Happy Deepavali, India. In a normal year, I would have sent my friends a Deepavali message. Usually, the festival coincides with the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. Both holidays are about bringing light to fight the darkness. And good conquers evil. This year, Hanukkah will be celebrated a month from now, at the beginning of December. I guess we need an additional month to overcome evil.
We marked one month since the October 7 massacre. I visualise this day as a puzzle of 10 million pieces that we gradually start to put together. Some pieces are heart-breaking. Some others we would prefer not to know. TV channels broadcast round-the-clock stories from that day of the survivors, the kidnapped, the rescuers, the victims, the families. Each person has a story to tell. When we reflect, we, Israelis, understand that life will not be the same as before. Not with regard to tolerance of terror, or our security. Not with regard to internal politics that reached its lowest in the past year, and not our priorities on any other matter either. The 1,400 dead and the burned villages will always be our compass, reminding us what is really important.
The voice of the Arab citizens of Israel is encouraging. In the past, when a military operation to fight terror in Gaza was taking place, many Arab Israelis protested and sympathised with the Palestinians. It’s important to note, although Israel is a Jewish state, 18 per cent of the population is Muslim. They are citizens with equal rights, including representation in the parliament, the Supreme Court, and in all walks of life. During this Gaza war, Israeli Arabs have equally condemned Hamas. They were devastated by the atrocities of October 7 and said clearly that Hamas is the enemy of the Palestinian people. They suddenly realised that if Hamas succeeded in its mission to conquer Israel, they would not be able to live the liberal, high-standard, life they have as citizens of Israel. Suddenly, I hear about rallies of unity between Jews and Muslims. I mentioned in my earlier diaries the reconciliation between the secular and ultraorthodox Jews during this war, between the political right and the left, and now between Jews and Muslims. There is hope for the day after, but only after the war has successfully concluded and the hostages have returned from captivity. The hostages’ condition continues to be a mystery. The Red Cross is useless. They still haven’t visited the hostages to ensure their safety and medical condition, and the clock is ticking.
Last week, I invited a group of Indians for a Zoom meet in which I spoke about Jewish-Israeli history and current affairs. A few of the participants prepared for the session and came with very strong allegations against Israel. They asked me what Israel did to provoke Hamas to execute this massacre. My response was: “Did the US provoke Al Qaeda before 9/11?” “Did India provoke the LeT [Lashkar-e-Toiba] before 26/11?” I was surprised that the criticism was not about the current war; rather, it went back to the right of Jews to have a Jewish state—something so obvious now more than ever, with anti-Semitism on the rise again. As I suspected, Hamas’ call for killing Jews all around the world has reached anti-Semitic ears. Parades that openly call for genocide of the Jewish people are terrifying to Jews everywhere. An American Jew was murdered this week at a Los Angeles pro-Palestine rally. Two weeks ago, the president of a synagogue in Detroit was stabbed to death. The Israeli foreign ministry issued a travel advisory not to travel abroad unless necessary. At an airport in Dagestan in Russia, passengers who arrived from Israel were almost lynched. The mob overwhelmed security and reached the plane’s ramp, looking for Israelis and Jews. Jews all over the world report an increase in anti-Semitic incidents. Many removed the mezuzah, the symbol of a Jewish house, from their doorframes. The mezuzah, a small container that holds a scroll, is placed on the right side of the doorframe and is visible from outside. Others have changed the signage on the door so as not to be identified with a Jewish name. Some others have gone so far as to edit their identity on the Uber app. Jewish students at American universities report that pro-Palestinian movements on campus have become violent and they are scared. Those schools, often funded with Qatari money, are not rushing to stop the rallies and the Hamas support on campus. The current anti-Semitism will be a catalyst for Jews to migrate to Israel. It is not the safest place to live now, but still, Jews around the world have begun to understand that Israel was built for a reason—to be a safe place for Jews.
Ten thousand rockets were fired by Hamas and Hezbollah at Israel since the war broke out. Hamas continues to fire rockets and at the same time calls for a ceasefire. This week, Hezbollah, located in Lebanon north of Israel, increased its artillery activities and is firing heavily on Israel’s northern cities. They are trying to push Israel to start a war on the Lebanon border and thus divert military units from Gaza to the north. Hamas, located in the south, brags that its rockets can reach northern Israel. Hezbollah boasts that its rockets can reach southern Israel. I ask: “Why don’t you both try harder and hit each other?”
Gaza turned out to be the largest terror base in the world. Beneath an area of 36,500 hectares, Hamas has built a labyrinth of tunnels, storing rockets and other ammunition. Its headquarters were built under hospitals, which is another cynical way Hamas is using civilians as human shields. They know that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) will not attack hospitals. Field hospitals are being built on the border with Egypt to replace the existing ones. Hamas will make every effort to hinder attempts to evacuate hospitals, especially the Shifa Hospital serving as its headquarters.
Israel has called for Palestinian civilians to move to the southern part of the Strip where special camps have been arranged for them. Hamas has not allowed civilians to relocate to southern Gaza and even shot Palestinians who started moving south. Eventually, Israeli troops had to safeguard the convoy of civilians and create a safe corridor, protecting the Palestinian civilians from Hamas. A Hamas leader was asked this week why they hadn’t built shelters for their civilians, and why their tunnels only serve Hamas. He replied without hesitation that it is not for Hamas to protect Palestinians; it’s for the United Nations to do so. Again, how cynical.
Media clips of fake victims in Gaza have obtained a nickname— Pallywood. Actors pretend to be dead, injured, shouting and carrying children out of the ruins, also allegedly dead. When TV stations are comparing the death toll on both sides, it is important for Hamas to show a larger number of casualties. The larger the number of victims, the stronger the global public opinion in favour of Hamas. The number of the deceased in Gaza is pure fiction. The only number that one should care about is the number of innocent civilians. The number of Hamas terrorists should not be counted and terrorists of any age are just that—terrorists. IDF is making every effort not to hurt civilians. They continue to distribute pamphlets, make phone calls to community leaders, and continuously ask civilians to evacuate buildings that serve Hamas.
IDF produced a 45-minute movie that gathered footage of the atrocities captured by Hamas’ cameras and footage taken from the massacre scenes. This movie has not been released to the public. It is being shown to diplomats, journalists, and special audiences. It is very difficult to watch. It shows what Hamas is and explains why Israel had to enter this war. Even without watching it, the fear and trauma remain. When Hamas infiltrated Israel, it was suspected that a few members managed to stay behind and hide in Israel. They might attack when the opportunity arises. Last week, there was a threat or a rumour that a terrorist had reached a small town in central Israel. My friend Shira, who lives in that town, called her 13-year-old daughter and asked her to close the doors and windows. Shira didn’t tell her why, but the daughter already knew, thanks to her own WhatsApp groups. When Shira arrived home, her daughter collapsed, shivering in her arms. Apparently, for an hour, and until Shira got back, the daughter was holding a large knife and a pan to protect herself from bullets. Maybe when this war is over and Hamas is gone, we will be able to relax. Oops, we still have Hezbollah knocking on the door from the north.