There's a window in our house that faces nothing but war.
It's opposite the blank wall of the apartment house next door, so most days there's nothing to look at. But after years of intermittent bloodshed surrounding Gaza, the window has begun to show us something after all. It's there as our limbic barometer of what people across the sea classify as regional tensions.
It's the window of our bomb shelter.
If I am to be honest with myself, I have to say on this Thanksgiving, that it is with gratitude and no small measure of guilt, that I recognize my good fortune in not living the impossible reality of the 50,000 Israelis and the nearly two million Palestinians separated, barely, by the Gaza border.
In the bomb shelter in our Tel Aviv-area home, tucked into a space in the wall beside the window, is a heavy iron armor plate that can be rolled into place against missile attack. Twice recently we've pulled the shield closed and opened it again.
Just twice. No rocket fire. No bombing. How extraordinarily lucky we are.
I am so grateful for the shockingly large number of people on both sides of that border, who are living under unimaginable burdens of vulnerability, tragedy, and hardship, and yet still resist the very human impulse to believe that the other side is uniformly murderous, uniformly resistant to all compromise, uniformly deserving of whatever violence may befall them.
We who celebrate this week cannot begin to know what it's like to spend every night as a hostage. Hostage to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Hostage to governmental indifference, to global indifference. Abandoned.
We who celebrate this week cannot know the reality of the Israelis subject to terror operations, rocket offensives, toxic air from airborne-set arson fires, school cancellations, life-event cancellations, and night after night, year after year, rousted from meals, sleeping in bomb shelters, living out entire childhoods in bomb shelters.
We who celebrate this week cannot know what it's like to spend every night and every day as a hostage. Hostage to Israel, to its siege, to its air strikes, and hostage, at the same time, to the oppressive political machinations of Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, Iran. To live in Gaza today is to live not in the 21st century but in some approximation of the 1st. Power for light and heat and cooling and washing is scant to nil. Water is, by and large, undrinkable. Sewage goes untreated.
I am grateful for the many, many people on both sides of the Gaza border who, despite everything, are determined to get their kids through this, who want nothing more than to provide for their families and to live out lives which are neither abbreviated nor deformed by war.
They deserve our respect, our support, and every chance at the kind of future we celebrate on this holiday meant to bridge impossible differences between children of God.
They are, in the truest sense, war heroes.
I'm going to be thinking a lot about war heroes this Thanksgiving week. Other war heroes, as well - all the people who, in ways we may never know, often at great personal risk and cost, keep murderous, avoidable, pointless, politically motivated wars from breaking out.
Contrary to all logic and popular culture, many of those who stand between us and tragic conflict, are themselves decorated heroes, serving and retired generals, admirals, and directors of government intelligence agencies.
We're supposed to view them as Dr. Strangelove-grade militarists and saber-rattlers, cheerleaders and lobbyists for armed conflict.
But not in the world we've come to know of late.
I am thinking here about both American and Israel, where because of ultra-hawkish civilians in key positions of power, it now often falls to the military to seek solutions to conflicts in directions other than war – and also to speak up for and act on behalf of democracy, precisely when democracy, and speaking freely, are under official threat.
Give thanks – if only silently – to those who, even in secret, find ways to prevent war.
May they succeed. May we never know what might have happened, should they fail.
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