A View From Here


Troy asked me some time ago to contribute some perspective on the current situation here in Israel, where I’ve been living for the past 13 years. For weeks, I’ve been unable to write anything (a first for me during Israel’s crises). I haven’t been able to get into the cool, dispassionate head I need to be in to present you with any kind of cogent analysis. I’ve always tried to maintain some baseline standard of composure when discussing the lunatic hell of this endless war. I think that ship might have sailed, at least for the time being.

So why am I back, you ask? Well, I’ll be honest. We are alone out here, more and more so every day, and I’m finding our isolation harder and harder to tolerate. It might be a little unseemly, I guess, but I can’t resist reaching out to you — not in the spirit of geopolitical analysis and the plucky fisking of media talking points, but out of an increasingly desperate need simply to communicate, to send a flare out to a part of the world that’s still relatively normal. I need you to understand our reality here.

On the surface, our world is strikingly similar to the world you live in. Anyone who has visited Israel can tell you this is a thoroughly first-world environment. Now superimpose the rest of our reality onto that physical world: the air raid sirens, the whisking of the kids into the shelter, the daily funerals of the young heroes who put their bodies between our children and the monsters, the fathers’ knees buckling while they try to choke out the Kaddish over their fallen sons, the hollow-eyed mothers, the sobbing children, the tableaux of soldiers weeping on each other’s shoulders as they bury their dead.

Most of the horrors of this go-round are sadly familiar, but there is a new development this time around that has kicked all of this into a whole new realm of nightmare. That’s the network of tunnels, as vast and complex as a subway system, dug under the very ground on which Israelis walk. The soldiers braving and destroying these tunnels are discovering not only vast supplies of machine guns and ammunition and grenades, but also stores of handcuffs and tranquilizers. Consider the reality of that for a moment. Not only are our people meant to be mown down in large numbers, but we are also intended to be dragged down, alive, into the darkness. 

Nothing about any of this is theoretical. Heavily armed men have already come up out of the ground inside our territory — disguised in IDF uniforms, a further nauseating touch — and have engaged and killed our soldiers, 18- and 19- and 20-year-olds who died preventing vastly greater carnage within the kibbutzim. A close school friend of my 11-year-old son does not know his uncle because he was shot to death by a Palestinian terrorist, and this same child’s first cousin just came back from Gaza with grave head injuries. One of the three teenaged boys snatched and murdered by Palestinian terrorists on their way home from school earlier this summer was the nephew of a friend of ours. The wedding of our friend’s daughter coincided with the shiva (the mourning period). The sanctified name of the murdered boy was invoked under the chupah (the wedding canopy). Can you conceive of this? It is close; it is personal. This is the reality of our lives here.

I am in the challenging position of having to maintain a chipper front for my three young children while a) finding some language with which to explain the war to them; b) pretending everything is normal; and c) pretending everything will eventually be okay. I do not believe everything will be okay. It requires a monumental effort to manufacture an optimistic front. Now, don’t get me wrong: this is absolutely not to say I have lost faith in our army. Quite the opposite: I could not possibly have greater faith in our army, and I thank God for our soldiers every day. The trouble is that our very acts of self-defense are automatically read by most of the world as offense, so anything we do to protect ourselves — anything at all, right down to building bomb shelters for our civilians — is evidence of our aggression. The world is filled with outrage that so few of us are dead. How dare you protect yourselves, Jews? How dare you not die in larger numbers?

Our enemies try to kill us while hiding behind the bodies of their own children, and we are heaped with opprobrium when those children are killed in the crossfire. Does anyone think we are not filled with anguish over dead Gazan civilians? Does anyone believe we want to kill a single Gazan child? The only option we are to be permitted is not to respond at all: to turn the other cheek, to let them savage us with impunity and then bare our throats for the final slaughter. There has never in the history of human warfare been an army as conscientious about avoiding civilian casualties as the IDF, but facts don’t matter. Jews are fighting back, and that is not to be tolerated.

