Questions Needing Answers
Remember Ukraine? Remember television commentators wearing flak helmets and vests with the word “PRESS” written boldly across their chests, bombs flashing in the distance, brave reporters and their camera men/women forced to move to a safer place? Houses bombed to rubble with once beloved dolls or bicycles blown to the ground signifying the flight of families from the horrors of Russian invasion…
Now, we hear of Ukraine as a potential casualty in a Congressional tug of war.
The flak helmeted, vest wearing PRESS moved, briefly, to Israel. CNN was surprisingly sympathetic to the suffering of Israelis. The shocking degree of barbarism visited upon young Israelis at a music festival, abducting hostages, butchering families still asleep in their kibbutzim was enough to hold the reporters’ attention until…
Israel began bombing Gaza. Once again, the exploding missiles, the buildings reduced to rubble, the suffering children…” If it bleeds, it leads.”
Now that the world’s attention has shifted to the plight of Gazans, what’s going on within Israel? Did you know that the entire country is still under bombardment? Both last week and this, speaking to cousins in different parts of the country, our conversations were interrupted by sirens sending them into shelters.
What do you imagine is happening to the survivors of those horrible assaults in southern Israel? Did they simply leave their bloody houses, step over body parts of their own loved ones and evacuate? Where are they now? How are they coping? Is the “humanitarian crisis” only in Gaza? What about traumatized Israelis who have been evacuated to Eilat? Can you return to a once happy home that became an abattoir? Can anyone possibly survive this kind of trauma? Does anyone care?
And what do you imagine about those who are waiting for hostages to return? What nightmares infiltrate every moment of their lives as they envision their babies, children, parents and friends held in dank tunnels, in the hands of Hamas, fiends who have amply demonstrated their profound capacity for hatred?
Why doesn’t the U.N. insist that Hamas allow the Red Cross to see the hostages? Why isn’t the international community demanding that the Red Cross be allowed to do this? If this were any other country but Israel, the Red Cross would have already arrived!
There are discussions about the “day after” referring to the rebuilding of Gaza at the end of the war. Meanwhile, right now, Israel’s economy is being held together by duct tape. Three hundred and fifty thousand soldiers are not working at their usual jobs. Those who are still working are taking pay cuts while filling in for missing colleagues.
Even the organizations that led forty weeks of well-behaved anti-government protest demonstrations instantly mobilized to re-organize their “army” of volunteers. The demonstrators are now providing services and supplies to plug in gaps throughout the country.
Every Israeli has joined these efforts. My seven-year-old cousin packed 300 boxes of food with her mom and others in their church group. My friend’s son, an attorney, took a half day course and is driving a truck. His wife, a doctoral level biologist, is picking tomatoes and their daughter, a student, is planting cucumbers.
Yes, there is a lot of talk of Gaza’s “day after.” Well, Israel will also have a “day after.” More than one Israeli relative has told me, “The next time you come, Israel will not be the same.”
Are any of us the same?
As a psychologist, member of a “helping profession,” how do I comprehend what happened on October 7? What conceptual framework would help me grasp how people can gleefully rape and slaughter? As an American, as a Jew, my foundations have been fractured.
We are being warned not to watch videos of October 7 because “you can’t unsee” what you have seen. We also can’t “unknow” what we are only beginning to know. And we need to know it, lest our protective vigilance fails again, as it did on that day.
But there is a psychological price we pay to live with the knowledge of people, like Hamas and others, who are driven to commit abhorrent acts. Our foundations crack. We lose faith, we lose trust. And yet, as humans, as Israelis, as Jews, as Americans, somehow we aspire to retain our own humanity in the face of the inhumanity of our enemies.
The day after, the world will be a better place for the people of Gaza if they choose to learn to live without hatred, if UNRWA stops creating textbooks and summer camps to instruct children in cruelty. The world will help Gaza rebuild its home and maybe this time terrorists won’t be there to destroy it.
Israel, ever resilient, will also have a “day after” and will restore itself with pride and ingenuity as it always has. However, the psychological price for a life affirming people has already been immense and will echo unto future generations. Families of Holocaust survivors know this well.
Those Israeli soldiers, brave youngsters and reservists, know they are walking into the lion’s jaws. They know who they are fighting and what they are fighting for. The rest of us must also learn that lesson.