Christian Ulvert: Resilience in the face of terror and pain

Israel Palestinians
War is bloody, war is heartbreaking, and worse, it’s deadly.

As we touched down my heart started racing.

The flight attendant announced, “Welcome to Israel. We continue to pray for the safe release of the hostages and the continued safety for Israel.”

The words hit hard as reality set in that the next week will be tough, thought-provoking, and challenging.

After a full week traversing Israel from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv to Sderot in southern Israel, bordered by Gaza, to Magdala in northern Israel, near the border with Lebanon and Syria, I can say the trip was more than challenging and thought-provoking; it was transformational.

We heard from military leaders who briefed us on the War and its challenges, NGOs, community leaders, survivors of Oct. 7, and Palestinian and Arab-Israeli leaders. There was one speaker in particular who verbalized my feelings.

She shared, “War is brutal, it’s heart-wrenching, and innocent lives pay the ultimate price, yet we must fight for peace because Israelis and Palestinians deserve to coexist in harmony and safety.”

Indeed, this is exactly how I feel because the loss of innocent lives tears my heart apart.

But we cannot lose sight and must never ever forget that Hamas, a brutal terrorist organization chose on Oct. 7, 2023, to launch the deadliest attack on Israel and the Jewish people since the Holocaust.

They targeted without care innocent civilian killing more than 1,100 individuals.

So many in the media quickly forget to share that it’s been 272 days since Hamas took 250 hostages, with 120 still held captive, including an 8-month-old baby, yes, a baby, living without his parents somewhere in Gaza.

So, when heartbreaking images come on the screen of the price of war, they should also show the image of the then 8-month-old being held hostage in Gaza as Israel and the United States work tirelessly to free him and all hostages.

“Human shields” was a recurring theme, and I had not digested what those words truly meant until I was just feet away from the Gaza border. Hamas today controls Gaza, and it comes with a heavy price, paid entirely by innocent Palestinians who also long for peace and safety. But that is their reality and human shields, sadly, is how Hamas sees them as they use residential towers as storage facilities for bombs.

Worse, they turn to civilians to house the hostages, therefore making those civilians agents of terrorism as they knowingly hold captive innocent Israelis and eight Americans.

On Oct. 7, Hamas changed the rules of engagement as this should no longer be viewed and discussed solely as a war based on the religious past and the quest for Jerusalem. Hamas and its leaders have shown they have no heart or care for people or innocent lives, including for the loss of Palestinian lives.

The war waged by Hamas is about the destruction of our democratic values and ending the right for Israel to exist.

A nation that celebrates and hosts one of the world’s largest Pride parades and serves as the only democratic nation in a region that is crucial to the United States’ security.

We also took time to visit Yad Vashem, an architectural fortress that serves as a painful reminder of the evil Jews faced 80 years ago when one man chose to launch one of history’s most troubling periods. For Jewish people, history cannot repeat itself. Genocide occurred because evil was not challenged, and few were willing to stand strong against hate. It took a direct attack on the United States of America for us to aggressively join World War II.

We cannot go back in time to learn why it took years for the United States to confront Hitler and its evil.

Today, we know the consequence of waiting because Hitler’s deliberate and orchestrated efforts to commit genocide against the Jewish people were waged like wildfire until it became uncontrollable and spread across Europe. History must not repeat itself and Israel, the United States and all nations who stand firmly on the side of strong democratic values cannot allow the evils of Hamas and Hezbollah to spread because their mission is no different from Hitler’s. They showed it on Oct. 7 and continue to do so today as they launch missiles across Northern Israel.

War is bloody, war is heartbreaking, and worse, it’s deadly.

Hamas continues to choose to hold hostages as families live in agony praying for the safe release of their loved ones. This is the moment to show unequivocal force to demand that Hamas has but one option if they care about Palestinians- release every single hostage now. Every day that goes by, Hamas is the sole organization responsible for every Palestinian death because the bloodshed could end with Hamas releasing the hostages, yet they choose not to.

