It’s not easy to be Israeli these days. Whether you are Muslim or a Jewish, an Israeli citizen living here, or someone who lives outside of Israel, the whole sense of ‘being Israeli’ is much complex and complicated as we enter another day of violent conflict between Hamas and Israel. When people ask me ‘so how does it feel?’ I usually say ‘like after a very bad meeting with an old friend you love deeply’ meaning — you know that the two of you have a long and loving history but you feel right now that something is off.
These are days of unrest on the borders, where we are accustomed with facing such challenges, but also – within our borders, in the mixed cities of Israel – where such acts of violence are not something we are used seeing. Where years of coexistence between Jews and Arabs may have been erased as if they never were. It makes me wonder about a special pre-school in Jaffa I visited once – The Orchard of Abraham’s Children – where half of the children are Jewish and the other half are Muslim. How do the parents of these children feel as they are taking their children there this morning?
With much sorrow, I must say that many of us Israelis became very much familiar with the Gaza conflict and the rockets that often land in Israeli cities, causing harm to Israeli citizens, Jews, and Arabs alike. Many of us Israelis, who believe in a two-state solution and in a future Palestinian state, go less and less optimistic about such a future every time the other side is showing us that he prioritize violence over a dialogue of peace. Many of Israel’s critics are legitimately criticizing Prime Minister Netanyahu’s actions. The irony is that Hamas’ current acts of violence have eliminated a realistic chance of replacing Netanyahu and forming a more moderate government which could potentially improve the lives of Palestinians in the region.
Again nights of sirens, waking up at 1 AM, heading out to the stairwell with the neighbors. Sitting there under a soft blinking light, men and women, old and young, sitting quietly, trying to hide their sense of unrest, waiting for the sirens to calm down, knowing that we will meet here again, under this light in this dusty stairwell, in about an hour when the sirens start once more.
There is something strange about the rockets siren. Statistically, when I think about it, as a Tel Avivian, I am more likely to get injured in a car accident or an E-scooter accident than from a rocket flying all the way from Gaza to Tel Aviv. A ‘stupid’ rocket, without a guiding system, that needs to dodge Iron Dome on the way to its target. But still, while knowing that the odds of getting hurt from a rocket are very low, that experience, of being out in the streets, and become a participant of a common and shared experience of Israelis running together to safety, strangers helping each other, looking for a shelter in the urban area that a moment ago was my social and cultural playground – and now it is ‘a warzone for a moment’ – that situation is very much surreal.
These days I’m concerned with two main issues. First, the feeling that the end of this military operation in Gaza will basically bring us to the same place we’ve been to before it started. We will most likely just buy us more time until the next military operation against Hamas in Summer 2025 or 2028, who knows? Again the Palestinians in Gaza lose themselves to an oppressor who is taking them hostage in a war that is in its basic a religious war between Judaism and Islam. My friends and I on the left have accepted their legitimate right to live in this region of the Middle East while they refuse to accept my right, as a Jew, to live here and build a home for me and my family. I’ve recently spent some time learning about Palestinian schools in Gaza. Did you know that the children there are taught that in the future all of them will be able to return to the pre-1948 villages of their ancestors? Yes, they grow up with an education that is constantly reinforcing their sense of being a refugee, an education that ignores the fact that these pre-1948 villages are no more, and in their place, for more than 70 years, there are now Jewish towns and cities. How can we hope for a future of peace when the children of Gaza are taught to sanctify their status as eternal refugees, as they are taught of an imaginary future in which they return to the villages of their ancestors as if there are now no cities there containing hundreds of thousands of Jews? You can learn more about schools in Gaza in this video by David Bedein.
The second issue I’m concerned with is the unusual internal conflict in Lod, Acre, Haifa, Jaffa, Bat Yam, Jerusalem, and other cities. Jews and Arabs who take the law to their hands, who are in a way taking us all hostage in their array of extreme beliefs and ideologies. These extreme and loud minority groups are acting freely as the majority chose to stay quiet, afraid to act. The eyes are set on the Israeli police, expecting them to bring order to the streets, but they show low levels of efficiency. These events sometime seem to be out of their league, I hope I’m wrong with that assessment. Many politicians are already saying that it is time to bring the IDF into our own cities but thoughts on such a scenario only make me worry more.
What will I say to you, my Jewish friends outside of Israel? You, who look at us from afar, the shareholders of the state we created together as the Jewish collective we are. Don’t lose hope in us yet, don’t let the troubling images and videos make you forget of what we created here in many decades of hard labor, in sweat, tears, and blood. Don’t neglect the notion and vision of coexistence in Israel, a future in which Jewish and Muslim children can grow together, work together, and enjoy equal rights and opportunities in a country that is both democratic and the home of the Jewish people. We have much work to do, many defects to fix, and we will do so in light of our 1948 Proclamation of Independence “…it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race, or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions”.
I have faith in you Israel still.