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Orna Raz

Day 91 Of The War: We Are In Limbo

The hostages are unable to move or breathe. Courtesy Zeev Engelmayer Shoske
The hostages are unable to move or breathe. Courtesy Zeev Engelmayer Shoske

There are times when life seems to stand still, leaving me feeling directionless. When I seek a reference point from my own experiences, it conjures almost forgotten memories. The first that comes to mind is somewhat comical: during my 11th grade,  there was a prolonged teachers’ strike.  Suddenly, school ceased, leaving us with plenty of time and still unable to make any plans because we had no idea when school would resume. The second time was much more profound, after my husband died  my  world collapsed, and I had no idea how to proceed.  It took me quite a long time to be able to envision any kind of a future. And then of course there was Covid-19 that suddenly emerged, and for a long time we weren’t even sure that there would be a future. 

I feel that in Israel right now, we are in a state of limbo. It is impossible to sustain the initial commitment that we at the beginning of the war that followed such an unfathomable massacre . The energy we possessed even a month ago diminishes with each passing day of fighting, when the hostages remain in Gaza (90 days as of yesterday), and evacuees, either homeless refugees or unable to return due to their towns turning into war zones, face uncertain realities.

Yet, amidst this bleakness and despondency, there are glimmers of hope. Earlier this week, Kibbutz Nir Oz, where many members were slaughtered on October 7th, and others taken hostage and still in Gaza, relocated from Hotel Yam Suf in Eilat to the southern town of Kiryat Gat. The people of Kiryat Gat wholeheartedly welcomed the evacuees. https://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog_entry/kibbutz-nir-oz-residents-receive-rock-star-welcome-upon-arrival-at-temporary-lodging-in-kiryat-gat/In normal circumstances, this act wouldn’t be unusual – supporting fellow human beings, especially when they’ve endured so much. However, in recent years Netanyahu and his allies incited and caused division between the “privileged” kibbutzim and the “Mizrahi” peripheral towns and it resulted in an antipathy and a lot of tension. Sadly, it took a war to remind people that they were all victims of demagogues who exploited this division. Until now Netanyahu hasn’t found the time or humanity to empathize with the Kibbutzim who suffered most on October 7th; thankfully, ordinary people have consistently stood by them. Speaking of limbo, there’s a special place in hell for people like Netanyahu.

I asked artist Zeev Engelmayer (Shoske), who vividly documents and interprets the situation through his remarkable art, which of his daily “postcards” (small depiction of the hostages’ situation) would  capture the feeling of limbo that we’re currently in, unsure of our position or what the future holds. Graciously he sent me a painting showing the hostages confined in glass jars, unable to move or breathe freely. Engelmayer, an expert in the human psyche, implies that not only the kidnapped are trapped: we all are.

About the Author
I have a PhD in English literature from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and I usually write about issues concerning women, literature, culture and society. I lived in the US for 15 years (between 1979-1994). I am widow and in March 2016 started a support/growth Facebook group for widows: "Widows Move On." In October 2017 I started a Facebook group for Older and Experienced Feminists. .
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