It is difficult to explain in words the period we are going through here in Israel, a black, terrible, horrifying catastrophe that began with a brutal, cruel and unprecedented bloodbath against Israeli citizens who were at a party, in their bed, in the living room of their home or at work, and who did no harm to anyone.
Hundreds of youths who participated in a peace party(!) were slaughtered in the most brutal way imaginable or taken captive by deathly human monsters. Small children were murdered in front of their parents or parents were murdered in front of them. Workers in the fields were shot and killed without batting an eyelid. Passersby on the streets and roads were slaughtered or set on fire. Whole villages and kibbutzim were destroyed, looted and burned with their inhabitants. Members of the military and civilian security forces were massacred.
This attack, which left behind an unbelievable number of over a thousand dead, thousands more physically wounded and millions mentally wounded, as well as the complete destruction of entire settlements, is the most difficult moment in the history of the State of Israel. It is more difficult than any war we have been through, and one of the most difficult moments in the history of the Jewish people. As President Biden said, we all have a black hole in our hearts. The soul finds no rest; the pain is unbearable. Our hearts are bleeding.
There is not a living soul in Israel, a small country of 10 million inhabitants, that is not directly or indirectly affected by this crazy terror attack and the war that was imposed on us. Each and every one of us has lost friends, neighbors, family members, colleagues or acquaintances. Newborn children, toddlers, young girls and boys, women and men, old men and women, disabled people and even Holocaust survivors ended their lives suddenly and violently. The images are sickening and visceral. The voices are deafening. The number is unimaginable; the brutality has never been purer. Absolute evil. Nothing in the world, nothing, can justify that. There is not and cannot be any justification for this. All the claims in the world, the just and the unjust, every injustice caused or not caused, every piece of land, every national or personal tragedy, every feeling of deprivation, every feeling of revenge, hatred or loathing cannot bring human beings, born of a woman, to commit such acts of madness. This is not a political matter. It is not a religious matter. This is not a national issue. It is not a matter in the framework of a bloody and years-long conflict. It’s just not human.
As we wonder where to direct the pain, we fight back simply because we have no other choice. We don’t have, and never will have, another home like Israel. This country was established precisely so that such things would never happen again. And here they have happened; we learned an unbearably harsh lesson and we are paying with our souls. But it won’t happen again. Never. We, as a people, as individuals and as a community, will allow such a Holocaust to occur again. Cost as much as it costs, take as much as it takes, hurt as much as it hurts. It is important to clarify that even though we are bleeding, our souls cry out for revenge; even though we are human and seek comfort for ourselves in any possible way, everything that has been done since we took control is not an act of revenge. These are survival actions. We live in a tough neighborhood. It is not the convenience that allows you to consider your steps, but the necessity. Those who do not live in this bloodthirsty environment will never understand this. The payment will be collected, the lesson will be learned and the madness will stop. We are people of peace; we believe in true peace and long for peace, but we will pay any price for our security. Simply because, otherwise, we won’t exist at all.
We are a strong people; we have known hard times and we are going through them even now, and even more so. Despite all the differences of opinion between us—and there are, God knows there are—when we are attacked, we are one people. One. With all our differences, gaps and even our internal conflicts, we are one people. And they will not break us. Never. The amazing dedication of the citizens, while the country is gathering its pieces, is amazing. We all left our homes, our jobs, our lives, our families, in order to fight together—some with the security forces, some with help, some with support and some in any other possible way. Unfortunately, it seems that politics did not catch up with us yet and the leadership of our politicians has expired and disappeared. But there is no vacuum. We will win because there are no other people like us. Because we are one. Anyone who deals with us—blood in his head. After that, we will return to our inner conflicts. It is not the time!
This dark period will pass. The pain will not go away and the scars will remain forever, but we are strong and we will get through this too. With your help, and with the help of the sane people of the world, such atrocities will not happen again. At the same time, it is very important that you spread the true story. Please see how you can help. Please strengthen our people, our communities and us. You are part of us. We are one.
Shai Ben Natan is an attorney and the son of Rina and Zvika Ben Natan, members of CJP’s Boston-Haifa Peoplehood committee.