Gefen Bar-On Santor

The dog and the Hamas

Saar Mano’s illustration of Kibbutz Nirim. Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Jerusalem. The project founder is Amit Trainin, Head of Illustration at Bezalel.

The failure of Israel to protect its people from being murdered, raped, tortured and kidnapped on October 7 will be studied and analyzed for many years to come.

Some commentators have associated that failure with the Israeli mentality of responding to any uncertainty or anxiety with the phrase “יהיה בסדר” (“yihye beseder,” it will be all right).  Ghil’ad Zuckermann, author of the academic bestseller Revivalistics (Oxford University Press), explains that this common Israeli expression is Yiddish in origin, and more broadly European, with Polish, Russian and German having similar expressions.  The Hebrew “יהיה בסדר” is a calque (loan translation) of the Yiddish “siz alts in ordenung” (literally, everything is in order; “seder” means order, hence the name of the orderly meal on the eve of Passover).  Zuckermann notes that in Australia, “she’ll be right” (don’t worry) and “she’ll be apples” carries a similar meaning of reassuring oneself against the unknown: everything is okay because she is nice (and she represents everything).  Regardless of culture, time or place, we seem to have a need to tell ourselves that our future will not be simply the subject of arbitrary chaos and horror.

In 1993-95, I was doing my compulsory military service as a guide for overseas volunteers in Sar-El, a volunteer unit of the IDF that was established by retired Israeli general Aaron Davidi.

Davidi sometimes gave us talks about our role as representatives of Israel in the eyes of the overseas volunteers, who sometime perceived that things were rather chaotic and not in order when it came to our plans and logistics.  Davidi’s manner of delivery was always calm and dignified, but firm—making it clear that we were listening to directions, not just polite suggestions.  One of Davidi’s memorable talks was about the concept of commiseration and the importance of empathizing with the worries and anxieties of the volunteers, a quality which he diplomatically implied might have been rather in need of development in our late-teen personalities.

In response to questions about logistics from worried volunteers about what often seemed like the apparent lack of well-organized plans, Davidi instructed us to avoid the perennial Israeli cheerful answer “it will be alright.”  To the overseas visitors, he explained, the Israeli evidence-free optimism about outcomes regardless of rigorous planning (which to us was a form of stress relief) proved to be only a source of stress and further anxiety and doubt about whether there was anybody there to ensure proper planning and order.  Just as a combat soldier always has their gun ready, we must always walk about with a notebook (that was before the days of tablets or smart phones) and write down any question or concern that a volunteer expressed and what we should do to respond to it. Yitzhak Rabin, in the following video in Hebrew, makes it clear that he is no fan of “it will be alright”/“yihye beseder” either.

In the context of October 7, there is little doubt that many tragic lessons about the army’s preparedness and responsibility for the safety of Israelis will be learned.  At the same time, the failure of October 7 is not simply about bad logistics.  Israel has been manipulated by the Hamas for years to believe that the Hamas’s genocidal rhetoric was not “real” and would not translate into the most horrific action. The empirical facts were known, but they were not interpreted with sufficient attention to what the Hamas was actually capable of choosing to do.  In that sense, the failure of October 7 was also about innocence, about the desire for a good and normal life—about the refusal to acknowledge that evil really does exist and can come to your door.  How can anyone seriously want to murder, rape and kidnap peace-loving Israelis?  If we are nice, should not everything be alright?

Saar Mano’s illustration of Kibbutz Nirim, one of the Kibbutzim targeted on October 7, captures the essence of Israeli innocence.

The illustration is a part of a project by the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem in which artists depict the productive and peace-loving beauty of the Gaza envelope region as it used to be before October 7.  Digital images of the art may be purchased for 100 NIS donation per image, with proceeds going to the “Shoresh Fund for immediate support of the Gaza Envelope citizens.”


In an email correspondence, Mano writes, “I chose to illustrate Kibbutz Nirim, with its pastoral beauty, because it holds a special place in my heart.  Drawing from my personal experience as a former kibbutz member (in the Golan Heights), and inspired by memories of dogs and cats casually strolling around the kibbutz, I wanted to depict the innocence and simplicity of kibbutz life.”

The eye is drawn to the dog, who is at the front and centre of the illustration. Mano writes, “The choice of a dog as the central figure was deliberate, symbolizing pure innocence in stark contrast to the sheer evil that followed. Placing it in the center was my way of symbolizing not only the innocence of the kibbutz but also that of the entire surrounding area and all its residents.”

Mano’s choice to focus on the dog is also rooted in trauma: “Another reason to choose a dog is a very unfortunate one. In the days after the horrific massacre, I tried to avoid being exposed to the videos, but one video that I couldn’t avoid and completely broke my heart was a video of a dog, which was also slaughtered by the terrorists, happily walking around the kibbutz, wagging its tail, it is obvious that it was not at all aware of what is about to come.  So apart from the symbolic reasons, I also wanted to honor the memory of the animals that fell in the terrible massacre.”

