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100 Days: Life on the Israeli Home Front

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avatar by Ariel Rodal-Spieler

Opinion

The bodies of people, some of them elderly, lie on a street after they were killed during a mass-infiltration by Hamas gunmen from the Gaza Strip, in Sderot, southern Israel, Oct. 7, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Ammar Awad

More than 100 days have passed since October 7, when the world changed for Israelis and all Jews.

On that “Black Shabbat,” as we refer to it in Israel, I woke up expecting to celebrate my wedding anniversary and the holiday of Simchat Torah.

Within minutes, it became clear that what was unfolding was a day that would be seared into the Israeli psyche forever. We are still reeling from the shock, trauma, and grief of the barbaric massacre that took place on October 7, and every moment since, we have been grappling with desperation for our hostages, and the effects of a war that was forced upon us by the Iran-backed Hamas.

We Israelis wake up every morning with a sense of dread, checking the news to see the names of fallen soldiers that have been “cleared for publication.” Still living under the threat of rocket barrages, we are also in a state of constant anxiety about the possibility of an additional front escalating on our northern border.

Last Saturday night — Day 99 since the Hamas Massacre — I went to “Hostages Square” in Tel Aviv to demonstrate solidarity with the families of those being held captive in inhumane conditions in Gaza, without having had even one visit from the Red Cross. The next day, bringing to mind some kind of perverse reality TV show, Hamas began releasing “teaser” videos as part of their campaign of psychological warfare, taunting Israelis to guess which hostages were alive and which were dead. In a sick follow-up video, they revealed the results, blaming the IDF, of course, for the deaths of two men from Kibbutz Be’eri.

On Sunday — Day 100 — I met with fellow Israeli members of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) Jewish Diplomatic Corps to discuss the volunteer endeavors we have been engaged in. One person has been documenting testimonies of sexual assault that occurred on October 7th. Another had just been released after 70 days of reserve duty. Another has been involved in initiatives to help the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced Israelis who can’t return to their homes in the north and south of the country. These are just a tiny fraction of the heroic efforts of Israeli civil society in the wake of the war. Indeed, the resilience and solidarity demonstrated by the Israeli people has been a glimmer of light and hope in what is otherwise one of our darkest hours.

On Monday — Day 101 — as I was working away at my desk, my thoughts were interrupted by the sounds of ambulance and police sirens. A terrorist attack by two Palestinians from the West Bank had struck my suburban town of Ra’anana, killing one elderly woman and wounding 17 others, including children, just a couple of minutes away from my home.

My own children were placed in lock-down in their schools and kindergarten until the police gave us the all-clear that they could be picked up. That night, my husband and I comforted them, telling them that it was OK, that they are safe. But we exchanged a look, knowing that as much as we want to promise them that, there are no guarantees.

And all the while, the battles against Hamas in Gaza rage on — a just war if there ever was one, despite what malevolent actors and states around the globe contend. In my capacity as a member of the WJC Jewish Diplomatic Corps, every evening I compile a list of antisemitic incidents around the globe for security officials — a daily reminder that the war is not only being waged here in the Middle East.

And every day, throughout it all, one thought echoes continuously in my mind: We are living in an upside-down world. The fact that Israel is on trial at the International Court of Justice for alleged genocide, the most egregious of all crimes, as it is conducting a war of self-defense against an enemy that truly is genocidal, is a deliberate and malicious inversion of reality.

If the international community truly cared about the Palestinians’ plight for a sovereign state, they would be siding with Israel wholeheartedly, and certainly with not the oppressive terrorist regime who uses its own civilians as human shields, prevents their access to humanitarian aid, and educates its population — with the help of UN funding — to kill Jews wherever they are.

As long as there continue to be forces in this world who sympathize with terrorists, negate Israel’s right to defend itself against those who seek its destruction, and protest Israel’s very right to exist in so-called “pro-Palestinian” marches, the Palestinian leadership has nothing to gain from seeking a two-state solution. They have no incentive to embark on the arduous task of state-building and living alongside a Jewish state, if their wish to destroy Israel is backed by so many.

How can any well-meaning person advocate for a death cult that is supported by the world’s most abhorrent regimes, rather than for the liberal and democratic State of Israel? Is it due to willful ignorance? The success of a disinformation campaign? Plain old antisemitism?

A significant comfort of living here in Israel — even, and perhaps especially, during wartime — is being surrounded by people who “get it.” Jews, Arabs, Israeli citizens from across the political spectrum are painfully aware of who the enemy is and why it is so crucial to defeat them.

Although we disagree on plenty of things, we are united behind one cause, one truth: Israel, though perhaps imperfect, is our home and it must be defended. It is the homeland of all the Jewish people, and it must remain strong, especially in light of the skyrocketing levels of Jew-hatred we are witnessing around the globe. And it is strong.

Israeli society has proven time and time again just how strong, moral, and irrepressible it is. And that is why I know that “Together we will win” is more than just a wartime slogan — it is a promise, and it is our only option.

Ariel Rodal-Spieler is a member of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) Jewish Diplomatic Corps, a worldwide network of 400 members in 60 countries supporting the global Jewish community through diplomacy and public policy, under the vision and leadership of WJC President Ronald S. Lauder. Ariel is a translator and writer.

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