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  • samchris51

What if the myth doesn't hold?

I've hesitated about writing something timely to mark six months since Hamas breached Israel's national boundaries and attacked several Kibbutzim, some towns, and a music festival. Hamas invaders killed twelve hundred people and took 253 Israelis and foreigners hostage across the border to Gaza.

It was the first time in Israel's history that an enemy force had breached the border and managed to be in control of territory inside Israel for several hours and kill so many people, kidnap others, and leave survivors traumatized. 

I remember that morning well. I had never woken to air raid sirens and people yelling at me to get myself to a bomb shelter. That is precisely how I awoke on October 7 in my cousin's house where I was staying. It took me a while to wrap my head around what had happened.

Everyone in the household and throughout the country was in shock as they slowly began to gather facts about that morning's events.

Six months later, in many ways, most Israelis still live in the reality of October 7.

So much changed on that day.

On that day, Israelis had to contemplate the possibility that Israel might not be a safe space for Jews; the sacred covenant had been broken. The government did not seem able to mobilize assistance to people who had survived the brutal attacks on their communities. It was ordinary Israeli civilians, the same ones who had been demonstrating against the government, who organized themselves so that they were able to meet the immediate needs of the hundreds and then thousands who had been displaced inside the country.

In response, Israel declared war on Hamas and launched one of the most severe bombing campaigns in modern history before commencing the ground invasion on October 27 with the stated objective of destroying Hamas and freeing the hostages.

On October 9, Israel declared a "complete siege" of Gaza. Gaza is home to 2 million people, and it is dependent on the outside for all its necessities, which before the war were trucked in approximately 500 hundred trucks a day that crossed at various points along the Israeli-Gaza border. Now, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has declared that "no electricity, no food, no fuel" will be allowed to enter Gaza. Then, the bombs fell, and ground troops invaded.

The army reserves were mobilized. Hundreds who had been outside the country when the attack occurred returned and reported for duty. Again, civilians provided the support structure to manage this very large mobilization; the government remained paralyzed. 

I was there, and it was impressive to witness. Israelis from all walks of life, all ages, Jews, Muslims, Druse, and Bedouins all came together to help and support fellow citizens in any way they could. People also mobilized to prevent Muslim Jewish violence inside Israel, and they were, by and large, successful in meeting this goal.

Six months later, the war in Gaza continues. The relentless Israeli bombing has destroyed Gaza; about 33,000 people are reported killed by the Hamas health ministry, and twice that number are wounded. Israel disputes those numbers, claiming that they are being inflated.

They claim to have killed 13,000 Hamas combatants and destroyed 20 out of 24 Hamas battalions. Hamas can no longer fire rockets into Northern Israel, much to the relief of Israelis living in that part of Israel who had contended with daily air raid sirens, which compelled them to stop what they were doing and seek shelter until the all clear was sounded.

The Israeli Defense Forces argue that to accomplish their goal of disarming Hamas, rendering it unable to launch a future attack on Israel, they have to enter Rafah, where they assume the remaining 4 Hamas Battalions are holed up in tunnels underneath the city along with Hamas leadership and any surviving hostages. Most Israelis agree that an invasion of Rafah is necessary to neutralize Hamas. There are disagreements about the timing.

Israeli society, which came together immediately after the war, is again beginning to fracture. The fissures are not about whether or not the war in Gaza should continue but rather about what priority should be given to the need to bring home the hostages that are still alive. I have heard the number is not down to 75. Most Israelis are not in favor of a cease-fire now.

The distrust of Netanyahu is high and rising. Many blame him for Hamas's ability to breach the border; most don't trust him to act in the country's best interest rather than his own. More and more Israelis want to see a change in government. It is hard to see how that might be accomplished in the short term.

Currently, Israel finds itself bogged down in Gaza, divided domestically, isolated internationally, and increasingly at odds with the US and other close allies.

Today, Iran launched hundreds of suicide attack drones as well as cruise and ballistic missiles toward Israel in response to an Israeli strike on an Iranian diplomatic compound in Damascus on April 1. This is the first-ever direct attack on Israel by Iran. The attack was successfully deflected thanks to Israel's allies in the region as well as the US and Israel's own air defenses. 

The risk of a broader regional war remains real. Iran seems to be saying that it is satisfied with the magnitude of its retaliation and does not intend to continue unless Israel "makes a mistake."  Netanyahu's bellicose tone has not moderated, so the risk of a broader regional war remains real. 

Only two people stand to gain from a broader conflict: Netanyahu, who can be assured that he will not be abandoned by any of his regional or international allies while he is engaged in an armed conflict with Iran, and Sinwar, who has been hoping to pull Iran and its proxies into the conflict since he ignited it. The losers will be the Israelis as well as the Palestinians and the peoples of Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, the other countries in the region who will likely be caught in the conflict.

I started by saying that I had hesitated writing something to coincide with the marking of six months since Israel launched its war against Hamas. I didn't know what to say; it all seemed so bleak. The situation went from bad to worse, realizing my worst fears. I found it increasingly difficult to reconcile myself to the Israeli position. I stood unambiguously with those who wanted an immediate cease-fire, allowing humanitarian aid to enter Gaza and be safely and effectively distributed. This did not make me popular with family members, who see the war as necessary and oppose a cease-fire.

Today, I got into my car after returning from a play, turned on the engine, and the radio came on: a BBC commentator announcing that Iran had launched drones and missiles against Israel.

My concern immediately went to my family in Israel, scattered from Tel Aviv in the North to Beersheva in the South. Five of them are serving in the military, either on active duty or in reserves.

None of them got a good night's sleep tonight. Gratefully, they all awoke in the morning in their homes, for which they and I are grateful.

But I am scared that the arrogance that seems to have contaminated Israeli leadership, both civilian and military, and has caused them to believe in their mythological invulnerability and that of the country will not hold. 

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