By Leah Garber
Twelve hundred. That’s the count today. More than 1,200 people lost their lives this week. Twelve hundred! An unimaginable number of lives lost. Imagine what those 1,200 lost lives could have done—how many masterpieces would have been written, how many inventions would have benefited humanity, how many teachers, doctors, thinkers would have enriched our world. Entertainers to make us happy, chefs to prepare delicious meals. Imagine the wonders that have been stolen from all of us—from humanity at large—this week.
Think about the hopes for a better world that have been dashed. Think about our collective dream of peace, about the difficult concessions already made by the State of Israel and the sacrifices of its people to achieve peace. Twelve hundred hopes for peace were shattered by murderous terror, by axes, by guns, by satanic inferno. When there is no hope, what is left? What is life itself worth?
My dear and close friend, Tzachi Levy, a resident of Kibbutz Kfar Aza, whom I mentioned yesterday, sent me these personal thoughts last night. I shared them with my family, and we cried together. With Tzachi’s permission, I am sharing his thoughts with all of you:
I have so much to shout about, maybe I’d better shut up.
And yet one thought I can’t get out of my head… For five and a half years I lived in Kfar Aza, my children’s childhood and kindergarten were there. A number of combat rounds, infinite, code-red alerts, and even damage to property…
In all these events, the day after, I was always asked how I am able to live here??!!
I had one fixed answer for everyone. Every morning I would take my children to the kindergarten walking from our house through the soccer field, watching over the Gaza Strip. No mountains, no barriers, just a field of less than a kilometer to the first houses of Gaza.
“You see Oz, there is Gaza; a lot of people live in Gaza, most of them are good people who want to live in peace. But there are some bad people who want to hurt us and that’s why we occasionally hear the code-red alert.
One day, sweet boy, one day there will be peace, and we will be able to simply go there and eat hummus together, just like near your grandparents in the north”
The thought that hundreds and thousands ran to Israel to loot, rape, kidnap, and slaughter undermines my hope for peace, my belief in humankind.
Furthermore, the rejoicing and cheering of the crowds in the streets of Gaza as they were presented with the “spoils” and the joy of seeing abductees – elderly people, children, babies—that seals it for me, it’s killing me for good.
What hope is left?
Have we gone back 80 years? To the days of the Third Reich? Is the hatred so deep that the entire Palestinian population is already infected with it?
I’m completely broken and that’s even before I started crying for my friends who are no longer here.
I love you dear friends.
Hug your loved ones and appreciate what we have.
Tzachi Levy, October 10, 2023, Kfar Aza, Israel.”
Tzachi, the dearest of people, a peace activist, a counselor at a Zionist, liberal youth movement, he believes in and advocates for coexistence and living with mutual respect. He has lost his dear neighbors, his closest friends, the home where he raised his children, and above all, Tzachi has lost hope for peace and faith in humanity.
Today I cry for the babies slaughtered with inhuman cruelty. I cry with my dear friend Tzachi. I cry for my beloved homeland. I can’t stop crying because there is nothing more horrible than the sight of a baby murdered by barbarians in the arms of its dead mother.
Maybe like Tzachi, I too am beginning to lose hope for a better future, but together with him and my fellow Israelis, I believe today more than ever in the greatness of Israel, in the dear people of this land, and in the righteousness of our ways.
The funeral phase is coming. The names of the dead, in all their familiarity, burn the soul. Cemeteries cannot cope with the load, and due to the prohibition of gatherings so as not to risk rockets falling into a large crowd, the size of funerals is limited. But communities are finding ways to honor their dead, as in this funeral of 20-year-old Lieutenant Yanai Kaminka in Zur Hadassah near Jerusalem.
How great the break, how deep the sorrow, how hard the suffering. Sadly, it is not over; the end is not in sight.
Leah Garber is a senior vice president of JCC Association of North America and director of its Center for Israel Engagement in Jerusalem.