Shoshana Lavan

Revenge is easy. And as empty as death itself.

Installation in Um El Fahem Art Gallery: Photo by Shoshana Lavan

I sit with my class of sixteen-year-old students and listen to their opinions.

How dare the Palestinians sit with the Jews who lost soldiers and loved ones, and share a memorial ceremony together, to remember their dead loved ones? Their dead terrorists?

It makes me sick to think about it, another student said. How dare they do it on Yom Hazikaron? They could do it on any other day.

Everyone agrees. Everyone nods their heads and expresses their disgust at Palestinians who dare to mourn on the same day as Israeli Jews.

Only one student finds the courage to differ: they’re the ones who have lost their loved ones, she says. If they choose to remember with the Jews in mourning, and the Jews choose to remember with the Palestinians in mourning, who are we to judge?

Oh, but do we judge.

In past years, there have been demonstrations outside the hall of the ceremony. This year, it was predicted to be so dangerous to have a ceremony at all, it was instead held at a private venue and made accessible to the public only online.

In our Yishuv, Hannaton, the words ‘FUCK GAZA’ are graffitied in large letters on one of the roads. And Amichai Shikli, the Minister for the Diaspora, tweeted just a few days ago: FCK HMS.

It’s easy to hate.

My husband and I went to the Nova exhibition in Tel Aviv months ago, near the beginning of this nightmare. We became part of the music party, the incredible atmosphere, the love and creativity between all people. The beauty of it all. Until 6.28 in the morning. Then the world of those beautiful people was destroyed beyond all recognition.

I came out that exhibition with just one sentence: we have to bomb them all. I wasn’t thinking about protecting the innocent civilians, then, or listening to their cries for help. Or hearing their sorrow.

No. Revenge is needed. Revenge. Kill. Hatred. Their blood for ours.

Only, we’re seven months into war. And I’m not sure how much better it’s making any of us feel. Death is impartial and does not make a distinction between a terrorist or a three-year-old child ‘in the way’ of a rocket or a bullet.

Death is impartial and yet death is laughing at us. We are playing so easily into his blood-ridden hands.

According to most of my students, to some of my friends in my Yishuv, and to many people in Israel, now is not the time for peace. Now is only the time for war. There are even frighteningly many who say there will never be a time for peace with the Palestinians. Not after what they did on the 7th October.

On Yom Hazikaron my family spent the morning with three Druze families from Horfeish, who had lost their sons in the wars of this country. That’s Arab Druze families, to clarify. The Druze are loyal to Israel, are drafted into the army and do everything they can to support us. The first family lost their son in 2000. I saw the army vest with the bullet hole behind a glass cabinet on display in the front room, along with pictures of him everywhere, constant reminders of his life and how he died. The next two families lost their sons in this war. Twenty-four years difference between the wars, yet no difference at all.

War is Death celebrating, again and again.

The next day, Yom Haatzmaut, my family went to the Art Gallery in Um El Fahem, to explore the beautiful and agonizing artwork there. The gallery was full of the pain of the Palestinians as a people, as refugees, as victims. The photograph here is of the exhibit of a clod of land with the empty glass in the middle, with the following explanation:

The pit…represents distancing and remoteness, a chasm and alienation.

Lajjun, kibbutz Meggido nowadays, was a Palestinian village populated primarily by people from Umm al-Fahem. They worked their land there, lived and developed beautiful fabric that was fascinating in its beauty. However, as with many other cases, the village was demolished, its residents driven out and its houses destroyed. Kibbutz Meggido was built on its ruins.

We carried on from the gallery to Hostages’ Square in Tel Aviv, where we sat with a tent full of visitors from the North to listen to Nofar Buchstav, sister of Yagev from Kibbutz Nirim, still a hostage in Gaza. His wife, Rimon, was released during the first hostage deal. She told her captors she wouldn’t leave without Yagev, but they said she had no choice. One way or another, she would have to go. When she was released, she went back to her home that is no longer her home, to rescue their babies – their five dogs and cats – who, terrified, had fled on the 7th October. Now she’s living in a nearby Kibbutz and setting up a new home, making a music room for her husband, who’s a talented musician, waiting for him to come home. Never giving up hope.

Two nations, generations of history of being persecuted by the other, forced out their homes, killed. But, people tell me, the slaughter and brutality of the 7th October beats everything else in its horror. Maybe it’s true. Yes, it’s true to us. But death is death. Loss of your home is loss of your home. Trauma is trauma.

I hadn’t realised it was a competition.

In the evening, we stayed for a concert for and by the families of the hostages. The pain was unbearable – unbearable. Watching Omer Shem Tov’s mother break down in tears as she watched the singer Orin Shukrun perform ‘Yeled shemesh sheli’ (My sunshine boy) was unbearable. Watching daughters and fathers and uncles and cousins and friends sing for, or speak for, their loved ones, was unbearable.

And yet even within the heart-breaking distress of this music, there was the plea for peace. For a stop to all this hatred and death. For the focus of this war to be redirected away from revenge and destruction to one thing only: bringing back the hostages.

These mothers are overwhelmed by grief, not hatred. Mothers. Just like in the joint ceremony for Palestinians and Israelis. This is not a forum for people who hate each other. It’s a forum for people who want to love each other.

I’m not talking about Hamas.

When I saw the long endurance of pain of the hostage families, pain which I have seen and shared so much in these hellish seven months, everything is so clear to me. Everything actually has always been clear to me. None of us own land. None of us have a right to land. Land belongs to God. God created the land. If we can look after it, respectfully and tenderly, we can borrow it indefinitely. If not, we have no right to it at all.

This has been the homeland of many of the Palestinian Arabs for many, many centuries. For the Jewish People for thousands of years. Which nation deserves to live here more than the other? I have no answer to that. Does anyone? Why do we need to answer such a question?

Perhaps it’s time to stop asking questions and find the way to the only one answer: PEACE.



About the Author
Shoshana Lavan is a published author, high school teacher of English Literature and Language, teacher of English as a foreign language and most importantly, a very proud mother of her gorgeous little boy. She is a peace activist and a committed vegan. A keen runner, she adores the mountains and glorious sunshine in this wonderful country.
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