Sometimes I experience existential woe. It’s usually after I’ve read the news. I find myself utterly disconcerted, so I seek a stable surface to regain my sense of balance. Only this week it’s felt like an ongoing earthquake with no stable surface in sight. And thus, a heart filled with angst.
For instance, in Gaza. Watching Palestinians rushing the security fence. I know that 50+ of the fatalities were Hamas operatives. Some of them had weapons, bombs, Molotov cocktails, and so forth. But the rest of the dead – and the over 2000 injured by Israeli live ammunition – were Palestinians living in Gaza who have nothing to lose.
Yes, of course, Hamas is responsible for immiserating the lives of the Gazans. Yes, Hamas is a terrorist regime. Yes, Hamas has encouraged their people to become martyrs.
And yes, Israel has blockaded Gaza for years. As a result, the unemployment rate is 44%, the highest in the world, according to the World Bank. In Gaza, economic activity has all but ground to a halt. Gazans depend on aid money not just for their basic needs but for whatever employment there is. The level of despair and discontent in Gaza is off the charts. Long before Israeli soldiers decided whether to shoot at protesters, Israeli leaders decided to bar farmers in Gaza from exporting spinach, potatoes and beans. They decided to bar fisherman in Gaza from fishing beyond six nautical miles. They decided to bar students in Gaza from leaving the Strip to study, to bar spouses from leaving to legally join their husbands or wives in the West Bank, to bar grandchildren from leaving to attend their grandparents’ funerals. They decided to bar people in Gaza from importing the spare parts necessary to rebuild the Strip’s electricity grid.
I watch desperate people filled with rage and bitterness and utter hopelessness rushing the fences. I watch Israeli soldiers shoot them down after repeated warnings about their intentions. I wonder if this degree of response is truly necessary. Israel is creating a commission to ask that very question. Could we have avoided such use of lethal force?
The whole situation is soul crushing. It’s like watching two people beat each other up, never pausing to address the possibility that there are other ways to solve whatever issue is causing them to fight in the first place. It’s frustrating. It’s tragic.
I’m not a military planner, so I don’t know what the options are for Israel. But I do know that as long as Israel continues to drag its feet on actively creating a two-state solution, violence like this will continue. And as long as Hamas continues to use martyrdom and poverty as potent weapons against the Jewish State, there will be no peace.
There is a tradition of offering a nechemta, a teaching of comfort and hope, at the conclusion of a Jewish text discussion. I wish I had such a teaching this Shabbat. All I know is that the world is pretty shaky, and all we have is each other. We need each other in the midst of this craziness and this radical disillusionment. We need to keep each other alive and aware, safe and sound. So hold on to me: I’m holding on to you.