A victory. That’s what both Israel and Hamas called this summer’s war. I have never questioned winning before. Not in a race, not in a competition, not even in war. Yet, I feel like a loser. I am on Israel’s side, but I am also compassionate to the cause of the Palestinian people, so, for me, there is no pride in this “victory”. When I think back to the war, I think of death. I will not feel victorious over the loss of human life, and so many lives were lost.
I was in Tel Aviv during the war. I experienced a small part of the terror, Hamas inflicted on Israel. So, I know what it meant to have destroyed so many of their terror tunnels and missiles. I am proud of the army that protected the country I love, that I was in. They did so unselfishly and at great personal cost. I would never belittle their triumphs.
But it worries me that this summer was over-simplified into a win and lose situation. I would expect this from Hamas, they don’t value life, they have no soul. But I expect more from Israel. I have seen its soul. I have witnessed its appreciation for people’s lives, for my life. So in the fight against terrorism, I don’t question that Israel had a small, but important victory, it’s just that I can’t stop thinking about what Israel lost.
Who quantifies the death and destruction left in the wake of war and decides who wins and loses?
It seems to me that any residual hope for peace was lost in the rising death toll in Gaza and the number of rocket attacks in Israel. That the only “victory” of this war was a much deeper and uglier distrust between peoples who should be partners in peace. Is this a victory worth celebrating?
Hamas may believe they won this war. That they were victorious in hurting Israel, and to some extent they were, but only at the huge cost of Palestinian lives, and is that really a victory? When Hamas took to celebrating on the ruins that were once Gaza’s schools, hospitals, and homes, surely the Palestinians couldn’t have felt like winners.
When our soldiers went into Gaza, I did not feel victorious. I felt scared. I remember the anxiety of looking through the list of soldiers who died, like it was yesterday. What if I recognised a name? What if it was someone I knew? I also remember the guilt-ridden relief of not being able to recognise any of them, and then the almost instant wave of sadness that followed. It was, after all, so many of the young Israelis I had partied with mere weeks before, who were in Gaza. They weren’t allowed to be carefree and irresponsible anymore.
It is the fear I heard in his voice, and the trauma I saw in his eyes before he was called back to service in Gaza, that I remember most clearly about one of my friends. Not his wonderful sense of humour, or the fun we had together. He is only a few years older than me, but he is now ‘older’ in a way I hope I never have to be.
How does one even begin to process the deaths of so many in Gaza? I felt no pain over the loss of Hamas Operatives, who were terrorizing Israel, but there were so many Gazans who died; true they were victims of the Hamas regime but it was our bombs and rockets which killed them. Some of them were children. They were at home, at school, on the beach. They were the collateral damage. I will never know them in any other way than casualties of war.
Should I feel victorious over this loss?
And now? Months later, is this what victory looks like?
I don’t think any country has ever consumed me as wholly as Israel does, so I have never dreaded reading news about Israel as much as I do now. What next? I worry, another terror attack? How many more people will die? How many more futures will be denied?
The Temple Mount; the place I learnt about for all those years in Jewish studies class, terrifies me. It never used to, but it does now. Jerusalem scares me.
The Israeli Government is either in a period of crisis or dealing with an endless stream of crises. Israel’s international relationships are filled with animosity and suspicion and Israel is in a vicious war of words with the Palestinian leaders. Surely, this is not the aftermath of a victory
Where is the victory in Gaza’s potential lying under the rubble and ruin of the war? What is the victory in Anti- Zionism being unashamedly popular throughout Europe?
When I dwell on all of this, I don’t feel victorious, I feel desperate.
Maybe if both sides strip themselves of their pride, they will acknowledge this war for what it really was, a defeat. They will be able to look into each other’s eyes, and comprehend just how much has been lost in the fight to be victorious. Perhaps then, it won’t be about winning and losing and we will all be able to take steps towards a real victory, co-existence.