And so we are vilified. I respond very carefully to an old high school friend on Facebook who has shared an article by a Hamas apologist, pointing out that the piece is a fact-free piece of Hamas propaganda written specifically to hoodwink well-intentioned people like him. He responds with kindness, but then someone else pops up to accuse me of “shaming” — of being someone who insists — how backward! — that there is any such thing as wrong and right. There is the ultimately trivial but intensely depressing litany of celebrities who are cheerfully spitting in the face of every Jew who ever admired them (Mark Ruffalo, Mia Farrow, Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Elvis Costello, Roger Waters, Jon Stewart, Rihanna, Whoopi Goldberg, Ryan Gosling, Eddie Vedder, John Cusack, the list goes on). Hamas hanged some Palestinian civilians from cranes in Gaza this past weekend. ISIS is literally crucifying their enemies. In Syria they slaughter children by the dozen and throw their bodies in the street to rot as a warning to others. And Bar Refaeli and Gal Gadot are denounced as genocidal baby-killers for tweeting their love and concern for their own country.

Suck it up. I know. That’s not important. But layer that festering hate on top of the demonstrations, the throngs of Israel-bashers marching through Berlin, London, Stockholm, Edinburgh, Belfast, Dublin, Geneva, Brussels, Amsterdam, Madrid, Ottawa. Luxembourg. Costa Rica. Mexico. The Hague. Limpopo. Manchester. Capetown. Rotterdam. Auckland. Sao Paolo. Santiago. Atlanta. Houston. Boston. Portland. Philadelphia. Chicago. If you pluck individuals out of these demonstrations and ask them their motivations — I’m talking about civilized people, mind you, not the ones screaming “Gas the Jews” and doing the Nazi salute — most of them will offer some variant of “killing children is not the answer” or “civilians are not legitimate targets.” Unless they are Jews, that is. That is as it should be. 

I take this personally. The crux of the matter apparently is that this country was born in sin (so says the world), and everyone in it, down to the most innocent child, is therefore a sinner. Anything done to us, no matter how savage or cynical, is justified by our original sin, and anything we do to fend off the blows is morally repugnant. How are we supposed to battle this? How am I supposed to protect my children when this is what much of the world believes about them? 

The mounting crises and disasters of this summer have left me feeling underwater, as though I’m watching the world go about its business but am somehow disconnected from everything. It feels a little like what I imagine it’s like to discover you have a terminal disease. The whole world is chattering away, gabble gabble gabble, but no one is saying or hearing anything important, and they’re certainly not listening to anyone like me. And why should they? It doesn’t matter what we say or do; it doesn’t matter what the truth is. It doesn’t matter what will happen the next day if God forbid the monsters win in Gaza. Everyone shrugs when “militants” smash Buddhist temples; they’ll shrug (probably cheer) when they burn down the synagogues. They look away when they tear the crosses from the ancient churches of Mosul; they’ll shrug some more when they come for the Caravaggios. 

My heart aches. This wretched, beautiful, forsaken little country is the lamb of God. We have been chosen to be heaped with blame and loathing and then chased off the cliff, so that we might die for everyone else’s sins — or at least make everyone else feel a little better about their world, until the monsters start coming in their direction. It’s extremely odd to know that your own death, the death of your own children and your whole nation along with them, will imbue vast swaths of humanity with a glow of warm satisfaction. We have the temerity to exist at all, so we have it coming.

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  1. jmelvin Member

    Judith, you and your countrymen and women are in my prayers.  I sit and shake my head when I hear the occasional person talk as though all Israelis are just being big bullies who want to kill kids.  Flatly, it makes me rage a bit. 

    Reach on out to us.  We’re here in your time of need.  I think we have all been in times in life when we feel alone, but some conversation eases the soul.

    • #1
  2. user_82762 Inactive


    So nice to hear from you.  

    It was Hitler who said “the Jews invented morality”.  He may have been right about that.  He was wrong about everything else.  Hold fast you are in the eye of the Hurricane.

    Gd will hear the cry of the just.

    Warm Regards,


    • #2
  3. user_473455 Inactive

    Prayers Judith

    • #3
  4. lesserson Member

    I’m at a loss for words except to say that I’m so very sorry Judy, and that my family will be thinking of you and praying for you and your country.

    • #4
  5. Klaatu Inactive

    Judith, thank you for this.  You are not alone but on the side of the Angels.

