Monday. December 25th is Christmas for many of you. For me, it is Monday, the 80th day of the war. As with all Israelis, 80 days of worrying about the hostages. The 80 lonely days on so many levels.
Everything, exactly everything is overwhelming and depressing. But we try to continue to live. Even when people almost all around the world say we have no right to exist.
Today, after my morning coffee, I got some groceries in a small supermarket in central Tel Aviv. One cashier was Jewish, and the other – Arab Muslim. Two women. I assume they have the same health and social insurance, and the same salary (I didn’t ask)… In Gaza, one of them would be dead or in captivity. Just saying… I am sorry to ruin your Holiday season atmosphere, but this crossed my mind, this morning. Especially after seeing constantly on social media and in the international news the ‘Pallywood’ propaganda about “apartheid in Israel”; so far from our reality in Israel, so far from the truth.
This war caught me while I was already traveling abroad. On the Shabbat of the 7th of October, I was up early, and having a bad habit of starting a day by scrolling my phone, I noticed posts about rockets in Tel Aviv. Immediately, I began to contact my friends to check on them. One of the first people was my nearest neighbor. He left a voice message, saying: “It’s bad; it’s really bad. They are inside.” If he said it was “bad” I knew it was very “bad.” Over the eight years of being neighbors, he was always laughing at my fears during sirens; so if he was terrified, I knew the situation in Israel had to be extremely bad.
My other friend, usually very chilled, replied to my text: “It’s horrible!”. The news about the massacre, about the people crying for help, was coming. Still, I could not have imagined the horror that was going on the border with Gaza; the burning of people, rapes, slaughter… No one probably could have imagined the scale of the massacre at the time.
It was still early morning when I posted on my social media that there was a war, that Hamas attacked Israel on the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War.
The rest, all of you know. Or I think you know. Or you think you know.
I am not going to go into a political analysis of why it happened or why, after nearly 3 months this war is still on (and I have no guarantee that at some point, as I am writing it, there won’t be another attack on Tel Aviv, and not having shelter, I will have to run to the staircase); why after such a long time Hamas is still holding Israeli civilians, including babies and children, there are more qualified people to explain it. If anyone can. I want to write about the terrible loneliness that we, as Jews and Israelis, have faced since the October 7th.
In the first few days or weeks of the war (the time loop feels blurry), I was really in fear that Israel, the state, would not survive. And yet, with the explosion of antisemitism all over the world it felt as if these people were only waiting for a trigger for a long time. One of these days, I told my friend: “If there would not be Israel, they would put us strait to gas.” And I meant it.
But slowly over the fear of hatred and violence, came something more painful: sadness and loneliness caused by the silence and indifference of people I considered friends. And the attempt to justify what the terrorists of Hamas did on the 7th of October was something I couldn’t (and still can’t) handle.
I was stuck abroad. There were no planes back for over a month. I was glued to my phone 24/7, learning quickly about my friend’s 22-year-old son and my other friend’s 32-year-old nephew, both murdered by Hamas at the party [Nova Festival]; about my friend’s son, who managed to escape and survived miraculously walking for four hours after his car was shot. Each day, I was getting pieces of information about my Israeli friends, their children, and my neighbors being called up… And at the same time, some of my longtime friends “couldn’t take sides.” It hurt! I responded to this once that war is not like a divorce when one can stay friends with two sides (exes); you must choose one side. For me, condemning terrorism was simple and obvious. Unfortunately, for many people, this was not.
Acts of solidarity with Israel, not saying that they don’t exist, but are rare. Something so clear on 9/11, became not that clear on 10/7. While adding Ukrainian flags to Facebook profile pictures when the country was attacked by Russia was obvious to most of us (including myself), Israeli flags appeared only on a few pictures of my non-Jewish friends. These little symbols of solidarity matter, and their lack even more.
Some of my friends wrote to me right the way on the 7th or 8th of October, to check on me, if I was alive, to show their support. I highly appreciated it, but I must admit, that the silence of the others, hurt. Something that should have been so natural, during the last months became an exclusive act. Many of my acquaintances, before the war, didn’t hesitate to contact me with various requests of advice before traveling to Israel, or distant friends who were not really in my life, but when they visited Israel we met, and I showed them my city, now most of them were silent. Even some of my, as I thought close friends for years, “were busy”… They didn’t write a word.
I began to feel what my family must have felt in the 1940s.
But putting my person aside. Yes, I am disappointed; for two months I felt profound loneliness and sadness on a personal level, and as an Israeli, now there are moments when I feel bitterness and anger. Anger towards feminists all over the world, who are silent about rapes committed on Israeli women and girls by Hamas; towards LGBTQ+ activists, who each June visited Tel Aviv to participate in the happiest Love Pride, they could find, and now they are silent or stand against Israel. It’s mind-blowing! Impossible to comprehend! They abandoned Israel just like that.
Today is the 80th day of the war. It’s winter in Israel, some days are rainy and cold, and for 80 days somewhere there, little Israeli children kidnapped by Hamas are longing for their moms. We keep asking: “Where is the Red Cross?”
Silence, a painful silence.
I asked my Jewish friend in Israel, who has been very active in promoting Palestinian Arabs for years, how many of them contacted him when the war erupted. He replied three. Not much. Not much.
Arabs living in Israel, Israeli Arabs who are our neighbors, who sell vegetables at the shuk [market]; who work in pharmacies, supermarkets, governmental offices, Knesset, musicians, artists, actors… The simple people whom I meet in Israel every day and I ask about their health, parents, congratulate on their weddings…, what do they think during the war? I want to believe they are against acts of terror, but the residents of Kibbutz Be’eri, who were actively involved in the peace process, and believed in coexistence, nevertheless were brutally killed on October 7th.
So how can we know who, here in Israel, silently hopes for Hamas to win, and wants the map of this tiny piece of land will be all in all “green”, just like a magnet I saw in a souvenir shop in the Old City of Jerusalem, on the Arab suk, a few years ago?
Do they want Israel to be wiped off the map? Do you? Can you justify kidnapping babies and holocaust survivors who maybe they are the age of your parents and grandparents? Can you “find a context” to explain the reasons for rape? Could you, if it was done to your daughter? Could you not defend your country, your family, or your friends if they were brutally attacked? Would you feel lonely, if the whole world would debate whether or not you have a right to exist? My questions can go endlessly.
Friends of Israel, I know you exist. Please, stop being busy like 80 years ago. Speak up. Don’t let people in Israel feel alone anymore, don’t let your Jewish friends feel in danger. We cannot do it all over again.
From Israel, where he, who you celebrate today, was born.