Me and my friends devouring some pizza in Jerusalem while southern Israel is barraged with rockets and Gaza suffers from Israeli air strikes.
Ironically the operation has been named Amud Anan (pillar of cloud) - an biblical illusion to the wandering Jews in the dessert who were surrounded by a protective pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night. I assume the name was supposed to assure us that we are being protected, but since this operation has started I have felt just the opposite.
A Bad Situation on Both Sides
When it began I thought I would be fine. After all, I am located in Jerusalem - a city that has not been hit since 1970 and is respected as holy by all three major religions. There is a large Muslim population and rockets with poor aim do not discriminate. However, as shabbat started this past Friday evening we heard the siren go off in Jerusalem indicating a rocket was headed our way. It landed in open space in the Gush (south of Jerusalem) and no one was hurt, but it was a sign that Hamas is willing to take this to a much further level than expected.
For the past four days, the Tel Aviv area has heard warning sirens. Luckily the Israeli government deployed the fifth Iron dome battery there on Saturday and it has been successfully intercepting the rockets. Most of the Israelis feeling the impact of this are the same ones that have been dealing with it for years - the residents of the south. These people deal with hundreds of rockets daily and cannot go to school or work. So far only three deaths on the Israeli side (also with thanks to the Iron Dome, and poor aim) but the impact it takes on their daily lives and emotions is certainly not easy.
And then there is Gaza, a tiny strip of land densely populated with 1.7 million people in 140 sq. miles who’s lives have not been easy for years. There is an unemployment rate of 28% (58% among young people) and 50% of the population is under 18 years of age. 1 in 5 of these children suffers from PTSD. 39% of inhabitants live below the poverty line. Meanwhile, Israel controls everything going in an out of Gaza - airspace, borders, and territorial waters. While Israel used to have its own citizens residing in the strip, it unilaterally disengaged in 2005. The governing body is Gaza since 2006 is Hamas, an organization considered as terrorist by most of the Western world. They have been responsible for many terrorist attacks on Israel and most recently all of the rocket attacks that the south has been facing. The Palestinians view it as resistance due to the illegal siege on Gaza’s borders. The Israeli’s view it as continued terrorism and a further reason to maintain the siege. Already in this operation their have been a lot more civilian casualties on the Palestinian side, bringing back the devastating memories of Operation Cast Lead, but the Israeli government will note that unlike Hamas, they never actually target the civilians. However, the Israeli army must remember that their capabilities far outweigh Hamas’s and unlike Israeli civilians, these people do not benefit from the wonders of the Iron Dome.
Who’s fault is it?
As most of you know, I’m a liberal Jew often situated in the lonely peace camp here in Israel. I didn’t choose this war, but I’m not sure its wrong either. When people ask who started it, the situation is so complex and has been going on for so long its truly hard to say. But one thing I can note is that I feel like I’m one of the only people that is even trying to understand both sides of this mess and that can get very frustrating. And I know for sure is that if we are ever going to find this elusive peace, understanding each other is a must.
As the world is looking to put an end to this as soon as possible with a ceasefire, they seem to fail to understand that while this situation has exacerbated in the past few days, that is not where it began. And as someone who feels very caught in the middle, I unfortunately think our mistakes were made much earlier and lie far deeper than this specific skirmish. The further this conflict goes on, the more extreme we are becoming on both sides. The Palestinians elected Hamas in Gaza who do not appear to be at all interested in making peace with Israel but are rather much more interested in killing us - and not just because of the siege. But the siege is a problem for sure - I mean seriously, would you want to live under siege of a foreign enemy power? But that was a mistake since 2005 when Israel unilaterally disengaged. Didn’t they think it might of been a good idea to talk to them first so we could get something out of this? Controlling the borders is seen as necessary for security reasons which I can’t deny, but that is because we left without talking to them first. And as long as the siege goes on, we can only expect them to become more extreme and more angry at us.
And Israel elected a right wing coalition who claims to want peace but never acts on it. A few weeks ago Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority (governing body in the West Bank) was interviewed on Israel’s channel 2. He spoke of the state of Palestine only within 1967 borders, specifically noting that even though he was orignially from Safed (an Israeli city in the north) he does not have a right to go back and live there. His words were so moderate that Many Palestinians in Gaza were burning pictures of him in opposition. Netanyahu ignored his olive branch.
I don’t see these leaders as people who will be able to find common ground and that is frustrating. But the civilians need to consider these things when they elect their governing bodies. In democracies, everyone can take fault because everyone has a say.
The only solution I can see working
And as this goes on, here I am sitting in my peace camp attempting to enlist in the Israeli army (As of now I’m enlisting in April but I’m trying to get them to let me in earlier). And it’s not because I like guns or think war is cool, but because I want to make a difference in this country and unfortunately that is the only way to fully integrate so that my opinion will matter.
I know we all say we want peace but sometimes people feel like its so impossible that they forget they have to work toward it. As this bloody operation wages on I just hope that the result will be the realization of the need for peace. This is not a way for us to continue on either side and our respective electorates need to consider not just the short term, but the bigger picture. So as you sit at your computers finding meme’s to wage your one-sided nationalistic social media war that likely is preaching to the choir, take a few minutes to look at the other side’s memes just to see what they are feeling. We didn’t choose this war but maybe we can prevent it from happening again.