Yes, I know it’s useless. I know that in our impossible reality, most of us think that there is no one to talk to on the other side. No one who will listen, no one to argue with, no use to waste words.
Still, I guess I can’t help myself. Some inner need makes me try, again, even if in a small way, to relate to things I hear or read.
This past Wednesday, Israeli newspaper “Maariv” published an article titled: “The destruction of a Nation”. The writer, a Lebanese reporter whose words were published “incognito, in order to protect her” (exact quote), describes the hell in which she has been living since the war began. She has nothing, G-d forbid, to say against Nassrallah or the Hezbollah, but she complains against Israel’s harsh response that is the reason she and her friends must currently live under fire. She writes:
“Life for us isn’t about the future any more. It’s about today. The safest way to go to work. Will I have time to stop at home and check if everything is still intactâ€¦I wonder who will stay today, will my friends leave will the thousands that are leavingâ€¦not all Lebanese people want the Hezbollah, so why should all Lebanese people have to pay?…today I am a refugee, since I can’t return to my home. Israeli airplanes have been throwing pamphlets, warning civilians to leave their neighborhood before it is bombed, a few hours laterâ€¦I had where to go, others didn’t. So they stayed in their homesâ€¦and they are dying. They are dying in a war that isn’t their warâ€¦one morning we wake up after a good night’s sleep, the airplanes were quiet. The houses didn’t shake because of an attack. The nights are worst. The sound of the airplanes is terrifying. They fly above for hours before they hit, searching for pray. No one knows where the bomb will fall, and eventually you stop caring. You just want the noise to stopâ€¦
And the world is silent.”
A response is in place. True, my response isn’t complete, there are probably many aspects I haven’t discussed. And true, I am not an official representative of anything, just myself. The statement of an Israeli citizen who insists, sorry, on living here in this land. You may add, change or disagree. I am afraid that, in any case, our responses will have the same fate I mention in the endâ€¦
To the Lebanese reporter, Shalom,
It hurts, really hurts to read your words. It hurts first and foremost because your words sound so very, very familiar.
Life in the Galilee, and generally in Israel’s North, has become a long game of Russian Roulette. It didn’t happen in a week, it happened within a few minutes two weeks ago â€“ and hasn’t stopped since. Every time you want to get out of the shelter, even for a few minutes, is a gamble: will the Hezbollah start shelling again just as I leave the shelter to get some milk and bread for my kids, who are sitting in it with me? And if it does â€“ where is the closest hiding place? Is the local grocery store even open? Almost everything is closed. Summer tourism, that both you and me base quite a bit of our economy, is dead. Work is a forgotten dream, and those who still have jobs are afraid of the way back and forth. You see, on our side of the border, no one is throwing pamphlets to let us know when the next shelling will occur, and there is no advance noise to prepare us that the rockets are about to fall. They just do, out of the not-so-blue anymore sky. Eighty, a hundred per day. I completely understand when you say: when will this noise stop.
Of course, the roads aren’t safe either, and not only because of the bombs. If you are too close to a border, any border â€“ and Israel is so tiny that almost always you are close to some kind of border â€“ you must stay alert so no terrorist infiltrates and kidnaps you, or shoots you, or blows himself up with you and others. Our kids, even those who are not in shelters, know that they must be alert, suspicious, connected to the news and to their parents. That is daily life, everywhere, for all ages. They have grown accustomed, since they are 3 years old, that everywhere there is a guard that checks them and everyone else, that each little bag can become a dangerous parcel, that each smiling person can turn into the big bad wolf. It isn’t exactly the way to raise normal, healthy kids, but that’s our life and has been for a very, very long time.
More than half of the population in the north has left their homes and gone south. On our side, too, thousands can’t go home. But we don’t call them refugees. You see, for us they are simply our brothers and sisters, and Israelis everywhere are embracing them, trying to give them comfort and help till they can go back home. That’s what the citizens of a state are supposed to do for each other.
Not all of them could get away. Sorry to say, even we need time to get our act together sometimes, arrange safe transportation and secure places, especially when you need to do it under fire and while defending yourself. We have many volunteers, that is true, and they are doing miracles, but many of our elderly and needy have stayed in their homes, frightened by every explosion they hear, grateful when the blast is over, dreading the next one. We will have to deal with their trauma for many years to come.
Not all Israelis want war. Actually, I can tell you that almost all Israelis want peace, or at least quiet. And yet, all Israelis are paying the price. That’s how it is in a sovereign country, and that’s probably the main difference between us: if a group of people, big or tiny, had turned our life into hell, Israeli society and the Israeli government would do everything necessary to throw that group out. To destroy it. You can’t just sit passively, fumbling your fingers and crying: “but it wasnâ€™t me” – that is a lesson we learned in kindergarten, when we learned another lesson, one of the most important lessons: social responsibility. If a group like that would drag all of Israel into a horrific war â€“ and every war is horrific â€“ without us doing everything to stop them, than the consequences would be our full responsibility and we would have absolutely no right to complain that “this isn’t our war”. It is. If it comes from within my sovereign state, by my citizens, it is indeed my responsibility, just like it’s my responsibility to take care of all my citizens â€“ you know, those who need shelter, food. I can’t sit back while this malignant cancer grows in me, and then cry that it has taken over. It’s my responsibility to get rid of this malignancy on time, and if I don’t â€“ the price is mine to pay. Or, in the case of Hezbollah, yours.
As for the world being silent â€“ you shouldn’t be so surprised. Too many times that is the way of the world, being silent. We know, we have many, many years of experience.
I am thankful that your letter has been published in the Israeli media and that each of us could read it, freely, during these days of turmoil, even if it has to be undercover to protect you. In spite of what you may think, this is possible not because of who you are, but because of who I am. I have good reason to believe that my little letter to you won’t receive the same kind of treatment, and in my case â€“ no undercover is necessary.
And that, I believe, is the whole difference in a nutshell.
p.s. I just got s call from the local grocery store. A family from Nahariya that left their home because of the bombs a week ago was about to go back when they were told to stay in the center, since the bombings are still bad. Don’t worry â€“ they will spend the Shabbat here in Maccabim. Refugees?? No way. Guests.