Martina Lichtman

Bear with me, please!

Israeli flag on Ben Zion Boulevard, Tel Aviv (Photo by the author)

Israel. Most people are aware of the complex nature of this land. It probably has experienced more in a few decades than other countries in their entire histories. Throughout its existence, it has been facing existential threats and, at times, made mistakes in addressing them. It is currently ruled by a decidedly right-wing government.

That’s one facet of the coin.

The other side is what I love ever since I live here: an outstandingly beautiful, infinitely enchanting and wonderfully charming country. Incredibly warm-hearted, cheerful people who navigate life with humor, resilience and hands-on pragmatism. A nation where community and togetherness always come first, a place where solutions are found for every problem, and where people drop everything to help whomever is in need.

Israel is a land where hundreds of thousands have dedicated themselves to campaigning for peace and reconciliation for years and decades, extending countless efforts and initiatives to the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. Israelis cherish their country, not out of arrogant nationalism, but because no matter how successful and grounded they are in life, there’s always the gloomy awareness of not having any other place in the world.

It is this other side of the coin that sadly, many people fail to see, even
(or especially) now.

The extent of Hamas’s attacks, extensively documented by the terrorists themselves, is still met with skepticism or outright denial. Media outlets, both in Germany and worldwide, have been hesitant to report the horrifying details from images and videos shown to them, for example in a closed-door screening for hundreds of foreign journalists. Instead, they often appear to give more credence to Hamas’s statements than to the IDF’s reports. Wherever I look, different standards are applied to Israel than to other countries.

Take Kiev, for instance; it faces little pressure to agree to ceasefires or peace negotiations for humanitarian reasons. Israel, however, is pushed in that direction, even though it is not confronting an enemy army like Ukraine; but an inhuman terrorist organization that does not give a *** for the humanitarian plight of its own people. Hamas has conducted an unparalleled massacre and already threatens to do the same again; proudly accepting “martyr deaths” among its own civilians for that goal.

For over a month, this terrorist group has relentlessly and indiscriminately launched rockets at Israeli towns and villages, with the sole aim of causing death and destruction. My daily routine involves seeking refuge in our shelter, in case the Iron Dome misses a rocket heading for our house. Every day, I am confronted with heartbreaking stories about the abducted, the murdered, and the fallen. I’ve cried more in the past five weeks than in the last decade.

For over a month, I have experienced firsthand what many Jews and Israelis have felt throughout their lives. It’s an experience I would have gladly done without. It leaves me speechless to see my Israeli friends sad and crestfallen, and to hear phrases like, “What have we done to the world?”

To this world, where unsettling and frightening demonstrations are taking place in Washington, London, Paris, or Berlin. Tens of thousands shouting anti-Israel slogans, conjuring up a new intifada and the destruction of Israel, denying or glorifying the deeds of Hamas, while spreading lies and incitement about the events in Gaza. Blatant threats are made against Jews and Israelis around the world. Houses are marked with Stars of David. Synagogues and embassies and anything looking remotely Jewish is under the threat of attacks. The atmosphere is so charged that the Foreign Ministry has issued a global travel warning for Israelis.

While I agonize over the images from Gaza, the devastation, and the civilian casualties, I am not less tormented by the short-sightedness of many beyond Israel’s borders, who already forgot or deliberately ignore what triggered this war. Who refuse to see and acknowledge that Hamas is committing multiple crimes against humanity and violating international law, by brutally torturing and murdering Israeli civilians, by cynically using its own population as human shields, and by explicitly pursuing the destruction of Israel.

Just a few months ago, Hamas released videos of summer camps for children, where five-year-olds were taught how to shoot guns and die as “martyrs”. EU-funded UNRWA schoolbooks in the West Bank indoctrinate children that Jews must be killed.

Since October 7th, this deep-seated Jew-hatred has spread like fire around the world, fueling the flames of anti-Semitism as it moved along. Yet, many people in Germany and elsewhere at best seem irritated by these events, viewing them as Israel’s trouble yet again dominating the evening news, while thinking or saying out lout, “Yes, BUT…”.

Would this attack have never happened if the Oslo Accords had succeeded? If there were two states today? To me, Hamas’s terror is unrelated to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. October 7th was nothing less than a breach of civilization, committed by an organization that has never sought peace with Israel, never desired two states. Hamas’s goal is one state only, a radical Islamic theocracy, a Palestine governed by Sharia law. Is this also what those who applaud or defend Hamas’s atrocities desire?

To me, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot serve as a backdrop (and therefore, ultimately, as a justification) for the systematic and cruel mowing down of young people with machine guns, the brutal raping of women and young girls – sometimes, it seems, after murdering them. The severing of people’s arms and legs, mutilating genitals, gouging eyes from their sockets. The beheading with knives, spades, axes, even of toddlers and children. The slamming of babies against walls and onto floors. The burning alive of small children, teenagers, and entire families, sometimes after being tied together with cables or metal wires.

Houses were burned to the ground or destroyed by grenades, rendering scores of families homeless (while tens of thousands are being temporarily displaced due to the ongoing rocket and grenade attacks).

In many cases, these acts were live-streamed by the terrorists on the internet, sometimes via the victims’ own social media accounts, forcing their friends and families to witness the horrific deeds.

In addition, captured by journalists and surveillance cameras, hundreds of Gazan civilians also entered Israel alongside the terrorists, participated in kidnappings and stole what they could from houses and barns. Thousands more cheered on the roadsides in Gaza, mocking the kidnapped and spitting on the corpses.

And yet, people here are not being overwhelmed by hatred or fear. Instead, I see so much of the Israel I love. People stand up for one another in solidarity and determination. Tens of thousands of volunteers coordinate donations of money and goods, prepare meals, harvest fruit and vegetables, look after children, care for abandoned animals, and offer support with authorities.

An end to this devastating war seems a long way off, and it is unclear what perspectives the future may hold – for Gaza, the West Bank, and Israel.

While politicians argue, and extreme voices continue to make themselves heard, people here in Israel can only hope that the future will also be marked by reconciliation, advocacy and understanding. We remain infinitely grateful for anyone reaching out, showing empathy and solidarity, even when the situation is complicated and confusing. We are thankful for any message that does not contain doubt or disagreement between the lines, and for questions that show a real interest in our experiences and opinions. We are glad when people care about the other side of the coin.

The citizens of most European countries are fortunate not to know war from their own experience. Let us hope that everyone can continue to feel safe in Europe, and that the violence and hostility of extremist ideologies, such as that of Hamas, will not claim more victims on a wider scale. I am sure that many people share this hope, and are committed AGAINST hatred, racism, exclusion and extremism, and FOR understanding, equality, and sensitivity.

If only it was natural that this understanding and empathy also included Israel.

About the Author
German born Martina Lichtman is a freelance business consultant for cross-cultural marketing and communications. Previously, she held various positions in business development and marketing in the hospitality and the security printing industries. Martina is passionate about writing, traveling, and Israel.
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