It’s really weird to see posting on facebook like today is a normal day.
Today has been a sad and terrible day. It’s unclear exactly what’s going on, and I’m sure as time passes we’ll better understand, but here’s my best understanding of what is going on:
- I woke up today to news of a huge attack by presumably Hamas into Israel. This attack included some killing and capturing of soldiers, but mostly attacking civilians.
- This wasn’t your “normal” terrorist attack. More like an invasion. Tons of footage of people in pickup trucks in Israeli villages and towns just shooting people. Stories of people being pulled out of cars with their throats cut. Elderly women being gunned down waiting for the bus. Men going from house to house, looking for jews, and killing anyone they found inside.
- In a surreal twist, seems like a burning man style event was raided, lots of people dead.
- I can’t be sure but I’m seeing lots of suggestions of mass rape as well.
- Reports of many people being kidnapped and taken as hostages to the gaza strip. Their family can use “find my iphone” or the android equivalent to see their phones bobbing around in gaza city.
Since my relatives live in Israel, and I was born there and still feel strongly about it, this feels extremely personal to me. There’s a tendency to think that anything that happens far-enough away is kind of .. not real. Or only real enough to be useful as a talking point. This morning, I viscerally did not feel that way. People I know could be killed, raped, kidnapped. I think every one of my friends and relatives in Israel knows someone who died in the last 24 hours, or is mysteriously missing.
I called one cousin. He asked me how I was feeling. I said something like this: There’s a strange thing about the French Revolution. The terror would invariably intensify during times when the french army was doing badly. It would wane during “good times”. This feels counterintuitive on its face. You might imagine that only in relative safety would people feel like they had the space to go after their internal enemies. Nope! I am feeling that same sort of rage: catastrophe happened, I can’t really focus on it, let’s see which of my so-called friends are actually my enemies. Or, at best, deluded. That’s my gut reaction — because at least that’s something I can control, something I can do: taking a look around me and watching others’ reaction.
We talked about the family. Seems like everyone is okay, but also desperately posting on whatsapp (and other places) trying to find out about their missing friends. “No one is missing the historical resonance”, he says.
“The jews are hiding in their basement as armed men go door to door looking inside for jews to kill” (Only this time, they take selfies after)
It’s not going to go well.
I’m of course furious. And, like I said before, lots of blame energy flying around. The so-called friends who celebrate killing of children as “decolonial praxis”. The terrible, ruinous, current government of Israel. The people who made the choices that led us here.
I’ve unfollowed a fair number of people on twitter, rather than explode.
I’m seeing photos of terrorists taking selfies of themselves, a corpse, and the house the corpse used to belong to. I’m seeing people frantically looking for their loved ones. I’m seeing blithe blindness or glibness about the above. And I’m seeing lots of people posting away as if today was a normal day.
In a few hours I’m supposed to go to dance around the Torah in perhaps the happiest day of the jewish year. Unclear how that’ll happen.
A friend of mine, a really smart, committed one, asked about the context of what’s going on. I was surprised to hear that he didn’t know about the political developments in Israel the last few months. The gigantic political battles. The foreshadowing.
I think tomorrow is a good time to start talking about it. Spoiler alert: no one in this story is covered in glory.
By the afternoon I perceived a shift in myself and in the news I was reading. The visceral sense of violence, the fear, the uncertainty had started to fade away. People went back to old mental habits: less focus on what just happened, more maneuvering about who to blame for the future. It started to feel, both reading others and internally, a bit more like the cinema again.
I have friends with many opinions connected to Israel. They run the gamut. Most don’t agree with me — or each other. Most have opinions — few could tell you basic details about the country or people they supposedly care much about. I see so much reasoning by analogy. It’s not a place to score points, it’s real people in a truly messed up situation.
I’ve thought about it a bit, and here’s the line I’m drawing in the sand. Today is a sad day. A terrible day. Murdering innocent people is wrong, no matter who you are. You can tack on any political analysis you like to it, blame anyone you want. Call it blowback, call it inevitable, whatever. That’s fine. But if you’re cheering, excited, happy, or proud today — that’s where you’ve made a terrible moral error, and I lose my respect and affection for you.
Talia Lavin, of all people, put it best: “praying for a swift merciful and just end to this war that spares as many innocent people as possible”