Yael Steiner

It Comes and Goes in Waves

There were no Israelis in Gaza on October 6th. Not a soldier. Not a settler. Not a one.

I visited Gaza from Jerusalem in Spring 2005. I knew that Israel would be withdrawing from the territory that summer to give autonomy to the Palestinian people and, as is the case with many Arab countries, Jews would no longer be permitted to enter.

Though the ”disengagement” was a controversial issue during my time living in Israel, I didn’t really have a problem with never going back, even as it meant being excluded from something solely on the basis of my religion. For the prospect of peace, I was happy to oblige. I was heartsick for the Jewish families that needed to relocate because of this plan, but I also had hope. I took home a small Ziploc bag filled with seashells I found on the beach. (I still have it.) It was truly one of the most beautiful seascapes I had ever seen.

I’m sure most of you think I was naive. (For what it’s worth, I was technically a teenager.) But hope was so seductive. Here was a beautiful, waterfront plot of land with tremendous agricultural infrastructure – remember that giant lettuce factory?! – that could be a fresh start for everyone.

I didn’t know then that Hamas would be elected. That, once in power, they’d start regularly launching rockets into Southern Israel, redirecting funds meant to benefit the people of Gaza to the construction of terror tunnels and that they’d never hold an election again.

I long for those days of my naïveté. For the days when I could never have stepped foot in Gaza.

Because today, there are Israelis in Gaza.

They are hostages and they are soldiers. And all we want is to get them out.

Some are Jews, some are Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and others of all nationalities and faiths who are among those held captive – and among those serving in the IDF.

I pray for them. I worry for them. And, while my prayers and fear are genuine, they are starting to lack a crucial spark.

I need to let hope continue to entice me. I need to ignore its tired lines and historical lack of follow through. Or to acknowledge its flaws and fall anyway. (For better or worse, I am practiced at this.)

I need to pick up those seashells and hear the most southeastern waves of the Mediterranean, knowing that even the lowest tide has to come in again.

About the Author
Yael Steiner is a corporate attorney in Manhattan and co-host of the Jewish History Nerds podcast produced by Unpacked, a division of OpenDor Media.
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