This past month has certainly been a strange one. It’s been difficult to figure out what to say to describe the past 50 days or so. On the one hand a siren going off took up about 2 minutes of my day on the other the war took up my entire life. The constant threat, being glued to the news, attempting to make some kind of sense of it all. Throughout I was hoping that this time it would be different, that this time the IDF and the government would pull a rabbit out of the hat and figure out how to end the problem of Hamas forever.
Over and above these things there was also having to watch the reaction to the fighting from afar. The images from France in particular struck a terrible chord with me. Seeing and hearing of Jews being hounded while in shul and of a few other Jews stepping up to fight against people who are so in favour of peace that they feel the need to beat up Jews to prove it.
As someone who is used to being called up to the army during an emergency being at home watching all of this was particularly frustrating. More than frustration, it brought home just how isolated we Jews are, wherever we are. It’s now very clear to what extent we have been cast in the role of bad guy in the pantomime which is the media presentation of the Israeli Palestinian conflict. Protective Edge really brought home to me the effect that has had on the safety of Jews everywhere.
No matter where we live, we have to fight for our people, be it in cyberspace space, in Gaza or on the streets of Paris, there is simply no way to run from it.
It has also hammered home the fact that there is no place for the Israeli left in Europe. The Israelis who believe that their own country should exist alongside a Palestinian state have no place among demonstrators outside of Israel. They have no place in the demonstrations in London, Paris or Berlin. They have no place among demonstrators calling “Jews to the gas” or those holding posters comparing the actions of the IDF to the Holocaust.
Those Jews who wish for a two state solution can only campaign for one here in Israel. In fact one of the things I find most distressing about the reaction to the fighting in my native London is the reaction of those Jews who stand up on podiums and argue that as Jews they are against Israel. Though this is not something new, it never fails to give me the proverbial kick in the gut when I see it.
To add to the abstract nature of the last 50 days I also had some of the happiest times of my life during this conflict. In the week beginning the 7th of August and ending on the 14th I had two bachelor parties, my wedding and my 35th birthday! Hamas were kind enough to oblige with not one but two ceasefires. The first covered the bachelor parties and the second the wedding. All of this ensuring that this whole time has been one of high emotions, both good and bad. My family and many friends (those with the courage) came out here and celebrated with me, even while many of my Israeli friends and certainly many of their relatives were in the hell that is Gaza, fighting a war against an adversary who thinks nothing of death.
Here in Israel, particularly before and during the ground incursion there was a huge feeling among the people that this time we would not “mow the lawn” but would end the threat posed by Hamas once and for all. Now that it’s ended we are left with the disappointment of reality.
Hamas are still there, of course they will take advantage of an easing of the blockade to rebuild their military infrastructure, their tunnels, their rocket capabilities and their command and control centres. It was always going to be that way. Unless we reoccupied the entirety of Gaza in which case we would have faced more casualties during the operation itself and the same drip drip losses we suffered before the withdrawal. It would be guerilla war without end. At least this way Israel can expect to have some quiet time before the rockets begin to fall once more. Nevertheless the disappointment here is clear. We gained nothing except perhaps a couple more years of quiet. A quiet that was always relative, it being greater the further North you’re living.
Perhaps I’m being premature making these statements. No one can definitively say that this conflict is really over. The real negotiations are still to come. Perhaps that’s simply a reflection of the general opinion here in Israel right now. The feeling that it’s over.
One thing that will never change for me is the feeling that Israel was really thrown under the bus by the large media outlets. Their point blank refusal to portray Hamas as a military force in its own right undoubtedly (in my mind) led to many around the world to dismiss Israel as a terrorist state choosing to perpetrate a massacre on Gaza. Even though more and more column inches are now being devoted to the failure of those such as the BBC and New York Times to even show Hamas firing missiles, I feel that only the pro Israel choir is listening.
Netanyahu is facing criticism for failing to deliver to the Israeli people on our expectations that there would be no more mowing the lawn but action that would have a permanent effect. I find that in fairness to the man, it could never have gone any other way.
Now we just have to continue our daily routines with the knowledge that Hamas was dealt, if not a death blow, at least a hammer blow from which it will not soon recover. I know this will come as scant comfort to the residents of the South of Israel who will have to continue to face the threats of Hamas tunnels right into their kibbutzim and mortars that can target their communities. This is simply the reality of being an Israeli now. Hezbollah can target us all from the North and Hamas from the South.
It is difficult to write a sentence concluding my thoughts because this whole episode has ended inconclusively. Both sides have declared victory, neither have gained it. The stage is set for the same thing to happen in again in the future.
For myself at least I can take solace in the fact that the spectre of sirens going off during the wedding was averted. For sure these 50 days will always stay with me. For the nerves of hearing the sirens while on the street and far from shelter, for the greater sense of community we all shared, for the selfies taken in bomb shelters, for seeing friends carry their babies from their cribs into the bomb shelters, for the fear and the frustration and the terror. For the joy of one day out of 50 in particular.
I will always remember these 50 days.