It is hard to know what to treat first: my headache, my nausea, my stomach ache or my tears. I know that they are all symptomatic responses to this ongoing war, “Protective Edge,” or what I think I have more aptly renamed, “Unprotected Abyss.” As we - Israelis and Palestinians - fall into this bottomless abyss of war and revenge that seems to have no end, our bodies and souls are being ravaged.
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I have many friends in the region that surrounds Gaza. I know many people who live in the kibbutzim that have suffered the most during this war, at least from the Israeli side. Unfortunately, the kibbutz where I live, Kibbutz Urim, is also in this war zone. However, I am one of the ‘lucky’ ones; since my community is located 14 kilometers from the Gaza Strip, we do not have to worry about Hamas militants popping out of a ‘terror tunnel’ under our communal dining room. Furthermore, while my friends on this side of the border have 15 seconds to find safety, we have been told that we have twice that amount of time.
However, in reality, I don’t feel so lucky. Perhaps this is because when the siren sounds, we actually have only between 15-20 seconds to run into our corridor - the most inner space of our small house - and close the doors to the bedrooms and bathroom (since we have no safe room) before we hear the boom(s). Additionally, although relatively few rockets have been directed here, the war has not skipped over our community. For close to three weeks we have heard the war planes and the helicopters overhead, day and night. And we have the constant, oh so constant, booms, which often sound menacingly close. At times, the house shakes and I move away from the windows in fear that they will shatter. We hear booms from within Gaza and we hear what is happening in the neighboring villages and towns. We (try to) go to sleep with the booms and we wake up (after a few hours) with the booms. And the cycle continues.
My body aches from head to toe, because I also have friends in Gaza who are victims of the ongoing air raid and ground attacks. They have no safe rooms or bomb shelters. They have no warning siren - unless a ‘knock on the roof’ can be considered a warning. They cannot escape because the attacks are taking place all along the tiny Gaza Strip - in the north, in the center and in the south. They cannot escape because the Hamas militants often threaten people who try to find safer ground. The ‘safer’ ground there has also disappeared, as militants have used hospitals and schools for storing weapons and explosives, and these are now targeted by the Israeli military. Palestinian civilians in Gaza are between a rock and a hard place. In my phone calls and text messages with my friends there, I have heard repeatedly: “There is no safe place in Gaza. We know that our turn to be killed is coming.”
There is no way to turn off the constant booms or the drone of the war planes. There is no way to get away from the news, for when I try to do without, I find that I only last half an hour without the need to see what is happening. There is no way to turn off the fear that grips me when I think of my Israeli friends who live right along the border, or of my Gazan friends that are huddled in their homes with their loved ones, usually without electricity, waiting for their time to come. There is no way to turn off the disc in my head that says Israelis and the Palestinians in Gaza will never find peace because our Israeli government and their Hamas government do not care about its citizens; they are obsessed with power, war and revenge.
Israeli natural and social scientists have invented many wonders for this world. They have made breakthroughs in chemistry, physics, medicine, computer technology, agriculture and economics, to name just a few. It would be wonderful if the next breakthrough would come in the form of a pill - or program - that would do away with the Israeli and Hamas leaders’ need to engage in war after war after war. We need relief from our spiritual and bodily pains that come with each new round of violence. We lived through Cast Lead. We barely lived through Pillar of Defense. We are trying to hold on for dear life through Unprotected Abyss. I turn to the innovators and plea that they work on discovering a way to save us from the machines of war before it’s too late. I volunteer to join this research project.
Julia Chaitin, a social psychologist, is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Social Work at the Sapir College and a member of Other Voice – a grassroots organization that calls for a non-violent solution to the Israel-Gaza conflict.