Gaza War of 2023, Day 30

It’s 3:45am and I’m at Ben Gurion airport with plenty of time to write something because I have lots of extra time. The airport is weirdly empty. Not surprising. All the tourists are gone, not many people are going on vacation. I’m flying to Athens on El Al and then switching to United for the rest of the journey back to the US.

I’m normally a cheerful, optimistic person. I find myself feeling sad a much higher percentage of the time than I am used to. It’s like being in mourning, even though I didn’t personally lose anyone. It is being in mourning. Mourning not only for the over 1,400 of our people who were murdered and butchered. Mourning too for children in Gaza who are dying because of Hamas’s callousness, mourning for our lost sense of security, mourning for fear we do not have a long term answer. We cannot simply bomb our way to peace. Yes, we can stop Hamas’s ability to harm us. For now. Which we need to do. But without some political solution to the conflict, we’ll have quiet for maybe a decade and then we’ll be fighting Hamas 2. Desperation and extremism don’t get extinguished by bombs. The opposite.

Something I read reinforces that. There is (or was – I can’t find it now) a Facebook page called “Across the Wall” that brought stories of people living in Gaza to Israelis (translated into Hebrew). It was a joint initiative between an Israeli journalist and a Palestinian journalist in Gaza. For most Israelis Gaza is as unknown as the bottom of the ocean. Someone asked the Palestinian co-founder of the site, Ahmed Alnaouq, why he doesn’t condemn Hamas. His reply:

When I refuse to say a word about Hamas, it’s because I refuse to be dehumanized and to be considered collateral damage, like all the others who didn’t deserve to be killed but were killed.

Think about it. Calling people “collateral damage” does dehumanize them. Makes them sound disposable somehow. I can understand why someone would not to be considered that way. There’s greater dignity in being a martyr, in dying for a cause, than there is simply being caught in a crossfire. 23 members of that journalists family were killed in an Israeli air strike.

Several things and stories that have disturbed me in the last few days.

I’ve been reading about witch hunts against Israeli Arabs. Some people have been interrogated, detained, suspended from their jobs or even fired for posting relatively mild things to social media that express concern for people in Gaza. Nothing supporting Hamas explicitly, God forbid, just stuff about how terrible the suffering of the children in Gaza is. I could have posted some of those kind of comments. It’s crazy. We don’t need to make all of the Israeli Arabs into our enemies. But there is tension; I felt a little nervous getting into a cab with an Arab driver this morning, and I never felt that way before.

There is so much pain and trauma right now. One of my daughters has a friend whose job has been collecting bodies and body parts from people murdered by Hamas so the remains can be identified. A 22-year-old girl seeing things no one should ever have to see. A friend of my son-in-law was in Gaza when an officer standing next to him was shot in the head and killed by a sniper. How do you get over things like that?

By the end of today I’ll be back in America, and can’t help but think how weird that’s going to be for me, with my head and heart still here in Israel, while for everyone else around me it’s just life as usual, there’s another war on the other side of the planet, but for the average non-Jewish American I’m sure it doesn’t impact their life much.


Barry Leff

Rabbi Barry (Baruch) Leff is a dual Israeli-American business executive, teacher, speaker and writer who divides his time between Israel and the US.

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