A Day Engraved In My Heart

By Romy McCorquodale, Year 12 student, Emanuel School

October 7th is a day engraved in my heart and the hearts of the Jewish community. 

A day we will never forget. 

I was on my way home from a friend’s house in the evening when messages about Israel at war began to appear on my phone. I did not realise this was a situation, unlike anything I had ever encountered. Since October 7, antisemitism in Australia has increased by almost 500%. 

Growing up in a Jewish school surrounded by a Jewish community, I had rarely encountered any form of antisemitism before. I had grown up thinking Australia was a safe place for Jews, a place for us to be ourselves. But the effects of October 7 and the shameful events at the Opera House on October 9 have made me, for the first time in my life, fear calling myself a Jew. 

I remember waking up on October 10, my social media swarmed with posts reporting that Palestinian supporters in Sydney had gathered at the Opera House chanting “Gas the Jews, Gas the Jews”. As the grandchild of a Holocaust survivor, it was particularly shocking to me. More confronting was the majority of the comments that supported these hateful acts. 

I grew up hearing the promise of “never again”, but it was happening again. During that moment, I felt so alone, hopeless. I feared going to School that day, as I worried the pro-Palestinian supporters would harass us. But then I received an email from my School informing all the students that daily lunchtime discussions would be held. These discussions allowed us to openly talk about our feelings and be supported by the School and our Community. This email reminded me how important it was, now more than ever, to come together as a community, and show people that we are not alone. Now wasn’t the time to shy away and be silent; it was the time to stand up and be strong, support Israel and support others in the community. 

In the following week, several students from Emanuel School were scheduled to participate in a friendly Interfaith cultural debate and interchange with students from other faith-based schools. We were immediately fearful that we would encounter antisemitism, and we were grateful when the organisers assured us this would not occur. The schools and the students were respectful and did not mention current affairs negatively. However, a Green’s senator who was on a panel to judge the debates made comments that the media (at the time) were favouring the Israeli perspective and not giving a fair voice to the Palestinian cause. In addition, an Imam present made virulent mention of a young American Muslim who an “anti-Muslim” citizen stabbed. The massacre in Israel was being whitewashed – and we felt intimidated and marginalised. 

That Friday, I went to Shul with my parents and services were full. Throughout the week, I had been feeling so overwhelmed, stressing about the safety of my family in Israel, worrying about all the possible outcomes of the war and panicking every time I heard a rise in the known hostage count or another death occurring. After the communal prayers and the Rabbi’s sermon, I no longer felt overwhelmed and isolated. I felt that I wasn’t alone, that everyone around me was going through similar experiences, worrying about similar outcomes. Instead of silently hurting by myself, I was able to immerse myself in our Jewish community, celebrating our beliefs together and grieving those lost, safe from judgement. Realising that my School and Jewish community were there to support me even though I wasn’t the one fearing for my life in Israel made me once again feel safe in Australia, in my community for now. 

We live in Australia, which is free of conflict today. That is worth protecting. I hope we can return to a time of not being fearful and intimidated to show our Jewish identity. And I deeply hope for the return of the hostages and a new era of peace and stability in Israel. 

Am Yisrael Chai!