A year ago today, rockets from Gaza tore through Tel Aviv and shattered my illusions of perfect safety. Our noses filled with a smell like a Fourth of July left to sour, the ground trembled and the air shook. My friend and I held hands, paralyzed by uncertainty, as Israelis around us dove for cover.
“They’ll never touch Tel Aviv,” I had reassured my mother only days earlier. How wrong I had been. The evenings and mornings for the next two months were peppered with sirens and punctuated by booms from the Iron Dome. We went to work, we drank and were merry, we ran on the beach and cheered on our teams in the World Cup, but we never wore headphones and always knew where the closest shelter was. Some days were better than others; occasionally, rockets reached only the areas closest to Gaza, and those of us further North were safe. But each day, hundreds of rockets were fired from Gaza, hundreds of our friends and family risked their lives in the IDF to destroy terror tunnels and Hamas infrastructure, millions of dollars were spent shooting down rockets meant to kill any Jew or Israeli it could tear through. Nearly half of the children in Southern Israel now suffer from PTSD as a result of the war.
Those who cry out for those killed in Gaza have every right to do so. But those who cry out and haven’t lived in the region quickly forget that the very same terrorists responsible for our summer from hell are responsible for the Gazan death and suffering. Though I am an American Jew, I have lived and worked in Israel during times of war, have friends and family in Israel and the West Bank, have seen Gaza firsthand, and have an intimate understanding of the region that few who haven’t can claim they posses.
There can be no question that Hamas — for kidnapping our boys, tunneling under our cities, plotting to destroy our women, children, men, and country, and firing thousands of rockets at a peaceful nation — is responsible for this war.
To those who cry out in ignorance: this is not your conflict. To those of you who do not have friends and family whose lives are torn asunder on both sides: this is not your conflict. I have lived and loved in Israel, I have broken bread with Muslims and Druze and Jews and Christians alike in Israel, and I have seen firsthand the impact of Hamas and other terrorist groups that operate out of the Palestinian territories. This is my conflict.
Those who love peace and justice and “just want to help,” realize that condemning Israel and leaving Hamas unaccountable only serves to embolden the militant Islamists and plunge the Palestinians into further suffering. Those who “just want to help,” listen to us – listen to Jews and Druze and Muslims and Christians who have lived this conflict. Listen to those who were trapped in Gaza, told by Hamas not to leave. Listen to those who found rockets in UN schools. Listen to the slew of military experts who found Israel’s actions last summer to be at the highest standard and the actions of Hamas deplorable. Listen, and remember: this is not your fight. You have no skin in the game. The “Western colonialism” you supposedly abhor is the same system you’re continuing by supposing you know better how to fix this. Even I, as an American Jew who has lived and worked in Israel and who has every intention of moving back, try to temper my deep disagreement with much Israeli policy with the fact that Israelis and Palestinians alike have a right to self-determination.
Listen. Listen without judgment. When you have lived here, when you have fallen in love with Israel and Palestine, then the world should listen to you. But until then, this is not your conflict.