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Day 180: Iron Swords War

By Leah Garber

The weather is warming up; hot, dusty desert winds are blowing, hitting the air and the atmosphere.

After almost six months of fighting in Gaza, the 134 abductees have spent 180 days in daily hell, trapped in the jaws of monstrous terrorists, and Israeli citizens are starting to lose patience. Solidarity rallies in support of the hostages’ families have taken on a more inflammatory tone. The families’ desperate cries and broken voices are fueled by loud voices of anger, disappointment, and frustration, calling for an expedited deal to return all hostages immediately and for the government to dismiss itself.

In 180 days, the seasons have changed. Babies have been born, started crawling, spreading innocent smiles. In 180 days, sown seedlings have begun to sprout, heralding the coming of spring. After 180 days, the rising temperatures predict the hot summer waiting around the corner—and our mood. After 180 days, our patience is drawing to an end.

The hostages have experienced it all. The thunder, the hail, and winter winds, the cold penetrating the light holiday clothes they wore on the day they were abducted. And now, the changing weather gives away the passing of time. They were kidnapped right after Sukkot, and, now, toward Passover, they are still in captivity.

The transition from rallies held in Tel Aviv’s Hostage Square in support of the kidnapped to loud, determined protests in front of the Knesset (Israel’s parliament building) and the prime minister’s house in Jerusalem bring us back to the streets of October 6—back to the stormy, revolting, divided Israel.

Next week, on April 7, we will mark six months since October 7, and 120 elected parliament members will embark on the Knesset’s summer break. Meanwhile, the families of the abducted rage. While their loved ones do not get any respite from their never-ending nightmare, their elected representatives will go on break.

Day after day, representatives of the families and thousands of Israelis, many of whom are camping out by the Knesset, protest, their clothes dyed blood red. In the struggle for the release of all hostages, we must, within the law, do what we can to influence decision-makers, who must negotiate with the cruelest of enemies in an attempt to bring home 134 Israelis while not compromising Israel’s safety.

The Israeli street once again is divided. Although most of the public is interested in moving the elections forward—the original date for the next election is October 2026—many believe that in a time of war, it is wrong to focus on political campaigns, especially for Prime Minister Netanyahu, for whom this will be a survival campaign.

On the other hand, many are disappointed with how the current government is functioning. There is a growing concern that politics seeps into the decision-making process and political considerations influence the conduct of the war. If so, our leaders are engaging in politics during the war anyway.

Six months of fighting is eroding Israeli society, most notably with the lack of a long-term solution for Gaza that would result in a sustainable, reliable status quo that would ensure residents of southern Israel could return to their homes safely. The lack of such a plan accepted by all parties raises concerns—but mostly fear—that the reality of October 7 will repeat itself.

In addition, the Israeli public is not indifferent to global criticism. It is true that the criticism is heard here through filters and is met with disappointment and frustration, but whether pleasant to our ears or not, it has an effect. The opinions of heads of state are important to Israel. The support of our allies is essential; we know Israel cannot act in a vacuum.

The ongoing war and the consequences for the civilians in Gaza tilt the scales against us. The Western world reacts to the images of the war as they are—without the subjective intensity of our pain, suffering, humiliation, and the existential fear expressed through our tears. The difference between our painful, collective personal experience here and the reality projected through television screens across the ocean is substantial, and we can’t afford to ignore its impact on world opinion.

And, as if the reality is not complex enough, terrible tragic mistakes happen, and they are so unfortunate and, most of all, so very painful. Fighting in Gaza means fighting in impossible urban conditions, above ground and below, in an endless tangle of tunnels. It means fighting against an enemy that hides in hospitals, schools, and mosques, transports weapons in ambulances, and hides them under baby cribs. These are the most difficult, challenging conditions in the world.

And so, with sincere sorrow, IDF spokesman Rear Admiral Hagari stood in front of the cameras in the middle of the night to acknowledge the tragic deaths of World Central Kitchen employees and the organization’s vital mission to supply meals to people in need. He announced that Israel has begun an in-depth investigation of the incident to be conducted by those of the highest ranks.

From the dawn of history, from the beginning of mankind, wars have been fought. In the annals of the world, wars are bloody, leaving behind a long trail of orphans, pain, and deprivation. We all know of empires built on conquests, the victors drawing the contours of their identity.

In a few weeks, we will read in the Passover Haggadah about the Jewish people who, as a nation of slaves, were redeemed after 400 years and, after an additional 40 years of wandering in the desert, were led to the Promised Land to establish their identity as the people of Israel in their land.

Since then, we have been destined to fight for our existence and to justify our right to sovereignty. We are loyal to our homeland, our identity, and our Jewish heritage. We have not initiated any war, and we have no ambitions to expand at the expense of our neighbors. We are pained by the bloody price of the fighting and wish for the day when we, with our neighbors by our side, will live here in peace.

Until then, we will guard our home, and we will do everything so that the 134 hostages can sit with their families in freedom at the Passover table—dressed in new holiday clothes, leaving their ragged clothes from October 7 behind.

May it be.

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.

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