Galya Gerstman

Jewish Lives Matter Too

Why do I seem to write only about the Jewish reactions to this war in Israel and Gaza, and not about the Palestinian experience? I suppose it’s mainly because I’m Jewish and it’s my personal perspective I’m sharing. I write what I know. That’s why my upcoming novel is about Jewish women in early 20th century-Jerusalem, because it’s based on stories my mother told me about growing up there, so a second-hand version of what I know. Still, one would have to be inhuman not to feel horror at what the residents of Gaza are going through now. I’m sure this is something we can all agree on; the point of differentiation is who we blame for it. The suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza is plain for all to see, and indeed, the civilians there have a whole chorus of supporters worldwide, concerned for their safety and welfare, lamenting their losses, and screaming for justice for them, as is right. I read article after article, see demonstration after demonstration, in which the carnage in Gaza is the primary focus, in which calls are made and reiterated for a ceasefire, for an end to the bombing and slaughter of innocent victims in Gaza.

But where are the voices for Israelis? They have only a smattering of allies by comparison, largely Jews, that tiny fraction of the world’s population, and not even all Jews. If someone even brings up the subject of the murder victims of October 7th, or of the hostages, they are immediately confronted with reminders of the Palestinian victims of the shelling in Gaza. As if they shouldn’t be so selfish and think only of themselves, their own tribe, their own mothers and daughters and brothers and sons. As if the world is saying, “What’s the matter with you? Can’t you see where the real tragedy lies? How can you compare your paltry number of casualties to the vast number of Gazans’?” It’s not that I won’t cry over Palestinian children, only Israeli ones. It’s that what I see across the globe is the opposite: that everyone seems to care only about the people of Gaza and not about the people of Israel, who are still being targeted by Hamas bombs and also rocket fire from Lebanon and armed drones from Yemen, who are still mourning their dead, who are still trying to identify their dead among the burnt, mutilated corpses. Who are still being held captive by Hamas terrorists, and God only knows how they are faring because even the Red Cross hasn’t been able to see them. No one knows if they’re even still alive. Only now, after over a month, is there any talk of a return of hostages, and even then it’s only for 50 out of the nearly 250, and only in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. No one, in fact, seems to be thinking of the hostages at all except for the Jews; on the contrary, people are tearing down their posters, calling them fake news, propaganda. They deny their existence and take down their images so that we don’t see these captives, don’t think about them. Even their own government has sometimes seemed to treat them as an afterthought in its grand war strategy.

But it is precisely this dehumanization which has led to this war, and frankly, to all wars. Fanatics on both sides have demeaned their enemies, have been brought up to fear and hate them, to think of them as unlike themselves, as undeserving of dignity. As lives not of value. It is the erasure of people in their enemies’ minds that ultimately leads to the erasure of their bodies.

So I don’t diminish the agony of the people of Gaza. I only wish the rest of the world wouldn’t diminish that of the people of Israel. It is this kind of behavior, this kind of thinking, these callous and costly words of obliteration, that have brought us to where we are now. The people of Gaza matter. But Jewish lives matter, too.

About the Author
Galya Gerstman is the author of the novel Daughters of Jerusalem, based on episodes from her grandmother’s life, to be released Winter 2023-4 by Pleasure Boat Studio Press. She is also the author of the novel Texting Olivia and has had articles published in Scary Mommy, Motherhood Later, and other sites. Galya taught French Literature at Tel Aviv University before relocating to Costa Rica to raise a family. She possesses a PhD in French Literature from Columbia University and a BA in Creative Writing from Barnard College.
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