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The Jewish Report Editorial

No winners in war

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There are no winners in war, especially not a war that’s still being waged five months later with no end in sight.

Though so many denigrate Israel and its army for what’s being done in Gaza in what seems like an endless war, Israelis are also suffering because of this war.

Israelis aren’t in this war because they want to be, they are in it because they believe they have no choice. It’s about Israel’s survival. It’s about ensuring that nobody will come across the border again and massacre Jews like Hamas did on 7 October. It’s about making it clear that never again will terrorists be able to inflict the “sexual torture” that Hamas systematically did to humiliate and degrade Israeli society. (see page 3)

However, because of this, hundreds of thousands of soldiers are paying a massive price in serving their country.

I don’t believe there’s one Israeli who wants the war to continue. It’s destroying the soul of the people. And though it may look to the outsider visiting the country like Israelis continue as normal despite the war, this isn’t the case.

Talking to trauma therapist Micki Lavin-Pell this week, my eyes were opened to the true price Israelis are having to pay for this war. It feels like way too much!

I’ve read the stories and watched the movies of soldiers who went to Vietnam to fight a war far from home that seemed endless. They fought a war in someone else’s backyard. They saw their own men mutilated, and they saw way too many civilian deaths. This caused much damage to the soldiers themselves. The longer they were in Vietnam, the more damage it did.

Unlike Vietnam, Israeli soldiers are heroes back home. But much like in the United States at the time, when the soldiers come home, they are expected to slot with ease back into the life they haven’t lived for a while, a life that doesn’t fit as easily as it had before they left.

This might sound melodramatic, but according to Lavin-Pell, returning soldiers are seriously traumatised and are battling – as are their loved ones. In the past, Israelis fought short wars, nothing like what they are dealing with now. So, integrating back home isn’t just like slotting back in after a holiday or a business trip, or miluim (reserve duty) of old.

It’s having an impact on the relationships between men and women; between the soldiers who have survived Gaza and those who weren’t there; between soldiers and their children; soldiers and their spouses; and chayalim and the society that did its best to keep moving forward while they were stuck fighting for Israel in Gaza.

There’s so much psychological pain and damage in Israel right now despite the war being carried out in Gaza; and not on the home front.

Parents and the families of soldiers have developed a fear of the knock on their front door. This is something that to us, on the southern tip of Africa, seems strange. But imagine that fear of being told by two army messengers that something terrible has happened to your loved one. And it always begins with a knock on your front door.

So, in Israel now, nobody purposefully knocks on someone’s door if they are going visiting. They send a WhatsApp message or they call from outside because of the fear surrounding that knock.

Many people in Israel right now are suffering another trauma, that of survivor’s guilt. They include soldiers who didn’t serve in Gaza; those who survived Gaza; those who survived 7 October in the south of Israel; and those who survived the Nova music festival.

The truth is that no matter how much we’re able to explain away any guilt on their part, they are experiencing a psychological scarring that takes a lot more than an explanation to get over. We know they have nothing to feel guilty for, but it’s not so easy for them to absorb.

The trauma of the families and friends of the 132 hostages still being held in Gaza five months after being abducted by Hamas terrorists, is extreme. For many of them, life stopped when their loved ones were taken, and it hasn’t resumed since and potentially won’t until they come home. I know little about their trauma, but can imagine the depth of it and the fear that they live with all the time.

Those hundreds of thousands of people who were forced to leave their homes in the south and the north because of the threat of war are also living with trauma and in limbo. They are far from their homes, their jobs, schools, and lives. Many had lives on kibbutzim with a lot of space and an outdoor lifestyle, while they now live in hotels or tiny apartments in concrete jungles. This isn’t easy!

Couples are battling to reconnect after Gaza. And many soldiers who may come home now will potentially have to go back to Gaza. If not, they may have to fight against Hezbollah up north as there’s no clear indication that the end of the war is near.

So, while I’m fully aware of the devastation of the life of Palestinians in Gaza, and I won’t undermine how devastating it is, it’s clear that Israelis aren’t in this war for self-gratification or pleasure.

This is a painful war all round, and no matter what happens or is happening, there are definitely no winners.

While we in South Africa and the diaspora must deal with antisemitism and the fallout from the anti-Israel lobby in our government and our country, we’re not actually living through the war.

Things aren’t easy here for us, that’s for sure, but we send strength and pray for our Israeli family to survive this and get all the help they can to get through this awful war.

Shabbat Shalom!

Peta Krost


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