The third week of the war is almost over. I went to sleep one night having seen a headline that Hamas may release 50 hostages holding foreign passports, it reminded me of the Nazi Aktion selections. In the morning I read that they had actually only released two geriatric women but had left their husbands behind. Their cruelty is endless, I realize they will continue to play with our heads. I live in Zichron Yaakov which has been eerily quiet this week, except for the jet- fighters overhead, thank God. Zichron as the locals refer to it, is a wine village established by Jacob de Rothschild in 1882. Popular among Israeli tourists due to its wineries and rich history of which my family is a part. In 1932 just before the Anschluss my grandmother Dora Schwarz escaped with my father and his two brothers from Salzburg, Austria to Mandate Palestine, settled here and established a vegetarian spa, which she managed until 1969. For me, the highlight of last week was when my youngest daughter invited her friends to celebrate the birthday of one of them. They all brought food, and one girl who is a budding master chef made a heart shaped cake of cinnamon buns with vanilla glazing. They joked and laughed noisily in the garden until late, and though I would have usually asked them to simmer down after eleven, I just let them enjoy themselves.
The constant need to muffle the underlying stress about our sons and daughters at the front, has now escalated as my daughter-in-law, who I call my daughter-in-love may soon be deployed as a doctor near Gaza. I tried to reassure my oldest son that she will be safe as when someone is doing a Mitzvah, or a good deed, God will always protect them and make sure they are unharmed. I keep telling myself this about the entire IDF. Then, I think about the hostages and ask, are they doing a Mitzvah? Or are the burned babies considered sacrificial offerings to the Moloch by Hamas? I suspect they are as Bob Dylan sang: Only a Pawn in their Game. They certainly are being used as a form of psychological torture on us all, giving us false hope and consequent disappointment. A mass manipulation of our collective hearts.
I am grateful for every phone call I get from my son at the front but now understand that our soldiers and civilians were witnesses to Roman gladiatorial levels of brutality. Thousands of dead bodies some of which are still unburried reeking and rotting. My boy has seen horrific things before, this is his second war, but never like this. Between prolonged moments of silence, he said that Hamas all know that we are not like them. That we would never rape their women, hurt their children or mutilate their dead bodies. That this is simply: ‘Lo Mibeit Sifreynu’, not from our school. I imagine that as the Free Palestine demonstrations increase and the focus on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza becomes more dominant, there will be a constant flow of terrorist incidents all over the world mainly directed at the Jewish communities and maintaining a presence in the daily media headlines. But for now, the Hamas will cynically dangle the release of hostages like a carrot on a stick.
In the early mornings I do my usual scan of the media. I’m a polyglot but I only read the English and Hebrew outlets. I start with Ynet and Haaretz, to see what is going on locally, then I move on to the BBC, CNN, WSJ, NYT, Al Jazeera and of course Times of Israel, its more than enough. A few days ago, I noticed:” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday that Israel should already be devising a strategy for who will rule Gaza if the IDF completes its stated mission of toppling Hamas.“ I must say that I took offence to the ‘If the IDF completes…’, as it should have been ‘When the IDF completes, God Willing.’. But as for the rest, I have been thinking of little else, though not so much about who will rule there.
Call it what you will, I have a simple plan or strategy for what I’d like to see in Gaza after this war. If it was an elevator pitch it would be Sex in the City when they went to Dubai. I would hope that someone responsible would supervise the rebuilding of Gaza so that instead of refugee camps which is another term for overcrowded slums, it would be transformed it into an oriental style Beverly Hills. The innocent civilians of Gaza would be hosted by many sympathetic countries until the renovation project is completed. At the end of this long and expensive process it would be the most valuable real estate in the region. They have a white sanded stretch of beach on which Four Seasons and other five-star hotels could be built. There would be state-of-the-art hospitals, factories, schools and universities. A booming economy with lovely malls, restaurants and cultural centers, maybe even a sports stadium, theaters and of course Casinos. All this can easily be achieved with the billions that will be donated by the world, as long as the money is not diverted to terror and the pockets of a corrupt leadership again. All the tunnels and bunkers could be converted into underground parking for the fabulous tall skyscrapers and maybe even an actual Metro with trains. The supervisors would have to make sure that the money went directly to the innocent population of Gaza, who want to live in peace. After Gaza, the same plan can be extended to the Palestinian Authority, maybe they should do it all at once. And yes, I do realize it’s a fantasy. I have a dream.
I now only allow myself to imbibe an hour of the echo chamber of panelists, that is current Israeli television in the evening. I do this as I like to see Daniel Hagari, the IDF spokesman’s daily report. Though vaguely reassuring it emphasizes the fact that we are sorely missing a Winston Churchill. In this vacuum we are uplifted only by the voice of our People. I’ve been willfully wearing a lot of my Khaki clothes, hoping to be considered a soldier in some fashionable way. Last week I went to a cafe with some girlfriends in the village center, the Moshava. It was so nice to have an hour of normalcy, though we may as well have been a war-room, for all the heavy topics we debated. They were amused by my “# Turn Gaza Into Las Vegas” plan, but ultimately agreed they would support it if it was an option.
My favorite panelist is the brilliant Zvi Yehezkeli. An Israeli television journalist and head of the Arab desk at Israeli news channel 13. He mentioned that the word Hamas, takes us back to the story of Noah in the bible, as he had three sons Ham, Shem and Japheth. He explained that Hamas is the nation of Ham and that Parshat Noah was the portion of the Torah read in synagogues during the sabbath of October 7th. The third sentence of this Torah portion is, “Now the earth was corrupt before God, and the land became full of Hamas”, in the bible its translated as robbery but I’m sure it means terror. I wonder if the leaders of Hamas are aware that it is a biblical name for thieves? Could it be a coincidence? I don’t think so.
I believe that it’s not possible to fathom the transformation that has occurred in Israeli perception over the past three weeks from abroad. It was named ‘a diskette replacement’ by Yehezkeli. He suggests that the Israelis no longer accept that we can live peacefully beside the Hamas. That we all understand that after this massacre it will never be the same. I hope he is right. We are clear that Hamas must be defeated completely. We may not be able to win the narrative war, but we can and must win the military one. I know that we must not let our anger, frustration and fear break us. We have to be strong, united and mindful during this Divine Gambit. We were not able to prevent the massacre, but I pray we can and will be able to create a powerful energy field of unity and love for the people of Israel and that with it under the wings of the Shechina, we will ultimately win even if it takes us a very long time.
Am Yisrael Chai.