When divorce is not an option

When reconciliation, not divorce, is your only option, it redefines your love-hate relationship. Then there’s a pixel of space for an allusion to Shoah – as a point of reference. I object, but it’s still there. Nothing rational.

Let’s get my objections out of the way. I get it. I really get it. I painfully get it.

The massacre on October 7 however, unequivocally, has its own powerfully horrifying statement in visuals and testimonials, and the stories we have yet to hear. I have no need to make those comparisons. Yet, I can understand if that is an anchor that meets the need of others. A frame of reference.

Juxtaposed pictures from Poland 1943 with pictures from Kibbutz Be’eri October 7, 2023, run on social media. Or graphic compositions of the Star of David split between the yellow patch and a blue-and-white half, like the Israeli flag.

The former angers me. Not because of the comparisons of massacres. That’s all too clear. Comparing the atrocities that the Jewish people experienced in Europe to something that happened here in Israel, on our land, in our homeland riles me. (That it is a land to which another people also have a claim notwithstanding).

That juxtaposition is the antithesis of what this event signifies for me as an Israeli. If the picture from 1943 is symbolic of why the Jewish people needs a homeland, are we not doing ourselves a disservice by highlighting that in our homeland Jews were massacred by terrorists? Or is this juxtaposition perhaps something that touches all the minuscule vessels of my soul that are so angry with the leadership that was taken off guard, the leadership inattentive to the warnings? Not spending much time on the interpretation of the other image – half a yellow patch completed by half an Israeli flag. Maybe it is the graphic representation that captures my anger.

When Jews behave in any way reminiscent of the behavior to which Jews were subjected during World War II in Europe, I only hope that if ever put to the test, I would be brave enough and bold enough to save victims from the wrath of evil – and I am angrily helpless when extremist settlers on the West Bank, randomly attack Palestinians and their homes in the Palestinian Authority. I am angrily helpless because this government does not disenable these attacks. [Wait for the English version of Yaniv Kubovich’s  November 12 in Hebrew in Haaretz.]

I hesitate to refer to actions by the IDF on the West Bank that I fail to understand, lest I say, fail to find justifiable. The IDF has its task cut out for it against Hamas. I want to be convinced that soldiers on the West Bank are only truly doing what is necessary for my security. Did I say, love-hate relationship?

I cringe when I speak to young Palestinian parents in West Bank villages and cities who describe their fears, and the fear that the sight of our soldiers causes their children. Tear gas throughout one village or another on the West Bank clearly isn’t targeting an individual suspect of terrorist activity. Public pleas (Hebrew, Nov.2 ) to the defense leadership call for ending this antagonism lest it incite another front when our forces are needed in Gaza for the battle to eradicate Hamas.

I can analyze and share my humble commentaries and a range of scenarios. I do not delude myself about potential threats. I do not sleep when I ponder our behavior. I am attuned to counter-narratives. Does wiping Hamas off the face of this earth (as if that were truly possible) necessarily involve ethnic cleansing? I read an op-ed (Omer Bartov in the New York Times) about genocide and ethnic cleansing and intent – and slept less. I could have found comfort from that article. Because we’re not there yet. Feeling like a displaced person in the only place that can truly be my home. Sleeping less.

My thoughts turn to my Arab friends who are Palestinian, loyal citizens of the State of Israel, who share my unending belief in the necessity of our living together in this state. I know that this war will not result in that being easier. I know that I don’t know what the implications of this war will be for Gaza and for the West Bank.

If this preoccupies me, I can seek distraction in reports about demonstrations around the world to “Free Palestine.” As one willing to accept a Palestinian State alongside the State of Israel, I am unable to see any difference between “Free Palestine” and “From the river to the sea,” and that is not what I said I accept. Understatement.

Masses of demonstrators protesting, under the slogan Free Palestine and from the river to the sea.  Prevalent. Understatement. I have no other place but this one, the State of Israel. I will not object to fighting for it.

I can not divorce myself from my love-hate relationship with my country, but love will have to transcend. For that to happen, all I can do is my small part to heal the rotting roots of our society – it must be the way to heal from the events of October 7.

Harriet Gimpel, November 11, 2023

About the Author
Born and raised in Philadelphia, earned a B.A. in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies from Brandeis University in 1980, followed by an M.A. in Political Science from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Harriet has worked in the non-profit world throughout her career. She is a freelance translator and editor, writes poetry in Hebrew and essays in English, and continues to work for NGOs committed to human rights and democracy.
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