Harriet Gimpel

Recovery of the Wounded

Another day. Another round of avoiding exhausting, repetitive, passionate, painful arguments. Reading more commentary by likeminded journalists. Encountering an essay where incomparable would-be compared arguments stand their ground only because they are not aligned in comparison, proportionality excluded from any equation. Neither argument has ground to stand on without finding a way to stand on the same ground.

Savage crimes were committed by Hamas on October 7 against Israelis. They were pre-meditated and part of an ideology to destroy Israel. Nothing about this is justifiable in any way. Brave and seemingly fearless Israeli civilians, and not only Jews, heroically made the casualties fewer than they might have been, in some cases at the cost of their own lives. On October 7, in 16 hours, 700 injured Israelis arrived at Soroka Hospital in Beer Sheva. Another 1300 Israelis were less fortunate.

Voices charging Israel with a genocidal mission need to check data and definitions. Not that I deny that there are Israelis who would be happy to see the annihilation of the Palestinian people, and some who think Israel should make that happen. Yet, there is no such government policy. There was no plan for October 7 in Israel, hence, no plan for October 8.

The aim to obliterate Hamas in response to October 7 would probably be in the best interest of the Palestinian people. That in no way conflicts with my appall at Israel’s attacks wiping out families, displacing innocent victims and making them refugees, yet again, since becoming refugees in Gaza in 1948.

When the government of Israel overlooks violence by extremist West Bank settlers against their Palestinian neighbors, my levels of anger align in comparison with my acute and raging anger at the government of Israel regarding October 7. The latter should resonate without elaboration – Israel missed the pre-emptive steps. Israel knew. Israel dismissed Intelligence data placed on the table. Women should not have been raped. Men, women, and children should not have been murdered by gunshot or burned alive, nor should they have been taken as hostages to Gaza. The army should have arrived on the scene promptly. No responsibility claimed by the Prime Minister. Incomprehensible continued support for him from some of the bleachers: it was the fault of the “left” which demonstrated for 9 months against the government’s attempted judicial overhaul and other anti-democratic trends led by the government as it agitated every split in Israeli society, pushing to the breaking point.

Independence Day in May 2023 was perhaps the least festive Independence Day in Israel’s history – when it celebrated 75. Public space was protest space, and there was too much dissent among different sectors and subgroups of society to join in celebrating the state. Memorial Day for Israel’s Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Acts of Hostility is the day before Independence Day. Political enmity made government ministers unprecedentedly unwelcome at official military cemetery ceremonies on that day in 2023.

Back to my rage at the government of Israel neglecting to take punitive measures against extremist West Bank Jewish settlers tormenting their Palestinian neighbors: a setup? On this track, when organized Palestinian terrorist aggression from the West Bank ensues, Israel will justify its retaliation. There, said it.

Kfar Saba, where I live, 1 km from Qalqilya on the West Bank, announced installation of an electronic gate at the city’s eastern end.

Israelis are largely stuck, locked in the past, living every day, yet October 7 is the constant in our present. Netanyahu remains locked in the reality of October 6 – only his own best interests at heart.

I don’t know what celebration will mean on Israel’s Independence Day in 2024. I know the grieving on Memorial Day will be immeasurable. You may hear about a unified Israel that emerged from the war. Don’t believe it. Imagine placing gauze pads over a festering wound on a rancid, injured limb. Temporarily, you might not see the infection spreading beneath the surface. And Arab citizens feel their voices stifled.

Yesterday, my 6 year-old granddaughter asked me to spell a series of words so she could write them on a heart she cut from construction paper: Am Yisrael Chai [Long live the Jewish people]. Let the war end. Let the soldiers return safely. May the soldiers not be wounded. (She only understands hostages’ faces on billboards are somehow connected to the war and that we want them at home.)

Our society is severely wounded.

It’s our responsibility to heal it. We must get better. A long recovery expected.

Harriet Gimpel, December 30, 2023

About the Author
Born and raised in Philadelphia, earned a B.A. in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies from Brandeis University in 1980, followed by an M.A. in Political Science from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Harriet has worked in the non-profit world throughout her career. She is a freelance translator and editor, writes poetry in Hebrew and essays in English, and continues to work for NGOs committed to human rights and democracy.
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