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Day 73: Iron Swords War

By Leah Garber

This past weekend, we were shaken by the painful, tragic news that came from Gaza, in which three Israeli hostages were accidentally killed by IDF soldiers who thought they were terrorists. This news caused the country to feel paralyzing pain. Our collective misery for the abductees intensified even more. What could have been the best picture ever—three Israelis falling into the arms of IDF soldiers, the end of their nightmare—now turned into one of the terrible tragedies of the war, a false identification and tragic death. The three hostages returned home but in coffins. Three more funerals, this time of loved ones killed by friendly fire.

Nothing is friendly in the fire of war. It consumes body and soul, past and future. Hopes and dreams.

An investigation started immediately, the process of drawing lessons is in full swing, and the first conclusions are already being implemented in the field. But nothing will bring home three lost sons and will not clear the scarred conscience of the Israeli soldiers who, by mistake, out of genuine fear for their lives, pulled the trigger.

War is cruel, creates improbable realities, poses life and death dilemmas.

Indeed, those three abductees marked their hiding place with the inscription in Hebrew: “Help, three Israeli abductees,” but in so many cases during the last few weeks, Israeli soldiers encountered similar abandoned houses with a similar inscription in Hebrew, which turned out to be a deception by the terrorists, to attract IDF soldiers to booby-trapped houses and blow them up. The cynical use of Israel’s moral norms obliged the IDF soldiers in the field to be extremely careful and suspicious. In 99% of cases, these writings in Hebrew on walls were indeed a death trap. Last Friday, it was a real call for rescue, which ended in a horrific disaster.

War rears its ugly head of cynicism, a cruel use of humanity, such as the looting of dozens of trucks with humanitarian equipment that enters the Gaza Strip daily. AAs soon as the trucks enter, Hamas terrorists board them and threaten to shoot any of the citizens of Gaza, their own people, who try to approach the truck, begging for food. The humanitarian aid is supposed to reach the unfortunate residents of Gaza but is looted by the terrorists who brought the destruction of Gaza on their people with their evil machinations. Imagine the crowds running towards trucks loaded with necessary aid being chased away by Hamas while Hamas directs the trucks towards their outposts, far from the reach of those for whom the aid is intended. Repurposing the humanitarian aid follows the repurposing of funds, as discovered this morning, hidden in one of the terrorists’ homes in Gaza. Money transferred from international support to feed the hungry landed in the hands of Hamas murderers.

In a house that seemingly looks like an innocent home, in one of the children’s rooms, under a baby bed, Israeli soldiers spotted an opening to a terrorist tunnel. The only way into the tunnel is under the baby’s bed, where he is supposed to sleep safely, not guarding a tunnel with his life. After all, if Hamas takes away food and medicine from those in need, babies included, why would they not also take away their sleep along with their lives?

Yesterday the IDF found a terrorist tunnel, or more accurately, an underground city, with travel routes for trucks and cages intended to imprison Israeli abductees. The tunnel mining took years and tens of millions of dollars. Money that was intended for residents of the Gaza Strip, but, like all international aid transferred over the years for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, it was stolen by Hamas terrorists to arm themselves, to establish evil at the expense of hungry people who have been living for years under the brutal control of a terrorist organization that took over their lives.

The war continues to charge its painful blood toll, and again this morning, we woke up to the terrible headline: “Cleared for publication,” a phrase that every Israeli fears—the list of causalities. Who now? Do we know them? Like a black cloud that hovers and has not yet decided which sky to blacken, which sun rays to block…

But even when the sky above us remains clear, as the cloud hovers over other Israeli homes, the anguish won’t disappear. Alongside our own fear, we hear the cries of mourning from other homes. The sorrow for lost lives is painful, whether we know the dead or we don’t.

21-year-old Major Liav Aloush was killed in battle in Gaza along with his friends Etan Naeh and Tal Filiba. Liav’s mother, Mali Aloush, who previously served as an IDF casualty officer, was the one who used to knock on doors and deliver the news of deaths. Her knock was the one Israelis feared and hoped never to answer. Yesterday, the painful reality of the war brought that terrible knock to her home. Later that night, Mali and her husband went to identify their son. “He looks like a prince, like he’s just sleeping,” Mali described of her dead son, knowing that from this sleep, he would never wake up.

With the outbreak of war, the nine-month pregnant, Maayan Pizem and her husband Shay were called for military reserve service, each to their own unit. For Maayan, this was a short period of serving, as three weeks ago, baby Jordan Ori was born. Shay returned from Gaza on time to be by Maayan’s side as she gave birth and stayed home ’enjoying the first, magical days of parenthood. But that too-short experience ended with his return to fighting alongside his unit’s friends. Shay never got to see baby Jordan Ori again. He was killed this past Friday, leaving a three-week-old orphan who will never call him dad.

While negotiations for releasing more hostages have resumed, the list of hostages is getting shorter. Unfortunately, there are fewer and fewer hostages alive to rescue, with the news that some that were taken into Gaza alive were brutally killed by the terrorists. Men and women were tortured and murdered while in captivity.

But nothing will stop the malicious anti-Israel protests, biased calls based on ignorance, and lies continuing to creep in. Perhaps the cute image of a small boy lying in the ruins of his home in Gaza, hugging a snow-white cat, aroused their pity. Still, only the blindness of the false propaganda prevented them from seeing that the cat had five legs—a typical AI error. This is what we are facing: fake images made by AI that people who consider themselves enlightened buy into and believe. They unknowingly fall into the anti-Israel propaganda trap and shout those messages.

Perhaps this is why, in a survey conducted last week by researchers from Harvard University and the Harris Poll polling company, researchers found that 51% of Americans aged 18-24 believe that the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is, in fact, the end of the State of Israel. Sixty percent of them think that the terrorist attack by Hamas is justified. At least among the general U.S. population, over 80% support Israel, but the clear trend among young people, tomorrow’s generation of leaders and influencers, should worry us all.

73 days and nights of continued horror and pain. The grief does not stop as returning hostages share new horror stories with even more chilling testimonies about the barbaric massacre of October 7—stories that reinforce our heavy, paralyzing fear and worry for our soldiers who have been fighting under difficult conditions for 73 days.

Another day is coming to an end here in Israel. The sun has set, and the night skies are bright and full of stars. This is the same sight our soldiers in Gaza see. The same stars that perhaps illuminate the darkness for our abductees, whose life thread is getting weaker, fading away with each passing day. When will they gaze at the magical night sky without worrying if the sun will shine in the morning or if there will be a tomorrow for them?

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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