It almost happened.
Like it did in the last one, and the one before that: in the churning pool of terrible fear, heartbreak and great anger, I was almost swept away. The missiles raining down on us for years; the tunnels filled with enemies like inventions of a fervid nightmare; the soldiers, some of whom were still finishing high school and dreaming of futures not six months ago, now asked to write letters of parting before the battle in case they don’t return. This country eats its young.
But I will not be swept away by it.
I don’t believe in this Justified War. It is a war bred of our failure to concur our fear of the inevitable: no, not the religious Armageddon of our childhood stories, but of change. A profound change that will render this landscape anew, making this reality of conflict a thing of the past. A change after which future generations will look at us with kindness in their eyes, as we look today at those who suffered the Great War.
That is, if we let them; if we don’t destroy the house we built for them. Because we are afraid of all that this change asks of us: that we let go, that we give others the stage, that we believe in a different future and embrace the unknown. “I will always be on your side,” my beloved Father said to me once, “until you have kids. Then I’ll be on theirs.” We must find the courage to move on, to release our terrible grip, to let the new generation have its moment in the sun. We must find the courage to allow this country its future.
This Justified War is a thing of the past. These rockets and tunnels, this talk of concurring and annihilating, this hatred and idolizing of soldiers as we send them deeper into the darkness: the generation of our future, our artists, writers, doctors, and teachers, our future Nobel winners, builders and love-filled parents. And on the way to war we ask them: “Are you motivated?”
The young cannot yet comprehend a change of this magnitude. They comprehend life. They are forming into their future self. They should not be the ones to console us with their courage; we should be the ones to console them with our vision.
We have, through the hardest work, sacrifice and some luck, reached a place of power and grace. We are the strongest in our region: the strongest economy, the strongest society, and the strongest army. We are stable, our foundations strong, our identity deep, and our will unbreakable. It is time for us to take this country into its next chapter. To be the bridge between the days of chaos and great danger, which were the lot of our grandparents and parents, through our own days of localized smaller pain-filled conflicts, to the calmer future that is the fruit we bear for our children. It is time to let go our fear and lead, beyond these waves of conflict, to quieter waters.
We may find the other side unprepared; still we must lead, believing in our path, in our ability to manifest a new reality.
Do we believe? How strongly do we believe? Look at those who draw us into this war: a terrorist organization, a thing of the past, a group that is stuck in the ideology of destruction, separation and violence, a pariah in this modern world. Like a straggling band of misfits, late to a party, comes Hamas. On the smallest piece of land, between a country and a desert, they try and fit their rockets and hate-filled rhetoric, burrow attack tunnels and dream of dust-filled glory. They subjugate their own people through violence and terror. They have no place in the future and they know it; they must lay down their weapons and they know that as well. It will be the end of their chapter as a militant terror group, it will be their change, and they are afraid. They are failing, first themselves and then their people. Seeing their brothers in the West Bank on a difficult but more successful road they hug their rockets closer and spew forth their old lines of hatred and accusation, at evil Israel and the evil West. They hope for regional upheaval and condemn their people to suffering and death. And what should we do? Should we lead or should we follow? Do we accept their hand and descend with them into our own darkness?
Because we too have a darkness- one that fears all Arabs, that fears all people, that hates, and even draws lines between us. A darkness that sees every battle, even one over tunnels and rockets, as a battle for our very existence; one that sends us to our swords, convinces us that our successes are a mirage, that this country stands not on columns but on stilts, and that in spite of our strength we are forever weak and vulnerable; a darkness that turns to our young, our future, and sends them to war and heartbreak.
These are difficult days. Hamas have chosen their path of destruction. What do we choose?
Because like it or not, we have succeeded: we are no longer the weak Jew in the shtetl. We are the regional power; we are a successful democracy and fruitful nation. And Hamas is neither the armadas of Egypt or the combined strength of the Arab League. It does not pose an existential threat to our country but it could, if we are not careful, make us stray from our path and fall into its rabbit hole
– and another generation will be lost.
Should we not lead this region? Embrace the change and let go the fear, let go the past. Bring things to where we believe they should be. Use our position to push for Hamas’s defanging with local and international pressure, end the siege, and end the occupation. Make agreements with our enemies, draw new borders and herald a new era. Turn our face from the demons of our past and look to the dreams of our future. Watch as our children take the stage and become what they are meant to be.
We are strong enough for this, and it is time. It will not be easy, there will be setbacks, disappointments, and sacrifices, but we can do it. It is both our right and our responsibility.
I don’t believe in this Justified Wars because I believe in our true strength. Because I believe this is not a dream. And because I believe in us.