I am standing here at my son’s soccer practice watching him run around. This morning when I woke up my wife asked me if it was true that 20 Israelis were killed in a terror attack. I’m trying to get some news as my son runs around the field.
Rockets and missiles are being launched all over Israel. Fierce gun battles are taking place as local citizens desperately arm themselves to try and repel a horde of Hamas Einsatzgruppen rampaging through their towns.
The coach is showing the kids how to dribble between cones, I am sending a Whatsapp message to my cousin to check in on him.
Hamas murderers are taking people out of their cars and going house to house, executing them. Entire families are being kidnapped and taken as hostages back to Gaza. These people who some idiots have characterized as “breaking out of prison” didn’t loot food or building materials or clothing or money or iPhones to bring back to their families, they looted PEOPLE. They murdered PEOPLE. And then they ran back to the very “prison” they were supposedly “escaping from” after spilling rivers of blood.
My phone rings, it is my cousin. My son makes a great play and dribbles the ball down the field. My cousin is devastated by the situation. He’s already been on edge from weeks of protesting the Netanyahu government. My son scores a goal. Suddenly my cousin’s wife is crying, two friends of theirs, parents of three children are among the dead. He hangs up. I clap for my son because I have to.
Hundreds of young people celebrating nature in the desert are fleeing insane murderers who are rampaging among them, shooting people indiscriminately and increasing their haul of hostages.
I am watching my son hustle back on defense and stop a goal from being scored. But I am not here, I am there. I am seeing the horror unfold. The field in front of me seems like painting or a cartoon. Something not real, and behind it there is nothing but bloodshed and mayhem. One of the other parents leans over to me to remark how impressed she is with how well these kids are playing. I barely hear her. I am texting my other cousin to see how he is doing.
Gunfights are breaking out all over southern Israel as the military finally begins responding. A police station and a kibbutz cafeteria are the site of two hostage standoffs, but dozens of other families are being held at gunpoint.
My other cousin tells me he is being called up for reserve duty. I tell him I love him and to try and be as safe as he can be. I am in a daze thinking about him going off to combat. What if I never speak to him again? My son runs up to me because it’s a water break. Practice is almost over.
Videos begin emerging of the hostages. An old lady (is she a Holocaust survivor? She looks like she’s old enough to be one but that would be unfathomable) has been taken. Children, teenage girls, parents with their children. Celebrations are breaking out in Iran and across the Middle East. “Academics” in western universities are justifying this because “colonialism” or something.
We are finally home. I cannot concentrate on anything. 100 dead. Now 200, 250 dead. Thousands injured. Dozens kidnapped? That can’t possibly be true. I continue holding back my emotions so my son doesn’t see. What? You want to play on your tablet? Number Blocks on TV all day? Sure whatever, no screen time restrictions today.
The situation is still not contained after over six hours. Hamas terrorists are still at large. The military is bombing Gaza, but firefights continue in numerous towns across southern Israel. There is no control. It is still anarchy. And everywhere the military retakes, bodies are found, endless endless bodies.
Daytime becomes afternoon becomes evening. I cannot stop reading updates. I cannot turn on the news because my sons cannot see this horror. They cannot, I cannot let them. I talk to my parents a few times. I can’t function. 300 now. 350. Make it stop. Someone make it stop. My son and my baby want to play with me. Nothing in front of me feels real. It’s like I am looking at an illusion. I’m not here, I’m on the other side of the world. Make it stop.
Deep into the night the fighting continues. The police station is destroyed. The kibbutz terrorists are eliminated, hostages freed. But many other terrorists are still on the loose. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis are called up for reserve duty. This is not just a “response” to an attack, this is literally war.
It’s time to put my boys to bed. My baby smiles and laughs at me as he always does. I can only think of the babies that were kidnapped and taken to Gaza as bargaining chips. For my older son’s bedtime, even though he is too young for the full story, I read my favorite passage from the Lord of the Rings, the only thing that made me feel hopeful in the terrible first months after 9/11:
“Always after a defeat and a respite, the Shadow takes another shape and grows again.”
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
My sons go to bed. I am back on the phone with my parents and desperately scrolling looking for news. No, I will not watch the hostage taking videos. No, I will not engage with the Twitter creeps looking to justify this insanity. My father called my cousin but his phone was already off, on his way to God knows where. Still I scroll, scroll, scroll. How is the situation still not contained? How did this happen?!
Bombings of Gaza continue all night. Gun battles keep raging as the last of the terrorists inside Israel are finished off. But are they? They penetrated 15 miles into the country, who is to say there aren’t more still on the loose? Reservists stream to the south. War is kindled.
It is the next day. 500 dead. Now 600. Now 700. Seems virtually assured we will go above 1,000. I am at a birthday party with my wife and sons. The parents of the birthday boy wanted to cancel, but damn it the kids didn’t do anything wrong, why should they suffer? We all try to put on a happy face, but internally we are destroyed. I can’t stop scrolling even as the kids are having fun jumping in a bounce house, I am not here. I am 6,000 miles away. Nothing in front of me seems real. I hear from more friends from Israel, they are devastated, absolutely mentally and emotionally destroyed, but say they know that in the end we will win. I don’t even ask them if they know any of the dead. I don’t know what to do. What can we do, here in America? I have been to Israel dozens of times. I was there during both intifadas. I was on a bus that was blown up the next day, at the same stop that I got on it. I was in Sderot on the day of a mortar attack. But I am not there now. What can we do? What can we do?
All day I keep hearing another Lord of the Rings line in my head. But this is one from the movies. As the orcs have taken over and are breaking down the doors to murder the last of the men, women and children, just as the Hamas orcs were doing for 12 unending hours:
“So much death. What can men do against such reckless hate?”
What can we do, indeed? We are here, in America, but we are also there. What can we do?
We will have to endure. Somehow, for our children if nothing else, we will have to endure.