28th October 2023
Three whole weeks
In Jewish tradition, immediately after Shabbat we say “Shevua Tov” Have a good week, but in the light of what is happening around us we say “Have a better week”
I was asked by someone why I don’t write more about the hostages, about my concerns for them, but if I tell the honest truth, I find it too hard. I cannot bear to think of those babies without mothers, and who knows what they were able to understand of the horror sights they saw of their parents being killed, I cannot bear to think of the mothers without their children, of the mothers with their children, of those two tiny red-headed angels clinging to their mother, of the Thai workers, of the elderly and the infirm and the soldiers; yes some of the hostages are soldiers. Those who will certainly suffer most are the Bedouins, soldiers and workers, just because they are Israeli Moslems. So that’s why I don’t write about it because I cannot bear to think of what they are feeling now, if they are being fed, if they are suffering violence, are they cold in their underground prison…..I simply can’t, and sadly I fear that the negotiations will either set them free or rain further terror upon us as the Hamas terrorists in Israeli prisons will be set free to wreak havoc once again. I am so proud of all of you that go to rallies, are ready to demonstrate, write, ensure that their names are on everyone’s lips – and fight those who try to teat the posters down
OK. Now you are going to learn some Hebrew!! You already know what a mamad is (safe room), a Miklat (shelter) Azaka (siren) Tzeva Adom (Red Alert) matachim (salvos) Yerutim (when Iron Dome shoots down the matachim), Nefilot (when a missile actually lands) Lehitkofef (if there is a siren and you have nowhere to find cover, you have to coopy down on the ground, if possible near a concrete wall, with your hands over your head) Then there is the TV news, basically 24/7 and on the right side of the screen one suddenly sees a row of orange flashed notices – Gaza envelope – the villages one by one, Sderot, Ashkelon, Holon, Nes Ziona, Rehovot, Tel Aviv one after another sometimes 20 sites at a time. Since most people there are in their safe rooms or down in the communal shelters, they often don’t have reception so you wait and try WhatsApp just to ask “Are you alright”
Today we went to Amiad for lunch in Tel Aviv. It was lovely sitting beside their burgeoning table, filled with all the best (kol tov). Noga’s parents came down from the beautiful village of Timrat with its stunning views over the Jezreel Valley and Leor and family managed to come from Nes Ziona enticed, as we were, by Amiad’s excellent cooking and Noga’s excellent hospitality. We popped in to Irit and Yitzik Lev for a quick hug and then headed to home because I prefer to be home before dusk, before the “matachim” begin in Tel Aviv. As I suspected, we were travelling on the main Tel Aviv–Jerusalem road when the radio announced that the matachim had started along the entire coast and there were three nefilot. I quickly changed my speed from a comfortable 110 kph to a highly illegal 150 kph, determined to get home quickly – to my safe place, clearly many others had the same idea. Of course, Zvi was on the lookout for hidden police cars but as far as we know I got away with it!
I want to address some of the misconceptions perpetrated and repeated by the media. A couple of years ago an Israeli company laid water pipes into Gaza, with the ole intention of providing a clean water source for the citizens handing over the pipes to a Gazan construction company which carried out the work. The water pipes were barely in the ground when Hamas dug them up and used them as missile launchers; Israel provided fuel for hospitals to use in generators, specifically for humanitarian use, and Hamas stole the fuel, they have huge storages full; we provided essential medications, guess who stole them? The list is long, the facts are horrifying, especially when they then twist the facts, no not twist the fact, outright lie and say that Israel is imposing a siege on them. In case anyone is interested, we stopped the huge truckloads of aid for just three or four days (they should have reserves if they hadn’t stolen them) and we continue to allow food and essential goods to go through. Oh, by the way, the electricity cuts have a purpose. If you don’t have electricity you cannot charge your cell phones! Almost all of Hamas instructions are sent through social media!
By the way, fancied going to Turkey? Well be careful because they have put up big signs saying “Jews not allowed” Um, what was it that Erdogan said about apartheid?
The ground assault has started, slowly, surely. In and out, very quickly. The greatest problem is the tunnels under civilian homes in which the cowardly Hamas hides, but worse still, where they are holding the hostages. The main tunnel widens under Shifa Hospital into great halls where Hamas has its HQ, right there under the hospital. Incidentally remember them saying that Shifa was hospital was destroyed? Well it is still standing. he Palestinian Islamic rocket which misfired and landed “on the hospital killing 500” actually landed in the car park, not the hospital…..500 people in the car park??????
