I know how hate lands on my body, and my visceral response to it. I recognize its textures, and I’ve grown accustomed to my body’s automated hypervigilance response. As a woman, there’s no protective shield against misogyny. I’ve learned to accept/resist the assaults and live with episodic PTSD. Anti-Black violence has become such a normalized presence in my life that I find myself perpetually operating from a harm-reduction framework.
Then, on Oct. 7, 2023, something unexpected happened, I had to reckon with a different kind of hate. I experienced for the first time the visceral hate that my Beta Israel ancestors in Ethiopia had endured: antisemitism. Fear gripped my heart when I was asked to sign an urgent Call for Action by Jewish Canadians, and I hesitated.
The realization struck me like an icy gust of wind – Hamas’ war wasn’t limited to the State of Israel; it aimed to eliminate all Jews. I was familiar with the Western brand of White Supremacy and its antisemitic tenets but encountering this type of antisemitism from people who themselves have experienced racial discrimination somehow landed differently. This chill was compounded by the unsettling response by some in my own left-leaning circles celebrating the massacre of Jews under the pretext of showing solidarity with Palestinians. I felt like I was drowning in an icy lake, desperately holding my breath.
I’ve learned to trust my body and spirit, to listen to the wisdom of embodied ancestral knowledge. Living through an intersectional experience of hate, one harsh truth becomes evident: When hate lands on my body and spirit, it doesn’t discriminate between my experience of misogyny, anti-Black racism, antisemitism or homophobia. Hate is hate, and I’ve grown adept at recognizing its patterns. Hate knows no boundaries, and when it embraces genocidal language, I grieve for the living and the dead.
On Saturday, Oct. 7, and in the days after I was afraid for my kin. My 18-year-old niece and little cousins, born and raised in Israel, were part of the Israeli army. Kids the same age as my children – the only difference is that mine were born and raised in Canada. I grieve for the hardening of the spirit of this so-called TikTok generation, as the prospects for peace in the Middle East depend on their capacity to remain open-hearted and lead with love.
I have been angry with Israel’s elected leaders, in particular the corrupt right-wing, for not seeking a just and peaceful solution that allows Palestinians to live safely, with dignity and self-determination. Previous generations of Palestinian children fought the Israeli Defense Force with sticks and stones – they didn’t become members of Hamas overnight. We should have listened to them then. We have failed them.
Now, my family members who might legally be adults but at the end of the day are just kids, are forced to participate in a war that justifies the killing of innocent children. They are arduously defending the State of Israel because the only home they know is Israel – they do not have a home or community to go back to in Ethiopia.
This period of history feels starkly different from when I was a student at Hebrew University of Jerusalem when the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Palestinian and Israeli leaders. Even amidst the backdrop of the despair that led some Palestinians to become suicide bombers and claim innocent lives, I held onto hope for the children of Palestine. Then came Oct. 9, and my hope was replaced by a profound sense of hopelessness and despair. Israel’s Defense Minister, Yoav Gallant, openly outlined the Israeli government’s genocidal agenda: “There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed … we are fighting human animals and we are acting accordingly.” My heart shattered at the cruelty of this announcement, designed to starve Palestinians in Gaza, half of whom are under the age of 18. Children.
The deliberate killing and dehumanization of thousands of children is something I will never comprehend.
The deliberate killing and dehumanization of thousands of children is something I will never comprehend. As the days passed, the number of Palestinian children murdered continued to rise, and I began to hear horrifying accounts of pregnant women giving birth on the streets and babies dying in their mothers’ wombs. Where is the humanity among Jewish people if they can justify this? How are they different from Hamas?
