It is unbearably, oppressively hot here in Jerusalem, as it has been for weeks. And there is no end in sight: the forecast calls for highs of 90-95 F every day for the foreseeable future. It makes me cranky, frustrated, and exhausted. I am far more impatient than usual, quicker to snap at my kids, more easily provoked.
It is also unbearably, oppressively hot in Gaza, an hour from here. And I have lost track of just how long it has been since Gazans had more than 2 to 4 hours a day of electricity. There is no refrigeration, no A/C, and no crucial medical equipment, other than that powered by rare and increasingly expensive generators. Tons of raw sewage, untreatable without electricity, are being dumped into the sea. Access to clean water is becoming harder to find. It’s no longer news; Gazans are invisible; no one is interested anymore.
But Gaza is burning. My neighbors are burning.
They are mothers, fathers, babies, young couples in love, teenagers, the elderly and infirm.
They are educators, tailors, nurses, shopkeepers, public servants, businesspeople, students.
They are kind, proud, conceited, gentle, lazy, arrogant. They are humble, boorish, imaginative, shy, sarcastic, gracious, confident, talented.
They are sad and joyful, scared and resigned, full of grief, trusting, vulnerable, hopeful.
They have “eyes… hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions. [They are] fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer.” (Merchant of Venice, III, i)
They are Palestinian. Most of them are Muslim. Among them are some who have cast themselves as our enemies but they are not, collectively, The Enemy.
And we are reaching a point where, for many of them, the situation is one of pikuach nefesh. The blood of our brothers and sisters will soon be crying out from the ground.
Yes, the situation is complicated. Yes, there are many fingers to legitimately point and many powers-that-be to blame. And yes, there are plenty of places that have it much worse.
Israel prides itself on being the first to respond to so many disasters and humanitarian crises around the world. Our government has the quite literal power to bring light into what has become nearly interminable darkness. With all the complications, all the power struggles, all the willingness on all sides to use the Gazan people as pawns, this is just not that complicated.
Why are people still suffering? Where is our humanity?