    • #5
  6. user_212095 Contributor

    My heart aches for you and all of Israel, and I rage at the savage, perverted, sickening “morality” of the world.
    The only oasis is the United States, and perhaps not for much longer if you look at polling of younger Americans.
    I don’t know what else to say, except that there are millions in this country who do see the truth.

    • #6
  7. user_385039 Inactive

    Given that there are Islamic nations that are not in favor of Israel’s destruction, even if it is for reasons of their own political needs, it would seem that perhaps you are only seeing the worst side of things right now.

    As a Marine, should that have happened to my country, I’d be in the line volunteering to kill them all and let God sort them out.  Accordingly, to the IDF, semper fi and carry on.

    • #7
  8. Fricosis Guy Listener
    Fricosis Guy

    Many of us were saying in another post how much we missed you and hoping you were OK. You, your family, and your country are in the prayers of many of us, including my family.

    • #8
  9. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist

    Oh, Judith. Your post is just heartbreaking. I know the loneliness of which you write. It’s not from your faith tradition, but it was spoken by a Jew and has helped me through this period of my own child’s life-threatening illness:

    Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

    You are blessed, Judith — you and your nation. And you’re in our prayers.

    • #9
  10. Albert Arthur Coolidge
    Albert Arthur

    Judith Levy, Ed.: How are we supposed to battle this?

    Stay the course. Hamas must be destroyed. God bless Israel.

    • #10
  11. Whiskey Sam Inactive
    Whiskey Sam

    Judith, continued prayers are offered here for your and your family’s safety and for peace for Israel and Jerusalem.

    • #11
  12. Sandy Member

    I was glad to see your name–you have been much missed–but beyond saddened by what you have written here.  There are many here who understand, but cannot truly know the suffering Israel is undergoing.  Thank you for telling us, and please continue to share your burden.

    • #12
  13. user_176994 Inactive

    I have been hoping to hear from you soon, and I must say, I could scarcely continue reading your post – it is so heart-breaking and terrifying. But then, I am filled with another kind of sickening fear when I read the list of those who publicly denounce Israel. Of course, we hear it in our media here, but knowing how it erodes your morale and spirit over there fills me with sadness. You are in our prayers.

    • #13
  14. Susan in Seattle Member
    Susan in Seattle

    Sandy at #12 has stated my thoughts precisely.
    I have no additional words other than, “Thank you” and “I’m praying for you.”

    • #14
  15. user_30416 Member

    Judith—You must not let the world media tear you up inside. You are too dear to be harmed in such a way. There is no perfect side—perfect especially these days being the enemy of the good—but Israel is justified, absolutely, by any objective-historical measure, if Israel′s critics would ever be challenged to debate their POV on an even stage. I also do not believe that the media narrative has taken hold as widespread as usual. Moderates inclined to be sympathetic to the Palestinian cause (or, rather, the two-state solution) are nonetheless viscerally put off by the absurdity of making Israel the guilty party. Close your ears to the din of the extremists. You must not allow this spiritual sludge to permeate your being as a result of this woeful, terrible struggle. May Psyche be with you.

    • #15
  16. M1919A4 Member

    Ma’am,  Most of us here in the South firmly support your nation and its actions, and I am among them.  I pray for your safety and that of your country, its armed forces, and such innocents as may be among the enemy.  
    I pray also that your leaders will not shrink from their duties and that they will take all measures needed and effective to end the ability of your enemies wherever they may be (including Iran) to make war against you.

    • #16
  17. Marion Evans Inactive
    Marion Evans

    I hope that you and your loved ones will be safe and that your ordeal will end soon. Please try to regain some optimism. One day, hopefully before too long, there will be an agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.

    • #17
  18. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue

    Judith- You are not at all alone. My FB page is flooded with support for Israel from various Evangelical and Catholic organizations from the US, UK, Israel, Germany and Austria. True, we goyim  who love you children of Abraham are likely in the (rhetorical) fight of our lives right now, but we are fighting.

    • #18
  19. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue

    Mona Charen:

    Judith, My heart aches for you and all of Israel, and I rage at the savage, perverted, sickening “morality” of the world. The only oasis is the United States, and perhaps not for much longer if you look at polling of younger Americans. I don’t know what else to say, except that there are millions in this country who do see the truth.

