Skip links

Main navigation

Day 150: Iron Swords War

By Leah Garber

One hundred and fifty days ago, the hot Israeli summer gave way to a short autumn—one that visits here for only a few days, offering relief from the heat and providing secrets of exotic countries carried by migrating birds. The hot July and August sun surrendered to autumn’s warm rays.

This brief visit ends too quickly when winter steps in. This year—perhaps as a courtesy to agricultural fields left behind without working hands and battlefields packed with soldiers—winter rains delayed their fall. They hesitated, almost afraid to wet our warriors and add to their burden.

But then, 100 days ago, in the middle of January, the rains finally started to fall, at first hesitantly, apologetically, and later with full force. The pale yellow of the approaching winter was replaced by a determined gray. Rain clouds dropped unprecedented amounts of rain as if trying to wash away the evil and pain.

Winter’s rains are starting to fade. Sad and embarrassed they were unable to bring comfort or purify the evil. As the sky clears the blanket of rain clouds is replaced by a lighter one through which shining rays try to penetrate—to warm us and ease our pain. Today, 150 days since the terrible rupture, the sun breaks through and winter begins to recede, inviting spring in its place.

Summer, autumn, and winter. The seasons change and the world continues to revolve, but in Israel, that one long, gloomy, and bloody black day, October 7, never really ended, indifferent to the change of seasons.

Never has nature’s palette so contradicted the national mood as it has in the last 150 days. The spectacular beauty of nature is spread throughout the length and breadth of the country—in the magnificent reds and purples of anemones, in the pinks and whites of cyclamen hidden among the rocks, and in the bright yellows of chrysanthemums.

Fields in the south, the ones Hamas terrorists viciously trampled, leaving cracks of hatred and killing, are now blooming with nature’s beauty. The blood of the 1,200 slaughtered souls has changed to the red of the anemones, and songbirds, deaf to the atmosphere of mourning, insist on singing, heralding the coming of spring. Caterpillars soon will turn to butterflies, filling the air with all the cheerful colors of the rainbow.

But today we mark 150 days in which even nature in all its glory has failed to heal the pain. One hundred and fifty days in which extremely heavy rain failed to clean the blood from the paths of the kibbutzim and southern towns and the sullen winds failed to obscure the smell of fire. No spring blossom, no matter how beautiful, can lift the depressed spirit.

We have endured 150 days in which 134 men and women, civilians and soldiers, youngsters and adults have been hidden in Gaza, where only one color dominates those long days and nights. The color of despair and pain. The color of crying and heartbreak. They are there, and we are here. For 150 days.

The families of the hostages are losing patience. Worrying about their loved ones breaks their hearts. They have traveled all over the world to meet with kings and heads of government. They’ve begged and cried in attempts to appeal to the leaders’ minds, hearts, and sense of reason.

Despite their efforts, once again, they awoke this morning to the same reality: Beyond the mountains of darkness and the abyss of grief, their beloved family members have been captives for 150 days and counting.

Last week, the families marched alongside thousands of Israelis from the site of the Nova music festival near Kibbutz Re’im to Jerusalem. A sad march of parents, siblings, children, and friends of the hostages who remain chained by murderers.

On the 100th day, exactly 50 days ago, I met Danny Miren, father of Omri, who is being held captive by Hamas. Danny said he has decided to grow a beard until his son Omri is returned. Danny longs for the day when father and son will stand side by side and together shave for the first time. Omri will remove the filth of captivity and Danny a symbol of mourning. Fifty days have passed since I met with Danny, and in that time, his white, sad beard has grown—as have his sorrow and pain, as evidenced in the picture above.

Today the families arrived at the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, walking through the building in silence, carrying pictures of their loved ones and begging leaders to bring them home now.

They had a difficult meeting with Knesset members and ministers, telling the legislators how they cannot sleep or eat—not to mention smile or get on with life. They shared how the nights are nightmares; how suicidal thoughts dominate the days; and how they move on a rollercoaster from hope to despair.

Everyone in Israel yearns for the return of the 134 hostages, believing there is no greater mitzvah than that of ransoming captives. But when dealing with the devil, the price they ask and the uncertainty of Hamas’ intention to return hostages is nerve-wracking and unbearable.

Last week I again went down to the site of the Nova music festival. What was a happy, lively site 150 days ago now commemorates the 364 souls who were brutally tortured and murdered and the 44 young people, some of them seriously injured, who were kidnapped to Gaza. Three-hundred-sixty-four trees have been planted in memory of the murdered, and among the trees, red anemones insist on poking out of the soil. In the place where young people danced, memorial pillars with pictures of the murdered and the hostages are now planted in the wilderness of death.

It saddens me to drive south to see the evidence of Hamas’ crimes. They robbed the joy of life from 1,200 whom they murdered, kidnapped hundreds of hostages, injured thousands, burned entire kibbutzim, and now they’ve also stolen our ability to rejoice in the coming of spring and wholeheartedly embrace nature’s blossoming.

Together, united, we will overcome.

Leah Garber is a senior vice president of JCC Association of North America and director of its Center for Israel Engagement in Jerusalem.

Subscribe to A View from Jerusalem
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Reader Interactions