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Fearing for my life, I mourn for Gaza

Screw justice, I want mercy, when we look into each other’s eyes and want to give to each other
A Palestinian woman holding her national flag looks at clashes with Israeli forces near the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel east of Gaza City on May 14, 2018 (AFP/Mahmud Hams)
A Palestinian woman holding her national flag looks at clashes with Israeli forces near the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel east of Gaza City on May 14, 2018 (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

Rarely have I felt so conflicted:

My friends have posted about Israel’s right to defend its borders, and I agree.

My friends have posted angry words about Israel’s actions in Gaza, and I agree: I agree that it is tragic that so many Palestinians have died; I agree that there must be an inquiry into Israeli actions in Gaza (though I don’t trust the UN to be unbiased and am in favor of an internal Israeli review). I agree that there must be another way.

But I have no idea what the heck that way is.

Because I’m sitting here in Jerusalem, knowing that if those protesters break through the fence, it will be the beginning of a wave of angry people running across the border. Tens of thousands of people in a way that the country cannot handle — and I know that some of them want to kill me, and some of them have weapons. I know that some of them are affiliated with terrorist organizations dedicated to Israel’s destruction.

Gaza is experiencing a humanitarian crisis. Israel, the PA, Hamas, Egypt, and the international community all share some of the blame, and I can’t figure out who is most responsible. I don’t really care — what I care about is that people are dying, and that people are living without adequate food, electricity, or potable drinking water. I initially supported the protests, because I believe in the right to protest peacefully, and because I can’t blame the Gazans for wanting to enter Israel, which must seem like a Garden of Eden right across the border. But then the protests turned violent. Terrorists joined the innocent protesters, knowing that if Israel opened fire, it would not only play badly to the media, but also further incite Palestinian rage.

These extremists accomplished their goal. Both sides are becoming more entrenched, and people are dying. The terrorists’ greatest fear is that we’ll be able to talk to each other, because the minute that happens, we’ll realize that the extremists lied. There is no Us and Them — there is only  a We, fated to share this land together; and in order to thrive, we must care about each other, because part of thriving means having a moral society.

I know that there are Palestinians bent on my destruction. But I also know that there are Palestinians who want to live in peace, even if sometimes their community coerces them into silence.

I see people from Gaza posting horrible images, and people from Israel posting that those images are false. I don’t always know who to believe, but I do know that this profound divide, where each side can no longer agree on the basic facts, leaves me profoundly scared for our future. How can we make peace, or try to make amends for the past, when we can’t even agree what the past is?

Screw justice. I want mercy, the moment when we look into each other’s eyes and want to give to each other. But we can only allow ourselves to do that when we feel secure — and right now, both sides are afraid of dying. Ironically, being guided by this fear makes it more difficult to pursue a long-term solution to the conflict, which would be the only true solution to our fear.

So I sit here tonight, mourning the deaths in Gaza. And I sit here tonight, terrified for my life if the protests succeed and Israel’s borders are infiltrated.

May He who makes peace From His heights, bring peace upon us, and upon all of Israel, Amen.

About the Author
Shayna Abramson, a part-Brazilian native Manhattanite, studied History and Jewish Studies at Johns Hopkins University before moving to Jerusalem. She has also spent some time studying Torah at the Drisha Institute in Manhattan, and has a passion for soccer and poetry.
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