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Ghadir Hani
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My heart is big enough for Noa and for Musa

If we lose this ability to hold the pain of both sides, we will lose hope and the chance of ever living side by side
Left: Family and friends of Israeli soldier Sgt. Elisha Yehonatan Lober attend his funeral at the Mount Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem on December 27, 2023, Yehonatan fell in battle in the Gaza Strip. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90) Right: A Palestinian man cries while holding a dead child found under the rubble of a destroyed building following Israeli airstrikes in Nusseirat refugee camp, central Gaza Strip on Oct. 31, 2023. (AP Photo/Mohammed Dahman)
Left: Family and friends of Israeli soldier Sgt. Elisha Yehonatan Lober attend his funeral at the Mount Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem on December 27, 2023, Yehonatan fell in battle in the Gaza Strip. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90) Right: A Palestinian man cries while holding a dead child found under the rubble of a destroyed building following Israeli airstrikes in Nusseirat refugee camp, central Gaza Strip on Oct. 31, 2023. (AP Photo/Mohammed Dahman)

For more than two months the reality of our lives has been an ongoing nightmare. The horrific assault on the 7th of October undermined the very foundations of our existence – for all of us.

This blood bath threatens to drown us all.

More than two months after that terrible day, 129 people are still being held hostage by Hamas, without medicine and without basic provisions. I call upon anyone with influence to use it. We cannot allow the hostages to remain there. We are all responsible for one another, in good times and in bad, in hardship and in hope. My heart is with the many families who have been living in torment for too long, torn between despair and hope.

My heart also goes out to all those murdered in the attack, among them close friends of mine. I was fortunate to meet many Israelis from the communities near the Gaza Strip who understood perhaps better than any of us that their future is entwined with the future of Gaza.

Many of them are no longer with us, yet their legacy echoes: Our default mode must not be the military option. It may sound to the public like a magic solution, but it only serves to increase hostility and hatred and does not offer an alternative to the ongoing bloodshed. Without hope for those living in Gaza there is no security for the Israeli communities near the border.

My heart is also with the residents of Gaza who have been the victims of this conflict for far too long. Generations upon generations of Gazans have experienced the full spectrum of this conflict’s tragedies and horrors. The sight of children sheltering under plastic sheets in the rain breaks my heart.

There are no words that can comfort the thousands of dead, tens of thousands of injured and hundreds of thousands of people uprooted from their homes. Try to imagine this life – so many years of hardship and attempts to survive a cruel reality, and now they are caught between incessant bombings and a regime that destroys all hope.

My heart is big. My heart has the capacity to hold Noa Argamani, who was taken hostage and whose mother, sick with cancer, is praying to see her daughter again, as well as Musa, whose entire family was killed when he went in search of water for his little brothers. Our hearts must contain both Noa and Musa. If we lose this ability, we will lose hope and the chance of ever living side by side.

The attempts to silence the voices of sanity and moderation are relentless. Not a day goes by when we are not attacked for holding onto our values. Not a day goes by when we are not told that our naivete weakens our people, or we are accused of being traitors or disloyal. I know these accusations well. I don’t always find the right words to answer them, but I know that decades of force and aggression have not brought us any good.

The murderous and heinous attack by Hamas has only reinforced the extremists within Israeli society. The military policies in the West Bank and Gaza have only served to reinforce the extremists among the Palestinians. Force breeds force. Violence leads to hatred and revenge.

I ask myself daily, how is it that we haven’t learned this lesson? How have we allowed an extremist, arrogant, corrupt leadership to lead us to the edge of the abyss? As my friend Vivian Silver, who was murdered on the 7th of October, said: there is no road to peace – peace is the road.

We must not lose hope, we must not give up. Too many children depend on us to ensure that we do not drag yet another generation into this war. Even if we are few today, our light will not be extinguished. Our hope will awaken, swell, motivate and sweep up Jews and Arabs who refuse to be enemies. Jews and Arabs, neighbors, want to live in a just society alongside one another, guided by mutual respect, and equally receiving rights and shouldering responsibilities.

This horrible war must redefine the relations between Jews and Arabs in the state and throughout the region. We, the Arab citizens of Israel, want to act as a bridge between the Jewish people and the Palestinian people. Many leaders in Arab-Israeli society say as much.

The public, as a whole, must be a partner in building a just, respectful and tolerant society. While there are multiple grassroots initiatives already, we must continue to forge more and more connections on the communal, educational, religious, and political levels. In hospitals, Jewish-Arab teams save the lives of both Jews and Arabs. Let us all work together towards this goal of saving lives.

In truth, extremism will not disappear, but our light will shine brighter and brighter because none of us has another homeland. Even if they try to silence us, we will not give up. If they try to prevent us from gathering, we will continue to say: the way of terror and force must not win. Peace will come one day and it will prevail – and the earlier it does, the more lives will be saved.

About the Author
Ghadir Hani is a Palestinian citizen of Israel, an award-winning peace activist, and a member of the Habima-Almanbar Initiative - a Religious Vision for peace.
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