New Sensations: Mourning for Zion

I feel frozen. Numb. Heartbroken. I want to cry, but no tears form. I want to scream, but no sound vocalizes. I seek purpose, but I wander aimlessly.

I am the grandchild of a Holocaust survivor and Jewish immigrants who left Morocco in the 1960s.

My maternal and paternal ancestors zig-zagged from their origins in biblical Judea and Canaan across Europe, through North Africa, fleeing from religious and ethnic persecution. Both found refuge in Israel, our historical homeland, a small geographical parcel we are bound to genealogically and archaeologically.

I am an Israeli-American dual citizen, and Hebrew is my first language. Without Israel, I simply wouldn’t be alive. I wouldn’t exist.

What Israelis have been shouting from every rooftop — Hamas’ cruelty and terrorism know no bounds —was violently thrust into the public arena on Oct. 7, 2023.

The New York Times has reported that over 1,400 Israelis were massacred, and nearly 200 are being held hostage in Gaza. The vast majority of the murdered and kidnapped were civilians. They were shot and burned in their homes. I am haunted by images of women with bloodstains between their legs. Babies killed in their nurseries. Grandmothers kidnapped by a terrorist entity sworn to the genocide of my people. 

I feel called to acknowledge that the actions of Israel’s government and Hamas, for years now, have brought distress to Palestinian civilians and have made their lives terribly hard. They deserve much better, undoubtedly. I am able to hold that reality, as heavy as it is, while recognizing another: Jews have undergone the worst attack on our people since the Holocaust. This shouldn’t be up for debate.

In The Atlantic, Yair Rosenberg wrote that Hamas has always been brutal and irrefutably antisemitic, not “just” anti-Zionist. The difference in this war, however, is that Hamas has now revealed the full extent of its cruelty, brought to bear its insatiable need to pursue Jewish and Israeli extermination over coexistence, and showcased its deliberate decision to round up civilians, young and old, men and women, for slaughter. Transfixed, the world looks on. Is this decolonization? No. It’s terrorism. Is this resistance? No. It’s a scene macabre.

Many have referred to Oct. 7 as Israel’s 9/11, but that is reductive. This calamity is entirely its own. Grant these tragedies the horror they warrant. We are witnessing evil incarnate. Hamas — recognized as a terrorist group by the U.S. State Department — must be eradicated. 

Over the past weeks, Israel has responded to Hamas, and it has done so strongly. I am both irate and heartbroken over the immense, catastrophic loss of life in Gaza. There is no denying that its humanitarian crisis has been sharply exacerbated by this war.

Dialogue — indeed, I have been consumed by conversations on this topic in recent days — on the scope of Israel’s response is warranted. But this discussion is woefully incomplete without acknowledgment of how Hamas’ actions, including its use of human shields (both Israeli and Palestinian) as well as its acquisition and development of military infrastructure (i.e. underground tunnels) rather than infrastructure for improving Palestinian quality of life, have led to this status quo.

Clearly, this status quo — simmering skirmishes that boil over into larger conflicts — is no longer sustainable. I feel helpless.

As this war unfolds and sentiment in some circles shifts against Israel, please remember these harrowing moments. Think of the music lovers who, enveloped by rhythm, were suddenly ensnared in a bulleted maelstrom on Oct. 7, 2023. The beat pounding in their heads, succumbing to a gush of gunfire rather than the tempo’s feverish ecstasy. Tremble with me as you hear Israeli youth race across, rather than rave in, open fields.

What I feel most poignantly is the absence of those who usually speak up, those who wouldn’t think twice to text or call me about any other issue, but have now chosen silence. You know I am Jewish. My last name makes sure of that. Most of you know I am Israeli, too. Where are you when I need you most?

To the murdered and to those in captivity, I hear your shrieks, the agonizing cry of a baby for its dead mother. I feel your arthritic knees creak as you are flanked by those who parade you across borders and in streets, keeping you alive only to trade you. I see your bullet-ridden flesh, symbols of hate now embedded in your corpse and in my mind. I smell your sweat as you choke on smoke. From thousands of miles away, you touch the innermost recesses of my soul. Now, my spirit has shifted. It contains new sensations. Your sensations. It radiates with your power, vibrates with your energy. I am yours.

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