Maybe it’s the change of seasons with the rain and the overcast skies that often come with it. Or maybe it’s our surreal existence over the past seven weeks. We are still going about our lives while our soldiers are risking theirs less than a two-hour drive away. Whatever it is, we are reaching the war weary phase of the campaign. Yes, wars can go on for years. The Arab-Byzantine War lasted 421 years. The Crusades lasted for 604. It’s not impossible. We know that. However, we hope it’s improbable.
So why do we have such mixed emotions about this four-day ceasefire?
This war began in 1987 when Hamas was founded and quickly stated that its ultimate objective was world domination, beginning with the complete obliteration of Israel and the Jews.
Here’s the cynics take on what has happened during the past 27 years:
- Some Islamic group with a full warehouse of short and medium range missiles wanted to deplete its stockpile to make room for the newest missiles on the Arab black market, so they began arbitrarily firing missiles into Israel every few days.
- At some point Israel said “ENOUGH!” and sent planes to drop some larger explosives and complete a few targeted hits to remind the Arabs in Gaza that we could not be pushed around.
- Not to be outdone, the Arabs in Gaza, then ratcheted it up a level by ramping up their war rhetoric and sending a few more missiles.
- Israel then called up its reserves and placed a lot of them alongside its regular soldiers near the border with Gaza.
- And so began the biennial routine of three or four weeks of all-out fighting until a western superpower imposed enough pressure on Israel to force us to stop for the sake of the inaccurately named “Palestinian “ people.
- Hamas then spent the next two-year break restocking its armory and fine-tuning its world domination plan.
Here’s the joke though. Each time the West and its alliance partners in the Middle East negotiated a ceasefire, they supposedly believed it was going to be for the last time. At least in public they spoke about how the Middle East was ready for peace. For some reason they refused to acknowledge that Hamas never wanted peace or a new friendly neighbour to chew the fat with over the fence. In all these years they have never – not once – said they wanted peace. They did not want to share a cup of flour or territory. That should not have come as a big surprise since they have clearly stated their long-term goals many times since 1987.
That’s why most Israelis today fully understand why we can’t stop now. The job has to be completed if we are ever going to break this pointless cycle. We all want our soldiers to come home and get on with their lives, but as painful as this sacrifice is, we also know that we must finish it.
It’s not war fatigue exactly. It’s the mental exhaustion of worrying day in and day out. When the first of the winter rains began in earnest a few days ago, many people’s first thought was ‘is this going to help our soldiers or hinder them?’ And my own personal worry “are they (the soldiers) warm and dry or trying to do their already challenging jobs while cold and wet, and visually impaired? Just typing those words gives me a knot in my stomach.
Today supposedly brings the beginning of a four-day ceasefire. As recently as this morning Hamas was firing rockets into Israel. Doesn’t sound like a ceasefire. And after many delays and postponements all of Israel is waiting for the return of 15 hostages. It doesn’t seem prudent to hold one’s breath.
It’s a peculiar thing. One of the first hard lessons you learn when you come to live in Israel is that Israelis do not pray for peace. We want it but we weren’t born yesterday. We pray for quiet. That’s not a big ask. And we are tired of waiting for it.