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Cry the beloved, resilient country

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I cry every day, and I’m not the only one. The tears are for the trauma we’ve endured, for those we lost, for those who remain captive in Gaza, and for those who pay the ultimate price in defence of our beloved country. The past nearly six months have taught me that the human body is capable of producing an infinite amount of tears. Sometimes there are tears of pride as well, and defiant resilience.

Israelis seem to appear to be going about their normal lives, but the reality is that we’re far from normal. We’re a country at war, deep in shock and trauma, but we all know what our collective mission is, so going about our daily lives is an act of resilience. We’re a country fighting an existential threat – our existence as the nation state of the Jewish people is at stake – and we must do whatever we can as individuals and as a collective to ensure yachad nenatzeach (together, we’ll win). We must win.

Many of us wear metal dog tags with the Hebrew inscription that translates to “our hearts are captive in Gaza”. They really are. We cannot rest or even begin to deal with our trauma until the hostages are home. Posters of the hostages are everywhere.

The atrocities of 7 October were a seminal moment in Jewish history that has deeply traumatised Israelis and our global Jewish community. Israelis are still in shock and haven’t moved to the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) stage. We’re anticipating a tsunami of mental health issues in the months to come.

A good friend of mine described his recent visit to Israel as “a visit to a Shiva house”. It’s the most apt description. It almost feels like a hush has descended over the country. Though we’re united, there’s growing anger at the way the government is conducting the war. Many feel that there isn’t enough focus on the hostages and too much on preserving legacies.

Israel is a country where our soldiers are our “citizen army”. It’s our husbands, sons, brothers, lovers, colleagues, friends, and family that are fighting this war, which is on our doorstep, and to date, we’ve lost 600. The loss is felt personally. When we read those ominous words “cleared for publication”, we all feel that familiar sense of dread. Do I know him? Even if we don’t, we feel the loss. We form honour guards in our cities when there are funerals, and it’s profoundly moving.

We’re worried about the safety of diaspora communities, and outraged at the blatant antisemitism around the world. Why does the world not understand that we’re fighting an evil enemy on behalf of all people who value freedom? We’re perplexed at the hostility shown towards Israel, although I do believe the silent majority stands with the Jewish state. I just wish they weren’t silent.

As the national holidays Yom Hashoah, Yom HaZikaron, and Yom Ha’Atzmaut approach, we’re filled with mounting anxiety. The emotional toll of these solemn days followed by an extremely subdued day of independence is a lot to bear. The Israeli Air Force has said there will be no flyover, a highly anticipated annual event of spectacular feats of flying. Cities, including mine, Modi’in, have said we’ll have no fireworks out of respect for our soldiers enduring PTSD and to be honest, we’re not in the mood for celebrating as we struggle to come to terms with our grief.

Israelis go about their daily routine without having to explain to each other what we’re feeling as individuals. It goes without saying. We all understand each other, just look into our eyes.

A good friend of mine wrote a book called Israsilience, which is filled with individual stories of Israelis who have shown resilience throughout our history. I draw strength from these stories of individual courage.

Resilience is what makes us a great nation – the stubborn seed of hope that’s always there in spite of the darkness. It’s the secret to the sauce, and it’s why we’ll be victorious. The ultimate act of resilience is to live. Even though sometimes we may be going through the motions, we still do it defiantly. This week marks six months since that Black Sabbath. It’s unfathomable.

Israelis say that we’ll dance again. We’ll live for those so brutally taken from us. It will just take time.

  • Rolene Marks is a Middle East commentator often heard on radio and TV and is the co-founder of Lay of the Land and the SA-Israel Policy Forum.

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