On the 8th day of war here in Israel everyone is waiting anxiously to see what the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) will do next. The word on the street today is that an assault on Gaza by land, air and sea is imminent. But the 24-hour window that Israel gave Gazans to move to the south of the strip expired yesterday and there is still no movement on our part, except for the continued buildup of forces and material at the border.
It may well be that Israel, in an effort to avoid huge condemnation by the rest of the world should there be massive civilian casualties in Gaza in the days ahead, is simply giving those who are leaving more time to do so. There are over one million people living north of the Gaza River primarily around Gaza City. If most of those people decide to leave, and it looks as if large masses are trying to do so, it will take more than 24 hours for them to do that. What complicates it all, of course, is that moving to the south in the area of Khan Yunis may avoid death in the north, but the south does not have the infrastructure to support them even for a day.
Nevertheless, Israel must do what it must do to defang Hamas’ military capability and if it means significant civilian deaths (generally termed “collateral damage”) so be it. Not to be totally callous, but perhaps Hamas should have thought about the repercussions before they masterminded a plan to kill 1,300 Jews.
Over the weekend Israel bombed airports in Damascus and Aleppo, following missile fire from Syria — a signal that tensions may escalate on Israel’s northern border as we prepare for a large-scale invasion of the Gaza Strip. On the northern border with Lebanon today, eight Israeli soldiers were wounded in skirmishes there. It is not clear at this point whether Hezbollah wants to create a second front in the war or is just testing Israel’s strength on that border.
In addition, earlier today Iran issued a stern warning to Israel that it is prepared to enter the fray if Israel continues its bombardment of Gaza.
Over the last days Israeli troops entered Gaza in limited incursions aimed at retrieving hostages, and Haaretz reported on Saturday that one of those raids did result in the collection of several bodies of hostages captured and killed by Hamas. The raid also attempted to find clues as to the whereabouts of other hostages which number, according to some estimates, over 150 people.
The US government says 29 of its citizens have been killed since Hamas’ invasion, and that 15 remain unaccounted for.
On Saturday, Egypt had agreed to begin allowing foreigners to leave Gaza through a border crossing on the strip’s southern border, which Egypt controls. But it appears that this never happened and as of this writing the Rafah crossing in Egypt remains closed leaving no exit path out of Gaza for anyone.
As for daily life here, much depends on where people live. Things are quieter here in Jerusalem than they are on the coast but evidence of war is everywhere. Driving through Jerusalem today I was amazed at how many curbside parking spaces were available, in a city where parking is always a challenge. My guess is many of those spots would have been taken by some of the 360,000 reservists who have been called up but took their cars to their respective staging areas. We have not had an alert here in Jerusalem since last week but rocket fire continues from Gaza into the south of Israel. Alerts were also heard today as far north as Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan and Ramat HaSharon.
And of course, the funerals continue for those who have been killed and everyone is touched personally by them. Today I learned of the death of IDF Capt. Roi Negri, the grandson of Brenda and Mordecai Hirsch. I met Brenda on a visit to Israel in 1983 when the group visited Alyn Hospital (https://www.alyn.org/) where she was and still is the Public Relations Director. Her husband Mordecai was the Director of the Immigrant Absorption Center in Gilo where I was sent upon arrival in Israel in January, 1984. Nobody should have to bury children or grandchildren and their pain is felt by all of us who know them.
Last week in a post I mentioned weddings that were taking place the day before some reservists reported for duty. One of my readers reacted that it is good that the IDF gives engaged couples an extra day to get married before going off to war, but, sadly, there will be other weddings scheduled for later this year and next that, as a result of the war, will never take place.
In a country this size everyone is affected, everyone is pained and, to be totally honest, right now people’s psyche is mixed with pride and determination and a reasonable amount of fear as well.
Today and tomorrow, we mark the beginning of a new month and new moon. The new month is referred to as Mar Cheshvan (a less happy Cheshvan), rather than just Cheshvan because this month is the only one in the Hebrew calendar without a holiday. Let us hope that we will be victorious over our enemies and be able to add a new holiday in Cheshvan to mark our victory and deliverance from danger.