Midweek was the hardest for me personally as it was days after the anniversary of my grandmother’s passing. Death was around us; the pain was running through our core, and unimaginable horror was felt as we visited Nachal Oz, one of the Kibbutz’s in Southern Israel attacked on Oct. 7. We heard from its leader who recounted, vividly, the second-by-second experience she endured that bloody day. As I listened with painful agony, imagining what families lived that day, the pain quickly turned into anger as we walked the neighborhood and felt the darkness that overcame the peaceful Kibbutz on Oct. 7.

Tears flowed endlessly because I had never witnessed such a scene. But it would get worse as we visited the Nova Concert site where hundreds of innocent youths were massacred and many taken hostage, so many held today in Gaza. This was a breaking point for me. As I walked the scene alone I was overtaken by emotion and literally got sick to my stomach.

Wednesday evening, as we made our way back to Tel Aviv, I was silent and somber. I went back to the hotel and decided I needed to process all the emotions because what I felt was anger, and I knew this moment required more than anger; we need thoughtfulness. So, I went for a jog on the beautiful boardwalk along the coast of Tel Aviv.

As I jogged over three miles, I paused to FaceTime my husband to share the powerful scene I witnessed.


It was the one word we heard daily, multiple times a day throughout Israel. Israelis are resilient and in the face of darkness and pain, they strive to find light. As I jogged to make sense of what I witnessed earlier, I saw families enjoying the beach, friends playing volleyball, and residents jogging (many much faster than me) alongside each other because terror and war will not stop them from living life. I felt to my very core the resilience of Israel and its people, and it was at that very moment as I FaceTimed with my husband that I recommitted to share every part of our journey and proudly, and loudly say why I stand with Israel and its people because staying silent must never be a choice.

As the trip ended, we enjoyed the closing day on Saturday, the Sabbath. We went to the market in Jerusalem, where we spent a few hours with Arab Israelis, and their shops were open. The conversations were thoughtful as they shared insight on how Oct. 7 impacted their lives. Many felt the pain we all do around the loss of lives. And for them, the economic impact is profound as tourism has come to a screeching halt, so they were most grateful for our willingness to travel to Israel.

During our closing dinner, where we offered final thoughts on the mission trip, I reflected on the night before and the powerful Shabbat dinner hosted by a strong and resilient family whose four adult children have done their tour of duty with the IDF and one on active reserves today. As we ate dinner, the family embraced us with their traditions during Shabbat, each of us sharing a positive moment or lesson encountered during the week. The stories were profound and allowed us to process the trip. As we closed the trip on Saturday night, on my birthday, I was once again reminded of what resilience means and how we lived it for an entire week.

I close with a reflection. War is painful and bloody and must be avoided at all costs because innocent civilians are lost, and generations are forever changed. We live in the United States where we have the freedom to march and speak out and even challenge our government. Sadly, Palestinians cannot do that because they will pay the price with their lives, and that is painful to digest. But it’s their reality and they must fight their own terror as so many across the world have done.

I also know in my own journey, and for millions of LGBT Americans, it’s been the Jewish community, more than any other in our nation, which stood in the face of injustices, marched shoulder to shoulder with us as proud allies as we fought for our rights.

They never bowed to social pressures when confronted with why marriage equality must be the law of the land, but rather joined leaders across the nation in demanding change. This is our moment to unequivocally and without pause confront the evil that challenges the very existence of Jews and Israelis with equal conviction to say we are profoundly and an unapologetic ally of Israel and Jewish people across our world.

I am more so than ever.

We lead by the power of our example and the example of our power! That is America’s history, and it’s being tested like never before. Let’s stand on the right side of history with Israel and show the world once again that our power rests with doing what’s just and right.


Christian Ulvert, president and founder of EDGE Communications, is one of Florida’s top Democratic strategists. Christian was part of a 12-person delegation organized by the American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF), the charitable organization affiliated with AIPAC, traveling to Israel the last week of June to learn firsthand of Israel’s latest challenges and opportunities, and the continued strength between the United States and Israel relations.

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