Galya Gerstman

This Is about All of Us

We Jews are all traumatized by what happened on October 7 in Israel and what is still happening. The knowledge that people—our people—were tied up, had gasoline poured over them and their children and were then set on fire is impossible to unknow. Think of how painful a mere sunburn is. Or the girls who were raped so brutally with implements so that their pelvises actually broke. I can only find comfort, absurdly, in the fact that they are all dead, because at least they are no longer suffering. Those who are still suffering are their families, their friends, their neighbors. And the hostages, because only God knows what is happening to them. I hope, as Yocheved Lipschitz said, they are being treated well, but she is still a hostage, as her husband is still in the hands of his captors, who are likely listening to all she says, who have perhaps told her what to say. Because we have plainly seen that Hamas doesn’t value human lives, much less human rights.

I don’t mean to compare my suffering to theirs, these Israelis who have and are still undergoing unspeakable horror. But we Jews in the diaspora are suffering now too. Someone asked me if I had family in Israel, seeing me so affected by what happened there. They seemed to be implying that if you’re not directly Israeli, but merely Jewish, it shouldn’t affect you, at least not so much. Yes, I do, I said. My mother lives there, and my brother and his family, and my other brother’s son and fiancée, and my husband’s aunt and his many cousins live there. So yes, I do have family in Israel, but that only proves my larger point: We all know someone who lives there. Jews make up only 0.2% of the world’s population, a tiny fraction, and the greatest concentration of Jews is in Israel. So of course we all know someone. My children have friends there. My friends have children there.

To some, this is just further proof that Jews have divided loyalties, between our home country and Israel. But aren’t Italian Americans proud to be both? Aren’t Irish Americans proud to be both? I’ll bet most of the partygoers on Saint Patrick’s Day have never even been to Ireland, much less were born there. Yet it is only Jews whose loyalties appear suspect.

But Jews take the Hamas attack personally for other reasons too. When students on campuses worldwide are immediately scrambling to accuse Israelis of being “entirely responsible” for their gruesome deaths, even while bodies are still smoldering, with EMT personnel pouring water over them in the hopes of being able to identify them later, when people worldwide are pulling down posters of the kidnaped because they are “occupiers,” never mind that Gaza has not been occupied for close to twenty years, never mind that the attacks were perpetrated within the legitimate boundaries for Israel as established by the UN and not in any of the settlements, when Jewish students have to be locked in a library for their safety during campus pro-Palestinian marches, when anti-Israel demonstrators in Sydney chant “Kill the Jews” and “Gas the Jews,” when a Berlin synagogue is firebombed, we Jews can clearly see that this is not about Palestinians and this is not even about Israelis. This is about Jews. This is about all of us. In the video of the little Israeli boy held captive and being taunted by a group of Palestinian children, as the adult voice off camera was directing them, I understood only one word: Yahud. Jew. Not Israeli. Jew.

So we Jews all over the world are also traumatized. Even in Costa Rica, where I live, a country so peace-loving that it abolished its army decades ago, many Jews were afraid to attend the rally held in support of Israel. We are afraid. I am ashamed to say I asked my children who live in the US to not wear their stars of Davids and Chais; I am a Jew, yes, but a mother first. I told them I was afraid if people saw they were Jews, they could be attacked. My son’s response: “Let them try.” But me, and many like me, we are afraid. Yes, I went to the rally, but I was afraid. Because this war Hamas started, and which has turned out, shockingly, gallingly, demoralizingly, to have so many supporters worldwide, is a jihad. It is to rid the land, and eventually the world, of the Jews. They’ve stated it time and time again: they’re coming for us. They’re coming for us all.

About the Author
Galya Gerstman is the author of the novel Daughters of Jerusalem, based on episodes from her grandmother’s life, to be released Winter 2023-4 by Pleasure Boat Studio Press. She is also the author of the novel Texting Olivia and has had articles published in Scary Mommy, Motherhood Later, and other sites. Galya taught French Literature at Tel Aviv University before relocating to Costa Rica to raise a family. She possesses a PhD in French Literature from Columbia University and a BA in Creative Writing from Barnard College.
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