On Sunday, October 22, a few hours before work and nearly two weeks into the new Gaza War, I went for a walk in Tel Aviv. The threat of an air raid siren, while ever preasant, had dissipated somewhat. Reports had reached of a city changed in reflection, so went to see how the new Hamas War had shaped the White City.
While there were people scootering and walking on the street, the normal bustling of the city appearad to be missing some what. Passed by a Falafal store near Allenby Light Rail Station, the owner., appeared indifferent to their being a war on. A mother and her toddler daughter were there ordering their falafals. However, the next stores were shuttered. In fact a major change was noticed, a city underpopulated.
I went up Rothschild Boulevard by bus to my first destination where over the weekend an exhibit of coffins were displayed. Today, the plaza was empty except for a few candle and flower memorials. It appeared that landscape artists had created a large #WESTANDWITHISRAEL sign with portraits of the victims. One I was able to identify, a 12 year old autistic girl named Noya Dan, who was slain by Hamas in Kibbutz Nahal Oz when Hamas torched her family home. The memorial was spread out, with candles shaped like a star of david, to a heart. It seemed time had left this place, as if it stands still, in honor of people no longer with.
I continued walking,on Ben Zion street toward Dizengoff. What usually would be bustling with scooters and cyclists was quiet enough for even pedestrians to walk in the wrong lane. There were a few people sitting on the sidewalks, and the coffee shop had people. The trees have also been altered, with flyers of the missing. There was a young married couple, Shira Bibas and Yarden Bibas (pictured) that was taken hostage, then there was a toddler, whose lives changed on October 07. A flag in the distance was spotted, but soon was wrapped around a wire. Dizingoff mall, around the corner was open, but with security guards largely sitting aside with little to do. Few people were entering or exiting.
Soon reached the second destination, Dizengoff Square. Here, what was a major plaza where young couples and group of friends would hang out, lined with cafes and restaurants around, has become a memorial. The whole fountain was covered with candles. The sign, “I have ran out of words” strike at you next to an Israeli flag. Around were signs for victims, soldiers, hostages, fallen. People were arriving, reflecting. Some were adding to the candles, others came to take pictures. A testiment to a country changed, lives changed forever.
However upon leaving back toward the bus, toward Dizengoff Mall, I spotted the digital advertisements. Instead of advertising firms, their were messages of solidarity: “We are all brothers”, “There is no right or left (wing)”, “The spirit will win”.
With all the sorrow, a quiet resiliance of the spirit. The message was not found simply in Tel Aviv, but everywhere. Yahad Ninatzeach, “Together We Will Win”. A nation in mourning, but also a resolved nation for the road ahead.