know what to say
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Hannah, the daughter of Charla Huber’s childhood friend, Dana, removed her Star of David necklace before going to school on Oct. 13 as a precautionary measure. VIA CHARLA HUBER

Last week, I felt compelled to write about the Israel-Hamas war.

I sat down at my computer but I didn’t feel qualified to do it.

In my heart, I wanted to say something, but I was worried I wasn’t educated enough to offer an opinion.

I know I cannot be alone in these feelings — tragic things occur in the world and it’s hard to know what to say.

We ask ourselves: “Can I say something? I don’t want to offend anyone, but right now people are dying — how do I show them I care?”

Last week on social media, I saw an old friend from middle school posting about her fears and worries as a Jewish mother with four children with her husband, who is from Israel.

She posted about keeping her children home from their Jewish school and being worried about their safety, after officials called for Jewish institutions around the world to be on alert when Hamas called for a “Day of Jihad” on Oct. 13.

As you read this, please know that my column is due mid-week, so events might have occurred that are not reflected in it. I am not picking sides in this war, but wanted to learn more from a friend who is affected, and share my reflections from the conversation.

I hadn’t spoken to my friend since we were teenagers, but when I reached out, she was open to a phone call, although she requested that I only refer to her by her Hebrew name, Dana, and not use her last name.

Dana, who is raising her family in Alberta, said the war has been “really emotional” for her children.

She explained that a police presence was added to the year-round security at the Jewish school her two youngest children attend, and they did not go to school on Oct. 13.

Her two older children, who attend public school, did go to school that day, but with the caveat that her eldest daughter remove the Star of David necklace she wears every day.

“The look on her face was shock,” Dana said, adding: “When the world is angry, it just takes one person to cause harm.”

When we were teenagers, Dana told me, she once wore a pair of white shoes after Labour Day and her mother threw out her shoes, because she wasn’t honouring the fashion rule “Don’t wear white after Labour Day.”

The Star of David necklace posed a very different teenage problem. Dana’s mother was concerned about keeping up appearances. Dana fears for her children’s safety and well-being.

No matter where you live, or what your beliefs or values, that is a terrifying position for a parent to be in.

“It’s just shocking that it could get this bad. When I have been to Israel, it always felt like there was a sense of safety,” Dana said. “Both sides are suffering. Mothers in Palestine and mothers in Israel want to keep their kids safe.”

I am not writing this to pick sides in this war. I am writing this as a humble way to say that these conflicts affect us — they affect our country, our friends, our families, and people we will never meet.

Ultimately, people are dying, people are displaced and people are fearing for their lives.

If people feel they need to hide their identity to preserve their safety — like Dana’s daughter removing her necklace — we are less likely to know who needs our support.

“I will always believe that peace will one day be an option,” Dana said. “My husband was in Gaza as a soldier. His friends were killed, and he doesn’t believe peace will be an option.

“For me, I have to believe it will be an option.”

Charla Huber is an Indigenous communications consultant based in the capital region. Her family is from Beausoleil First Nation and Fort Chipewyan.

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