     Hear, Hear, Mrs. Charen. 

    • #19
  20. raycon and lindacon Inactive
    raycon and lindacon

    We must also post our little note of oneness with Israel, as it were, into a crevice in the wall.  We can only join you in spirit, but in that spirit we share a righteousness before God which will prevail on behalf of His children, Israel.

    • #20
  21. PHCheese Inactive

    Of course this is tongue and cheek, but  I think the answer is to evacuate Israel to a state in the south west of the US and drop the big one on the rest of the snake pit of the Middle East. Good luck to you all.

    • #21
  22. Michael Collins Member
    Michael Collins

     There has never in the history of human warfare been an army as conscientious about avoiding civilian casualties as the IDF, but facts don’t matter. Jews are fighting back, and that is not to be tolerated.

    Correct.   One hundred percent.   I will pray for all of you, but especially for you and your family.

    • #22
  23. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas


    I am glad to hear from you, but I share the sadness that other Ricochetti are expressing here. I sympathize with your anguish. The world seems to have picked sides with little regard as to the facts of the matter. There are many Americans like us who understand in part what Israel is going through and put our support behind them. Alas, so many prominent Americans and our leadership seem to have fallen in with world opinion.

    On the other hand, my totally existing police officer friend has been quite vocal about his support of Israel and the right of Israelis to defend themselves. There’s people out there arguing for you still. Sometimes we just don’t have as much screen time.

    God bless.

    • #23
  24. Arahant Member

    From CIA World Factbook, total fertility rate in Gaza: 5.19 children born/woman (2008 est.)

    Age structure

    0–14 years: 44.7% (male 343,988/female 325,856)
    15–64 years: 52.7% (male 403,855/female 386,681)
    65 years and over: 2.7% (male 16,196/female 23,626) (2008 est.)

    They aren’t having children; they are manufacturing weapons.

    It’s difficult to be a people of good will who wish for peace when those on the other side wish only your death and dismemberment and their total victory. It makes it a disproportionate war. You have to win every time. They only have to win once and it is all over forever.

    • #24
  25. The Mugwump Inactive
    The Mugwump

    Those who preach moral equivalence between Israel and Hamas prove only that they are morally blind.  Those who march in open solidarity with evil display their willingness to sacrifice Israel that they themselves might live unmolested for another day.  It is an act of abject cowardice to appease terrorism by sacrificing the life of your neighbor.  In any event, the bloodlust of 7th century barbarians will not be sated even if every last Jew should disappear from the face of the earth.  The dithering by so-called statesmen in western capitals only reveals how western civilization has run its course into full moral decadence.

    The Israeli people agonize over the unnecessary deaths of innocent women and children.  The concern is a heavy burden on the conscience of a righteous people engaged in the existential battle between good and evil.  And yet we know that the enemies of civilization entertain no such moral scruples.  The culpability for the mayhem and murder rests with those who initiated this conflict – and with those who abide them in the west.  Those who support Hamas stand complicit in their crimes even as they point an accusing finger at Israel.

    • #25
  26. user_545548 Member

    I always get so angry when the fact that the Israeli government works to protect their civilian population and Hamas actively works to harm their civilian population is pointed to as “proof” of Israel’s barbarism; i.e. because so few Israelis have died that means that the response to the rocket attacks is extreme.

    • #26
  27. iWc Coolidge


    Of course this is tongue and cheek, but I think the answer is to evacuate Israel to a state in the south west of the US and drop the big one on the rest of the snake pit of the Middle East. Good luck to you all.

     What? And occupy the land of the Southern Five-Toed Desert Lizard?!

    • #27
  28. iWc Coolidge

    Our city had rival demonstrations yesterday. 

    1,000 people turned out in support of Israel. Positive and upbeat.
    80 people turned out in support of Hamas. Spitting mad.

    All the news coverage made the rival crowds sound equivalent in every respect, including tone and magnitude.

    • #28
  29. Quinn the Eskimo Member
    Quinn the Eskimo

    Is there anything we can do to help?  Any particular causes that do good work that we should contribute to?

    • #29
  30. Percival Thatcher

    Never again, and never alone.

    Never, ever, ever alone.

    • #30
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