At the time of writing, more than 4,100 Palestinian children have been killed. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates there are approximately 540,000 women of childbearing age residing in Gaza. Among this population, about 50,000 individuals are pregnant, and an estimated 5,500 of them are due to give birth within the coming month. These women encounter significant difficulties while living under the siege, including limited access to safe delivery services, shortages of essential medical resources and, like all Gaza residents, the challenges of finding shelter from attacks and securing basic necessities such as food and clean water. The situation grows even more dire as Israeli forces continue their attacks, targeting areas near critical health-care facilities. Among the vulnerable patients affected by these assaults are at least 120 fragile newborns who rely on incubators for their survival.
As my colleague Kate Macdonald wisely points out, ”No one should have to wonder whether they will find a place to have their baby. Whether the stress and trauma of ongoing genocide will contribute to preterm labour, preeclampsia, miscarriage, stillbirth. Whether there will be a skilled birth attendant to assist. Whether the bombs will stop falling long enough to catch their breath between contractions. Whether there will be a surgeon and anesthesia left if a C-section is required. Whether there will be antibiotics available in case of infection. Whether there will be electricity to power the ventilators and incubators of babies born too soon or too late. Whether there will be safe drinking water to mix formula if there is no one able (or alive) to nurse the newborns.
“Where and how to find enough sanitary supplies for weeks of postpartum bleeding and how to stay comfortable and clean without running water or privacy. How to explain to their children one day that the leaders of the world sat by and allowed these questions to be necessary.”
There is something profoundly wrong with our society when we attempt to justify the targeted killing of pregnant individuals and children in the name of “Israel’s right to defend itself.” Dehumanization is a dangerous tool that has been used throughout history to rationalize hatred and discrimination. When one group is portrayed as subhuman, it becomes easier to oppress and kill them. This tactic has been cruelly wielded against my Jewish community in Ethiopia, where some people still believe that we turn into hyenas at night.
As a birth worker, I have learned that every child deserves a safe and nurturing environment. This commitment extends beyond the womb; it encompasses the right of all children to grow up in a world free from fear, violence and harm. It is our moral duty, not just as individuals but as a global society, to stand up and protect these children. We must do so with love, compassion and adherence to international law and human rights principles. To make genuine progress toward peace, we must prioritize the lives of children, as explicitly articulated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Child. Killing children, whether swiftly in direct conflict or slowly through the denial of essentials like water, food and health care, is a direct violation of these rights. It is an unacceptable breach of international norms and standards, and it stains the conscience of humanity.
I have no solution for disrupting the trauma of the current humanitarian catastrophe except for love – love for all children.
I have dedicated decades of my life and work to advocating for children’s rights, working alongside families as a birth worker and lactation consultant while addressing systemic issues through the lens of reproductive justice. My commitment to disrupting the cycle of intergenerational trauma is such a core part of my values that for my PhD I am examining the correlation between racism, obstetric violence and disability related outcomes. I have no solution for disrupting the trauma of the current humanitarian catastrophe except for love – love for all children.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is undoubtedly complex, but the path forward is not as convoluted as it may seem. The solution is simple (perhaps too simple for those in power who aim to confuse us): Stop killing children and lead with love for children while upholding their rights under international law. In the birthing world, we often refer to a “knowing” that honours ancestral wisdom. We encourage birthing parents to tap into this knowledge as an anchor to navigate difficult passages and be in sync with their suffering. I ask: What is your knowing when it involves the killing of children?
I understand why some might hesitate to act. I myself hesitated when asked to sign the open letter organized by a group of Jewish Canadians calling for a ceasefire. It comes from a place of vigilance, not due to the content but because of the fear of potential harm from white supremacists and antisemites. When my body asked that I pause before signing, I found myself honouring the ancestral knowledge of fear, of tears delicately held back and of the pressure on my chest that allows only shallow breaths to pass.
I honour these visceral responses because the threat posed by white supremacists and antisemites is real. Yet, staying silent is also not an option. So, I choose to honour the teachings of harm reduction based on my lived experience as a Black woman and confront the consequences as they come. I have felt the impact of hate, and I have known the power of love. I unapologetically choose love. Love holds the strongest capacity for exponential healing and transformative power.