Eleven Days Have Passed
Eleven days have passed. I finally muster the courage to google "שמות החטופים" (names of the kidnapped) and look at all the faces. I read the names and look at the photos. Some have text on the images in Hebrew. Text that begs for information and lists a number. “If you know anything about the whereabouts of Yitzhak Levi, please call Avi at 053-223-6830.”
I wonder if Itzhak is still alive. Maybe he was killed in the attack. Maybe he was killed while being dragged into Gaza. Maybe he was killed by an Israeli bombing along with his kidnappers. I wonder if Avi getting a lot of spam calls because he listed his personal phone number on the Internet. The last 10 days have seen so much hatred online. I worry someone is sharing his number with trolls. I wonder what he was expecting. What information he thought he was going to get. I want to call him and say I’m sorry for his loss but I don’t know Avi and I don’t know Yitzhak.
There’s similar text on a lot of the photos. Who is this appeal is for? I know many in Hamas intelligence are fluent Hebrew but certainly, the average Gazan is not reading these posts right now. The average Gazan is not reading anything right now because the Internet, the electricity, the water, and many of the cell phone towers were bombed. 338,000 Gazans are running for their lives. Half the Strip has been displaced.
Here are the numbers as of today:
3000 Palestinian people killed (almost all in Gaza, but also 16 in the West Bank)
1400 Israeli people killed (almost all at gun point but also some from rockets)
230+ Israeli people kidnapped (22 killed in Gaza by Israeli bombardment)
13,000 Palestinian people wounded
4200 Israeli people wounded
There are dozens of hospitals in Israel. There are 12 in Gaza. At 9:30pm Al-Ahli Hospital in central Gaza was bombed. More than 500 people were instantly killed. I have to correct the numbers now. The IDF claims it was a Hamas rocket launch gone wrong. Typically when the Israeli airforce bombs Gazan hospitals they claim there were weapons hidden in the building, they don't just deny it outright but Hamas rockets can't bring down an entire hospital. Rumours have started that Hamas will release all hostages as soon as Israel stops bombing Gaza.
Before falling asleep last night I finally made the call to Samah. Australia is on the other side of the planet from Canada and I never find the right timing to call. Samah and I used to talk about how it couldn’t get any worse, back in 2009. I remember watching her try to get a hold of her relatives during Cast Lead and try to answer a Canadian government employee who wanted to know why “we can’t just all get along.”
As we talk, she tells me about her husband and how he was able to confirm all his relatives are alive. They have found “safety” in southern Gaza. They don’t have reception but he can read the time stamp on their WhatsApp accounts. If they were online recently, they must be alive.
I call Samah because I can’t see her Twitter/X feed anymore. As we talk, she’s surprised to discover that her Facebook/Meta account was restricted as well. Half a world away she‘a forced to worry about her relatives in Gaza, about her children, and now her about voice being silenced.
I dream about Samah. I often dream about Samah. 10 years ago we wrote each other poems about forgiveness. Samah’s name means forgiveness. A year ago I made a video out of a poem her father wrote and which she recorded for my community. It’s called “Erasure”. It played at our Yom Kippur ceremony. This week, the poem has been shared all over social media. I wonder if she knows how far it’s reached, now that her account is restricted.
So many faces on the list of the kidnapped look familiar. I recognize many of the backgrounds where they were photographed. Back when they were smiling, oblivious that their future would hold this tragedy. Oblivious that their faces will one day appear on a shitty news site. I remember picking the photo I would want my mom to share if I get killed in a terror attack, back when I was 14. Back then, before selfies and instagram.
Another Palestinian friend writes from Haifa in northern Israel. Rockets from Lebanon fell near her family today. I asked her if I can buy are plane ticket out. "My mother is here," she says. "The older generation doesn't leave. They remember the Nakba." Instead of flying, my friend wrote an open letter to Israelis. I ask if I can share it but she needs to remain anonymous because “people are being arrested for every little thing right now.” A girl got arrested because she posted "God is bigger than all this mess" on her Facebook. Another girl was arrested for liking the wrong video on YouTube. My friend's letter says,
“We’re not in this to win, we’re in this to live.
I feel so much privilege from the simple fact that I can sit here, by my computer, and write this letter. From the simple fact that I had a good night’s sleep in a comfortable bed and ate a nutritious breakfast this morning. From the simple fact that I can walk down the street without planes bombing my neighbourhood and destroying my world in an instant. From the simple fact that my family is safe and sound, and is a short drive away.
I am overwhelmed by how painful it is to be surrounded by hate speech and incitement on every channel and on every social media. I see and feel the pain that you feel, and I'm not alone. You probably won't hear this in the press but the Palestinian citizens of Israel didn't protest this time, even when entire neighbourhoods were levelled and thousands of people were killed in Gaza. Despite the unrelenting horrific images that keep coming, we didn't go out into the streets.
Most Palestinians in Israel understand that the killing of civilians in the south was inexcusable and deplorable. You don't need to convince us of that. You don't need religion or international law to know that that kind of killing was inhumane and inhuman. Those who decry the killing of Palestinian citizens cannot turn around and then celebrate the killing of Israeli citizens. Those who were horrified by the killing of Israelis in the south, cannot demand the killing of Palestinians in Gaza... The disappearance of dozens of whole entire families, both in Israel and in Gaza. This is not justice.
There is no legal or moral justification for the killing of 700 children in one week. Bombed in darkness and without warning. Most are still buried under the ruins of their destroyed homes, their parents either forced to abandon their little bodies, or forced to piece them together for burial. It is horrifying.”
I distract myself from work with her words. I distract myself from her words with work. I spend my evenings watching silly TV because I can't do anything. I can't get myself to do anything. What I can do is listen. I can watch and I can make soup. I can take my scooter for a short drive around the block. I can call my mother. There is so much privilege in that.
Photo by Yahel Gazit, ActiveStills