A friend from northern Israel told me a few days ago, except that the air siren sounded a couple of times in the first days of the war, life had mostly been okay, and the co-workers who had been drafted were returning to work.
Another friend in Gaza, with whom I was able to communicate intermittently, told me in the early days of the fighting he was used to the air raids. Later on when the bombing became more and more intense, anxiety and fear began to show between the lines. Lately I was able to confirm his safety, but he lost his niece, and a relative’s house was destroyed.
In the early-August when the situation was tense, a Palestinian attacked pedestrians with a tractor in Jerusalem. An Israeli was killed. Yet another friend happened to be nearby, fortunately he was safe but still a tragedy nonetheless. Harming innocent civilians is inexcusable, but while living under daily injustices may still be bearable, how could one suffer seeing his fellow people and children being bombed to pieces?
The Palestinian casualties reduced substantially from Cast Lead to Pillar of Defence, and on the surface it seemed things were improving. Then Protective Edge came and caused more deaths and injuries than both wars combined. Still there were UN facilities bombed, still there were hospitals destroyed, still there were many children suffered, still there were many pro-Israel and philo-Semitic extremists trying to justify all the brutal facts. Is it that Hamas must be condemned for launching all those primitive rockets, but the Israel forces must be excused even when they massacre civilians with weapons of pin-point accuracy?
Back then in Gaza I had an opportunity to converse with a teacher at a beach. With the vast sea on one side and his students on the other, it occurred to me that, even though changes would not happen tomorrow or the next, still I wished their next generations could grow up in another environment, hoped that both sides would nurture a new generation who will understand, accept and appreciate co-existance and pluralism. Is there anything we as bystanders can do?
During the war, a German onboard the International Space Station looked at the earth and happened to photograph some nightshots of Palestine & Israel. He saw some “streaks of light going forth and back over a dark Earth, occasionally lit up by orange fireballs” but didn’t know what were them, only to realise those are streaks of rockets and fireballs of explosions. He then wrote the following words:
What came to my mind at the time of this photo was, if we ever will be visited by another species from somewhere in the universe, how would we explain to them what they might see as the very first thing when they look at our planet? How would we explain to them the way we humans treat not only each other but also our fragile blue planet, the only home we have? I do not have an answer for that.
And when the Creator visits us, how will you and I answer him?