It has been said that “a dog can express more with his tail in minutes than an owner can express with his tongue in hours.”

Source: Karen Davidson quotes,with%20his%20tongue%20in%20hours

But can you spot the cat in the illustration?

The cat is behind the dog, against the gray rock, practically blending in with the rock.  Writing about a byre in winter, James Herriot (1916-1995), the British veterinarian and storyteller, notes, “The cats were there too, so it had to be warm. No animal is a better judge of comfort than a cat and they were just visible as furry balls in the straw. They had the best place, up against the wooden partition where the warmth came through from the big animals.”

Source for quote: Herriot, James. All Creatures Great and Small: The Classic Memoirs of a Yorkshire Country Vet (p. 464). Pan Macmillan. Kindle Edition.

Does the cat in Mano’s illustration, in contrast to the earnest and trusting dog, have the best place in the illustration, camouflaging itself against the looming massacre?

In popular psychology “gray rocking” is taught as a technique to help deal with potentially toxic interactions by behaving in a “flat” manner, as if you were a gray rock against a gray background:

“Gray rocking, or the grey rock method, is a tactic people may use to deal with abusive or manipulative behavior. It involves becoming as uninteresting and unengaged as possible so that the other person loses interest.  Some people anecdotally report that it reduces conflict and abuse.  The idea behind the technique is that abusive people, especially those with narcissistic tendencies, enjoy getting a reaction from their victims. Refusing to give them this reaction makes interactions less rewarding.  To ‘grey rock’ a person involves making all interactions with them as uninteresting and unrewarding as possible. In general, this means giving short, straightforward answers to questions and hiding emotional reactions to the things a person says or does. . . . The idea behind grey rocking is that it will, in theory, cut off a person’s “narcissistic supply” and cause them to lose interest in their target.”


To say that the Hamas is a narcissistic organization would be an understatement.  It has been said that not all narcissists are sociopaths or psychopaths but that all sociopaths and psychopaths are narcissists—extremely so.

Does the cat in the illustration that “gray-rocks” itself have sharper instincts than the Israelis who believed in peace, than the dog who is accustomed to being treated well and so assumes that everybody he encounters will treat him well, Hamas terrorists included?

When I first saw Mano’s dog, my inclination was to view the dear animal, standing in the cooling but possibly ominous shade, as a would-be protector of the kibbutz—earnest and noble in intention but doomed to fail. While this was not Mano’s primary intention, he notes that the dog as a protector “adds another layer to the contrast between kibbutz innocence and the later tragedy. . . . the dog also represents loyalty, and can be seen as a symbolic guardian, a testament to the protective spirit and courage embedded within the whole community.”

Humans are absent from the illustration, which is strangely ominous for a bustling community and perhaps foreshadows what is to come.  But the objects belonging to the humans tell the story of the Kibbutz’s vibrant life.  The red-roofed homes are modest and neat, standing in proximity to each other in this close-knit community.  The only vehicles are a toy car, two bicycles, one scooter, and one mobility vehicle, reminding us of the environmentalism, inter-generationalism and connection to the land of the kibbutz.  The red toy car has a humanoid face, as if searching for its dead, kidnapped or evacuated child driver.  The helmets hanging against the wall are a poignant reminder of the safety that was later shattered.  One of the bicycles has a towel drying against it, perhaps after the carefree pleasure of swimming.  The season, however, seems to be winter, as the branches of the tree in the front are bare, allowing us to see behind the tree. The juxtaposition of winter and possibly outdoor swimming adds to the feeling that the illustration is a symbolic representation, not simply a work of realism. The evergreen palm tree is one of the seven biblical species of the Promised Land, and the cacti plants remind us of the famous “sabre,” a popular nickname for an Israeli who is rough and prickly on the outside but soft and sweet on the inside.

The square structure decorated with birds might perhaps be a safe room (it was only birds that could efficiently escape the Hamas’s assault, much like birds during the Holocaust became to many deathcamp victims a symbol of the hoped-for freedom).

Did the dog in the illustration survive October 7?

In Mano’s memorable and moving work of art, the dog’s innocent and earnest spirit certainly lives on.  And so will the desire and need of most people to one day live in peace and safety—our hope that we can say without exaggeration “יהיה בסדר,” “yihye beseder,” it will be all right,  “siz alts in ordenung.”

About the Author
Gefen Bar-On Santor teaches English at the University of Ottawa, as well as adult-education literature courses at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre in Ottawa, Canada. She is an enthusiastic believer in life-long learning and in the relevance of fiction to our lives. She also writes at
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