Noam Levenson

This Time Feels Different

This time feels different. 

During the past conflicts, there certainly was anger, frustration, annoyance. The sudden rocket attacks that would last for a week and then stop, were just enough to piss people off and just few enough to not lead to war. I remember when I was in the army and the three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and murdered in 2014. That was enough to lead to a war.

“Hit them hard, take out the tunnels, destroy the weapon caches, kill the leaders.”

“But what will change? Won’t it happen again?” 

“Of course. In five years. But at least we’ll have a few years of quiet. What else can we do? They’ll fire rockets, we’ll respond. They’ll fire rockets, we’ll respond.” 

It was the status quo. Just good enough for it to continue. Not “good.” Just not bad enough to force change. The tyranny of the status quo.

But this time feels different. 

It feels that the energy of this time is that there can be no next time. This, what happened on October 7th, cannot happen again. Will not happen again. And we can’t take anyone else’s word for it. It’s not about punishment or deterrence anymore. 

This time, I don’t think it matters what anyone else says. I don’t think there is anything the international community can do to stop this. There will be no ceasefire. They can help take refugees, they can help provide aid, but it was not their people who had to mop the blood of children off their bedroom floors. It is not their people kidnapped, alone and afraid in Hamas tunnels. It is not their people who had to live with a shitty status quo, on either side of the border. So it is not their decision to make. This time, it is different. Their words fall on deaf ears. 

In the past we didn’t have a stomach for dead soldiers. Eventually, we were willing to ceasefire if it meant we got to shake hands with America and smile for the camera and say, “yay peace,” and then our kids got to come home before having to go again a few years later. But this time feels different. We’ll grieve them, we’ll scream and tear our clothes, but this time, they are not dying for a status quo that will fall apart again in a few years. They are not dying for what will end in a heartwarming handshake on the front of the New York Times. Because that is a fake peace. This time, they are dying for the obliteration of the status quo and the birth of something new. This time, they cannot come home until it is different. 

No one will like us for this. But that is ok. Because Israel was far too concerned with what everyone else thought to actually do good. Far too concerned with whether the world would continue to condone the “just-good-enough” status quo. No more excuses. No more international conferences. No more cute placates to foreign leaders about how “we’re trying, but it’s just sooo hard.” It’s just us now. Do we want peace or do we want everyone to think we want peace? Because we’re the ones that have to live with it.

This time we choose the hard way. This time, we must realize that we cannot absolve ourselves of responsibility. Even if we feel like it was not our choice to have this responsibility thrust upon us. But here it is. We tried to absolve ourselves of the responsibility in 2005. We trusted the international community when they said, Gaza is OUR responsibility, so join with us and we will support you. But that was a fake peace. Because no one can solve this for us. We are bound with the Gazans, like it or not. We can no longer turn away from that. 

We as a nation will have blood on our hands, some of it innocent. Our cemeteries will overflow once more. That is the cost of absolving responsibility. Of turning to others to do what is ours to do. That is the cost of fake peace, of “feel-good” peace, of “we are trying” peace. 

Because you know what? No one cares if we are trying. “We know you guys tried so hard so we forgive you.” There is no award that comes to Israel for trying to make peace. Just more body bags. Just more dead children.

This war is the first step to peace. Now is the pain and the loss. Will we pay that price? The answer seems to be yes. But what will come after? Will we have the courage not to settle for a mediocre status quo? Can we step out of our own victim narrative, let go of the “they don’t want peace either” or “peace can’t happen” mantra that has become so comfortable, and actually do it? Try for real – not just try so that we can say we tried? Will we have the strength to be soft where we need to be soft and hard where we need to be hard regardless of what everyone else thinks? Will we have the strength to forgive, to look our enemy in the eye and say, “I am sorry for your suffering?” Because if we just want to find people who will agree with us that it is hopeless, then we will always find them. If that’s the point of our Hasbara – to convince people that we’re not to blame for our hopeless situation – then that’s what we’ll get. Victims in a hopeless situation. And more dead children.

This country is a miracle. The Jewish people are a miracle. Always against all odds. Always against all odds. Why? Because we didn’t care what anyone else thought. We didn’t ask for any help. We didn’t do it to make them happy, to make them like us. That is always a trap. We did it because we had to. For our children. And our children’s children. We cannot fail here. There is no help coming. No one else can do it for us. No more excuses. We are it. 

About the Author
Noam Levenson is a writer living in Jerusalem. His perspectives draw from his experiences growing up in Alaska, serving in the IDF, traveling extensively, soul searching, and learning from many different people in many different cultures.
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