And suddenly we have a ceasefire. The sirens have fallen silent, the air is still and life resumes. Bewildered and perplexed, unnerved and untrusting, hopeful and skeptical we have to wonder what just happened. As people emerge slowly and tentatively from the shelters, squinting into the harsh sunlight, peering skyward, we have to wonder if we won or lost, wonder if we have succeeded or failed or if it all was simply a fantastic waste of time, money, emotional energy and precious lives? Are we better off than we were a few months ago and have we gained more than we have lost?
I believe that we lost the war of public opinion. We fought gallantly and with passion. We exposed hypocrisy, uncovered the truth and spread the word as best we could. We took on those guilty of biased reporting and we won many battles. We had some superstars on our team and we assisted them as best we could. We were the soldiers and we fought hard. But we didn’t win. Because the reality is that our numbers are small and the anti-us people are numerous. They have talk show hosts and TV presenters and reporters masquerading objective observers, when nothing could be further from the truth. The momentum to boycott us has gathered force and like it or not we further back in this regard than where we were some months ago.
I believe that we won the war of unity amongst Jews. Sure, we squabble and debate, we hurt and we disappoint. We lambaste each other for our accessory choices but we do so with genuine love and care. Because as we have looked towards the sky to protect ourselves and each other from the physical affront of the rockets, so too have we scanned other directions, in every other sphere to protect our fellow. We are hyper vigilant and we are focused. The distinction between left and right, religious and secular is a secondary focus as we care for each other and for those on the front line. Generation gaps have been bridged as our children at university and schools fight the same prejudice that we do and we are united by a common goal.
I have no idea if we have won the Gazan conflict or not. We know that we have the capability to inflict much greater damage than we have, but we also know that we have not eradicated their ability to fire rockets. We have eliminated most of the terror tunnels and have avoided a massive terrorist attack. But we also know that the Hamas Charter calls for our eradication and I am not sure that anyone really believes that they will now cease to think of ingenious ways to hurt us. We have also lost sons and children and we are heartbroken. We don’t do the “dead baby” count and for us the fact that more Gazan’s have died is not a measure of anything – but given the fact that Gaza was under-mined with tunnels, and they were given warning of every attack, means that no one needed to die on their side of the border.
Not so long ago, the end of a war was cause for a celebration. Famous photos of people dancing in the streets of New York at the end of WWII come to mind as they embraced the return to normality, the return of their boys and husbands and fathers and each other. It was a joy. The stillness felt in Israel today belies this celebration.
We have so much to be proud of and to grateful for. The Iron Dome, the behaviour of the IDF, the low loss of life and damage given the preposterous number of rockets fired at us, the unity, the support of so many Christian groups around the world and of course the fact that it is all over, at least for now. And I guess that that is the very essence and the very difference between this and the end of WWII. Do any of us really believe that the last rocket has been fired, that the last siren has been heard and that we can turn bomb-shelters into dust filled basements? Sadly, I don’t.