The foul-ups made in the lead up to this our continuing war of independence are manifold; we were told, nay convinced that the fence between us and Hamas-ISIS-Daeesh-Al Qaeda, whatever you wish to call them, was unbreachable, after all we paid a fortune for it; now, the builder, the man who actually built it to the precise specifications decided upon by government and the security forces, says that it was unbreachable for a “normal onslaught” but not for the bulldozers of October 7th. What? What about the supposed 6 metre deep concrete wall underground? Oh, I get it! No-one could tunnel under it (yeah right) but all you need is a Caterpillar and you just pull the actual fence apart!! The number of mistakes and blind eyes turned to potential dangers is terrifying. Perhaps we too became complacent.
Last night was just Zvi and I. Zvi made his beautiful kiddush over the wine and I made challot (plaited loaves) for the blessing over the bread. I made a whitefish ceviche followed by vegetarian cholent (yes it can be delicious) but since I was so busy making challah, ceviche and cholent I forgot to make a dessert. That was soon solved with a hug, ripe, juicy mango which in two minutes was paired with banana and hey presto, dessert!
Yes, we are doing our very best to continue with normal life, but it is hard, so hard. If you take our estate as an example, out of 230 homes we have 70 soldiers called up or serving.
Small, humble places just on the edge of the desert, places to worry about…..Yonatan Geffen wrote the lyrics and Matti Caspi wrote the music and sings. I dedicate this song to those small, humble places at the edge of the desert and the refugees from homes destroyed or bombed or deserted. https://youtu.be/Qr1u-a2kw7s?si=x5f-7loylxSF9KHC
I will leave you with the words of Yair Lapid. It is your choice if you read it or not but I think it is very important
I wish you a better week
Yair Lapid on loss and grief
My father was a 13-year-old boy in the Holocaust. They killed his father. Most of the kids in his class were murdered. He always carried it with him, all this baggage of pain, but not only him. He had much more in his life. He was a happy Jew. A fat, loud and funny man, who never missed a good fight and believed that most problems in the world could be solved over a cream cake with chestnuts.
When my sister was killed, I thought the world had ended. I was right. The world as I knew it really did end. From it a new world was born. I miss Michal every day of my life, but the world we created after her death is full of goodness. We became a closer family, we learned that it is possible to be in pain without letting the pain rule us. Years later, when my daughter Yaeli was diagnosed as autistic, I discovered that Michal made available to me powers I didn’t know I had.
The world as we knew it ended on October 7th. Not only the dead died, but also the lies we told ourselves, the trust that crumbled like the Gaza fence. We can indulge in pain, indulge in anger, but that will get us nowhere. We have a new world to build. We have a new Israeliness to grow out of the soil soaked in blood. It will be an insult to our people if we do not build a better world here in the coming years than before. This is our life’s mission.
We’ve done it before. After the Holocaust, after the Yom Kippur War, after Rabin’s murder. We already told ourselves we were done, then it turned out we weren’t. We already told ourselves we wouldn’t recover, then we got better. Our history is the story of building from dust, of updating a version, of being able to reinvent ourselves. We will not go back to what we were, we must not. The country we will become, the people we will become, should deserve what we have lost.
The future is not just our worst options. It is also the best. Look ahead, not a week ahead, not a month, look further, but not too far. Look a year from now. what do you see?
Do you see the possibility that in a year we will be better? We will talk to each other like a family that has gone through a disaster together, and its friends are careful not to cause more pain. We will be people who suddenly saw how empty and destructive the discourse about left and right is, and we will not accept it. We will get through everything together. If you are afraid, you are not the only one who is afraid. If you don’t sleep at night, you’re not the only one lying awake.
In a year you will sleep better. In a year we will demand and receive from the government modesty and decency and proper functioning. In a year, a young leadership will emerge from among us who understood that responsibility is taken, not accepted. We will have an army that will be relearned to trust him because, heartbreakingly late, he investigated his failures and hid nothing. In a year our abductees will be home, because that’s what we owe them. There will be an economy and a society based on solidarity. In a year, people will be living in Kibbutz Bari and Moshav Netiv Hatara and in the city of Sderot. Not only their houses will be rebuilt, but also their trust in their country. The knowledge that they were not saved from death to be saved, but to live.
It’s true that it’s hard, it’s always hard, but hard never scared us. We have never hurt like we do now, so we must work to make it hurt less. We may not have control over what happened, but we have the ability to change what will happen. We can, we have this power in us, to win the war, to eradicate Hamas, but this is not our only goal. We can and should also build a better country and society. We can and should also take care of each other. We are not alone, we are a community. We care about each other, and we have a lot to give. People around us need us and we have a lot to give them.
Do you want to know where we will be in another year? Where we decide to be. It depends only on us.