For Israel, this is an existential moment
By Chris Honoré
In the early morning of Oct. 7, thousands of armed Hamas terrorists carried out a lethal, premeditated plan to attack Israel. While rockets streamed overhead, they came from land, sea and air. The fighters carried out what would be a remorseless, indiscriminate killing and wounding of Israelis to include entire families, men, women, children, infants, and residents of kibbutzim, as well as some 260 young celebrants at an all-night music festival. The assault was inexplicably unexpected.
Some 239 hostages (according to the most recent reports) were taken and returned to Gaza. To date it is estimated that 1,400 Israelis have been killed, and more than 630 wounded. However, the carnage, damage and loss are only now being assessed. Those numbers will likely change.
All-consuming grief and outrage continues to grip the nation, and the nightmarish, agonizing uncertainty experienced by of families of the hostages continues, the fate of their loved ones remains unknown and can only be imagined.
I cannot begin to comprehend the full meaning or rationale for what took place, nor do I understand the context that frames such evil, such senseless slaughter. I can only assume that turning the expansive area that borders Israel with Gaza into a killing field was a calculated and savagely cruel provocation by Hamas, one that from the outset compelled Israel to answer the question: How should the nation respond? So heinous was the collective attack, the savagery beyond understanding, any discussion of proportionality was, as had been the case in past confrontations with Hamas, not an option.
But the harsh reality remains that regardless of what the Israelis ultimately do (and are in the process of doing), the decision that confronts them daily defines the familiar, oft-used descriptor, “the rock and the hard place.” At the outset of this war, and even now, there were and are no good choices for Israel. Clearly, they cannot look away. Understandably, theirs is a mournful rage that calls for unrelenting retribution, despite the counsel of other nations, such as America, to take all precautions regarding Gaza’s civilian population.
Yet we are reminded that for Israel, this is judged to be an existential moment, and as a people they are reminded of the Holocaust. And they are aware that it is Hamas that has called for the absolute destruction of Israel in lieu of any attempt to peacefully co-exist or discuss any plan for a two-state solution.
Again, regarding the question of how to respond, I find myself thinking of the words of Friedrich Nietzsche: “Whoever battles with monsters had better see that it does not turn him into a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will gaze into you.”
And so the world will watch, some will protest the military incursion and the intense urban warfare that will follow. There is, if I recall correctly, an old African saying, “When the elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.”
The Gaza strip is one of the most densely populated places on earth, inhabited by well over 2 million Palestinians; almost half, it’s been reported, are children. As of this writing, 8,000 residents of Gaza have been reported killed, and 21,000 injured or wounded. The countless images of children covered in dust and blood, some trapped beneath collapsed buildings and rubble, others covered in white body bags, all are wrenching. How could they be otherwise? No matter the resolution, this war will not have a right ending, for the memories of both sides run long and deep. And the world will judge and the word “victory” will turn to dust as the ultimate cost to both sides is revealed.
Email Ashland resident Chris Honoré at firstname.lastname@example.org.