It Takes Two to Tango

I read this morning about the Israeli soldier whose body has not been found. Apparently, (based on evidence which was not shared in the article) the military and rabbinical authorities decided that he had been killed. I cannot even begin to imagine how awful this is for his family.

For someone who rarely, if ever, looks at the news, I’ve been checking the Israeli media site Ynet very often, more than once a day. In this war, I am having a hard time maintaining (or even wanting to maintain) my usual bubble of separation. Ignoring won’t do. The war is very much here.

I grew up, in Israel, on ideals such as, “It is good to die for one’s country,” “where you walk in Israel belongs to you (as a representative of the nation),” and “The existence of Israel is a guarantee that the Holocaust cannot happen again.” I was raised with the knowledge that our army, the Israeli Defense Force, is superior to all other armies, not only in the weaponry/military qualifications/bravery of our soldiers (one soldier of ours is equal to ten of theirs kind of thing) but also in our ethics, our morality, our sense of right and wrong.

Headlines on Ynet let me know that this war we Israelis are fighting is a Just War. “Just” as in justice. It had better be a just war, hadn’t it, if our soldiers are dying for it? If our people have to hide in their safe rooms because of the threat of rockets? If the world is turning its blaming eyes on us? It had better be justified. The alternative does not bear thinking about.

The other day, in talking about this war with a friend, I mentioned my (more than) sadness over the fact that so many Palestinian kids have been killed (the count is not clear, but it looks like it comes to over 200). My friend, Jewish herself, was appalled, and not by the number of kids. “You’re talking to me about their kids! What about our kids who are getting killed?” She asked me, her voice trembling with passion and vehemence. In a Just War, I guess, you do not talk about the number of enemy kids who are killed.

From my perch on the seat of safety, here in the United States, I am saddened by the entire war and its casualties. I am saddened by the situation that caused the war, the ignorance and fear, the hatred that are at its root. And I think, perhaps, admitting those roots, admitting even the minute possibility that this war might not be a “Just War” are too great a pain to bear. Even to suggest the idea that our soldiers are dying for a less than a just and justified cause is intolerable.

War in Israel is an intensely personal thing. It is so small a country that most people live within earshot of the explosion of rockets, everyone had been in the army, and even if no one had died in your family during this war, you need only look once-removed, twice-removed, to find a connection. Everyone is affected. Everyone’s life is changed.

Such a personal army, such a personal war, such a near effect on who we are as a nation, as individuals, as an army — I am not surprised at how vehemently and passionately we defend our army’s every move. Shooting a school must be justified: the Hamas was hiding weapons there. Destroying Palestinian homes must be justified: there are terrorist tunnels leading below. Our very safety, our very existence hangs in the balance. Those who view us as an enemy, who seek to destroy us, must be destroyed. We have NO choice.

The Palestinians, of course, have a choice. They can choose not to hide behind children. They can choose not to hide behind civilians. They can choose to seek peace and not terrorism. But we? We are fighting a Just War. We are only defending ourselves. We have NO choice.

There is always a choice.

I was afraid to write this blog post. Afraid of the anger that would turn toward me if I wrote anything that could (and probably will) be construed as lack of support in Israel in the war, lack of support in our soldiers who are, after all, only once or twice removed from being my children, my brothers. Especially, seated hypocritically as I am, on the seat of safety in the United States, rather than supporting my nation by coming back to Israel. How dare I, a part of me questions, how dare I write this at a time of war, when solidarity of support is so important?

But the truth is, I can support our soldiers and not support the fighting. I can support Israel and Israelis, but not support the war that is done in their name. Truth be told, I do not support any war. My dream is a concentrated effort for peace. My dream is a concentrated effort to improve everyone’s life, Israelis and Palestinians. My dream is a world where no hatred, no fear, no racial division exist. I am allowed to dream. That is my choice. Think of me as innocent or hypocritical all you like. My choice is peace. My choice is a life of love.

Imagine a world in which eighteen-year-old soldiers stay alive.

As this war progresses and the number of casualties on both sides rise, my heart bleeds for all mothers who have lost their child. My heart bleeds for all children in the midst of fighting. My heart bleeds for our soldiers, who are caught in a situation where they are forced to do and witness unspeakable things. My heart bleeds for our politicians who have decided to send the army to war, for their fears and ignorance that have brought them to this decision. And my heart bleeds too for those who believe that terrorism is the only way, whose life is led by hatred, whose thoughts of a solution involve death and mayhem. For that, I am sad for them too.

So once again, I hope, whether you share my feelings about war or not, you will join me in a prayer for peace, peace for Israel and everywhere else in our world:
May we all know peace.
May we be happy.
May we feel loved.
May we be free from pain.
May we be filled with compassion for ourselves and others.
May we find in ourselves the ability to forgive.

My blessings to you for happiness and a long life of peace.

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Sigal Tzoore (650) 815-5109