*video contains recorded music*
As the current war with Gaza drags on, it becomes almost inevitable given the differences in strength between the two combatants, that both world opinion and the Israeli psyche would begin to question how we are conducting our offensive. The rising body count on both sides, with death tolls that differ by a factor of 100 or more, assaults our sense of fair play, as if modern warfare could be placed in a time machine and shipped back to when duels were fought at dawn, adversaries followed strict social conventions, and a true gentleman would merely “pink” an obviously weaker opponent, by causing a minor wound meant more as an embarrassment than as an attempt to maim or kill.
As much as the romantic in me would love to return to a more civilized time of warfare, if such a thing ever truly existed, regrettably, the current situation now consists of periods of “quiet” in which only those unfortunates living near the border of Israel and Gaza face constant attack, alternating with escalating aggression, in which rockets are pointed at Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and now as far north as Haifa. And as this cycle occurs over and over again, we see the embodiment of the definition of insanity: doing the same thing repeatedly, and yet expecting different results.
As the war began, with eyes raw from crying over four dead boys, three Jewish and one Arab, I was unable to see either a way to avoid a military conflict to try and end the attacks on our country, or a path by which hostilities would permanently resolve our problematic relationships with our neighbors in Gaza and the West Bank. The only thing I could do in that moment was write a song to express what I hoped I had in common with those with whom we were going to war: a maternal instinct to protect my children.
My friend Patrick Carrico was kind enough to put my words to music and lent his incredible voice, and our mutual friend Jason Fredric Gilbert made a companion video to try and catch the parallels between our two worlds that seem so far apart. It seems like such a small thing, and of course, it is. But I don’t know what more to do. The message of the song is succinct: I care about your loss and your fear. Others like me care. And we want to hear from the other side that they care about us.
Speaking as a mother, I can see quite clearly why the UN continues to place most of the responsibility for the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians squarely on Israeli shoulders. The job of the United Nations is not, as might be assumed to guarantee fairness. What it opts for is peace, and even more importantly, its corollary: quiet.
After a long day at work, when I drag myself onto the couch for some serious navel gazing, the last thing I want to hear is screaming kids. Despite my good intentions, if during this time I am called upon to negotiate between my 4 year-old and my 10 year-old over some misappropriated trifle or treat, I am overwhelmingly likely to tell the 10 year-old to give in. This is not because I believe that the preschooler is more honest, deserving, or even more downtrodden (although in this particular case, all of those things tend to be true). I just want the fighting over as quickly as possible, and I can pressure (or threaten) one side more than I can influence the other. This is not “right”. But it is reality. And perhaps we can take some meager comfort from being treated as the older sibling.
I am horrified by what is happening in Gaza. Most Israelis are not bloodthirsty monsters, Passover or no, and pictures of children (and women, and elderly, and for that matter, young men) who have been scarred or killed does not cause us to rejoice in the streets. We only want to feel safe, and to come to the negotiation table reasonably assured that the other side won’t try to kill us in our sleep. We have run out of ideas for how to manage a conflict with people who are not only willing to kill us to make their point, but would also be willing to place themselves in situations which are almost inevitably going to lead to massive casualties.
I don’t understand it. Most of my friends don’t understand it. Those who believe they understand despair of any possibility for dialogue. Does it result from a disease which has killed off the moral nerve fibers which usually govern self-preservation, like a leprosy of the soul? Is there anything we could possibly give that would outweigh the siren song of martyrdom?
I long for a resolution in which both of our peoples can live in safety and prosperity, but sometimes it feels like the barriers that separate us are more than just concrete and steel, but have transformed into an entirely different language, for which no universal translator has yet been created.
This why I wrote my song, as an attempt to find some common tongue. If we can be moved by each other’s cries, maybe we could find a way towards a final peace, based on each side wanting to work with the other, and not merely on a desire to stop the bleeding. Because throughout nature, if there is one constant, it is that the cries of all mothers for their wounded children sound very much the same.