Will We Ever Meet Again?

Habima's Hostages (altered photo by Marc Kornblatt)
Habima Hostage Exhibit (altered photo by Marc Kornblatt)

Dear Z,

Seventy-six days have passed since terrorists invaded southern Israel, and I wonder if you and your family are still alive. I have seen so many pictures of destruction and death from the Israel-Hamas War that I am saddened to think your answer is no.

When we met nearly two years ago at Tel Aviv’s central bus station, I remember my surprise when you told me that you were from Gaza City. I had never met anyone before who openly shared that he was from there. Our ensuing conversation on the bus came easily. I was curious, and you were open and friendly.

You told me that you were in Israel on a work permit and were headed home for a short visit with your family. I was on my way to spend Passover in Ashkelon with relatives. As we parted, we exchanged promises to keep in touch on Facebook. And we did. 

I remember our first exchange when you assured me that Gazans love life, respect others and are looking for a better future. Subsequent Facebook messages from you reinforced my original impression that you were a gentleman, forthcoming and sincere. 

After you returned to Tel Aviv, I enjoyed drinking coffee and chatting with you at a cafe. I recall that you were an engineer and that you worked as a laborer for the Chinese company building Tel Aviv’s light rail system. You told me that the pay and working conditions in Tel Aviv were much better than those in Gaza and that you enjoyed living in my city.

We didn’t discuss Hamas directly, but you implied that life wasn’t easy under them. When rocket fire from Gaza closed the southern border, I remember you messaged me that you felt lucky to be stuck in Tel Aviv, while you worried about your family’s safety.

Tragically, my curiosity about you has turned morbid. Are you connected to any of the men who invaded my country on October 7? Were you in the crowd when they paraded their hostages through the streets of Gaza City? 

As an engineer, did you work on any of the tunnels that Israeli soldiers have discovered? During your stay in Tel Aviv were you also gathering information about us the same way Gazan laborers gathered information about the people living along Israel’s southern border to help Hamas prepare for its invasion? 

I remember the messages we exchanged after your work permit lapsed last spring and you had to return to Gaza. You told me that you wanted to study for a master’s degree in engineering in the United States. I recommended that you contact US organizations that offer Palestinians financial assistance for education. After you told me that you couldn’t find funding we fell out of touch.

That was months before the October 7 invasion. Since then our worlds have been awash with horror.

I have found no current information about you on your Facebook page. You posted nothing about October 7 and nothing specific about the Israel-Hamas War.  

On October 10 you wrote:

{إِنَّا نَحْنُ نَرِثُ الْأَرْضَ وَمَنْ عَلَيْها وَإِلَيْنا يُرْجَعُونَ (40) 

 {It is indeed We who inherit the earth and whoever owns it, and to Us they will be returned 40)   – Surah Maryam

On October 14:

ما النا غيرك يا الله ..  We have no one but You, Oh Allah…

On November 3:

بعد أن تخلى عنا حزب الله  لم يبقي لنا إلا الله..  

After Hezbollah abandoned us we have nothing but Allah..

Compared to what others from Gaza and the world over have written and filmed, your posts are subtle, if not cryptic. I am unschooled in the texts you referenced, so I am left to wonder what you are signaling. I want to believe that you speak as a wounded man of faith, not as someone filled with demonic hate.

Your most recent post came on December 16:

 يآرب باسمك الأعظم ..  Lord in your mightiest name..

That was five days ago. 

I have not messaged you on Facebook, because I don’t want to compromise your security, or mine. These are dark, dark times.

I want to believe that you came to work in Tel Aviv with good intentions, that you truly wish to live peacefully with Israelis like me. Now, sadly, I am filled with doubt. 

I hope that you and yours are okay, just as I hope that you are not one of those Gazans who applauded the atrocities the jihadists perpetrated on October 7. 

I want to believe there is hope for the future.

About the Author
Filmmaker, playwright, actor, and children's book author Marc Kornblatt is the producer/director of the award-winning documentaries DOSTOEVSKY BEHIND BARS, STILL 60, WHAT I DID IN FIFTH GRADE, and LIFE ON THE LEDGE, among others, and more than 20 web series, including MINUTE MAN, ROCK REGGA, THE NARROW BRIDGE PROJECT, and BLUE & RED, RESPECTFUL ENCOUNTERS OF THE POLITICAL KIND. His latest picture book, MR. KATZ AND ME, is forthcoming from Behrman House. He and his wife made Aliyah in 2019 and now live in Tel Aviv.
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