This piece is one of an ongo­ing series that we will be shar­ing in the com­ing days from Israeli authors and authors in Israel.

It is crit­i­cal to under­stand his­to­ry not just through the books that will be writ­ten lat­er, but also through the first-hand tes­ti­monies and real-time account­ing of events as they occur. At Jew­ish Book Coun­cil, we under­stand the val­ue of these writ­ten tes­ti­mo­ni­als and of shar­ing these indi­vid­ual expe­ri­ences. It’s more impor­tant now than ever to give space to these voic­es and narratives. 

In col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil, JBI is record­ing writ­ers’ first-hand accounts, as shared with and pub­lished by JBC, to increase the acces­si­bil­i­ty of these accounts for indi­vid­u­als who are blind, have low vision or are print disabled. 

The sub­ti­tle at the bot­tom of the screen announces: At least 900 mur­dered, over 2,700 injured. It’s a per­ma­nent announce­ment, glued to the screen. Above it, the pic­tures keep chang­ing: A woman with her one-month-old baby, who hid in a stor­age room with no food or water for twen­ty-sev­en hours, her hus­band nowhere to be found; a man sob­bing, his two daugh­ters kid­napped and tak­en the Gaza strip; text mes­sages writ­ten by a ten year old girl who watched her father get slaugh­tered, and is writ­ing to her moth­er who is try­ing to keep her calm, telling her not to look at her father’s body while she’s search­ing for a bot­tle of water. 

But the sub­ti­tle is per­sis­tent, it accom­pa­nies them all. The prob­lem is, I am lying to my chil­dren: I am telling them that every­thing is going to be ok. When­ev­er one of them peeks out of their room, we imme­di­ate­ly switch chan­nels. We have the doc­u­men­tary chan­nel on call. We also have a face on call; it’s the one that says, we haven’t been cry­ing. My daugh­ter comes into the liv­ing room, the screen is filled with pink sharks and rare eels. This is what you’re watch­ing? She won­ders. We nod, voic­es — as we learned over the past forty-eight hours — are not trust­wor­thy. She takes some­thing out of the refrig­er­a­tor and we become impa­tient — how long does it take to wash a fuck­ing apple — as if our eyes watch­ing the hor­ror will some­how be missed. She final­ly goes back to her room; we switch back to the news. The sub­ti­tle went nowhere, but the num­ber was updat­ed: now it’s at least 1,000 mur­dered. I remem­ber, on Sat­ur­day, when it said, At least 22 mur­dered in the Gaza Enve­lope.” No, we thought then, this can’t be true.


The civ­il ini­tia­tives that have filled the coun­try over the past few days and swept hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple are a sight to be seen. Impro­vised sta­tions were set up at major streets and schools, where thou­sands of vol­un­teers are sort­ing through and pack­ing the aston­ish­ing amount of dona­tions brought in and send­ing them off (by pri­vate cars of pri­vate cit­i­zens) to the hos­pi­tals, army bases, and fam­i­lies who were evac­u­at­ed from hell with no clothes, dia­pers, or food. Every­body par­tic­i­pates: some open their hous­es to the Gaza Enve­lope refugees, oth­ers cook and bring the food to the dis­tri­b­u­tion cen­ters, some offer their pro­fes­sion­al skills as ther­a­pists, den­tists, or babysit­ters for free. The ones who can’t leave their hous­es donate mon­ey. The What­sApp groups are burn­ing with mes­sages: clean under­wear and flash­lights are need­ed for sol­diers in the south; is any­one avail­able to pick up a deliv­ery of food from Haifa? Baby equip­ment need­ed for three-month-old twins, now orphaned. 

It warms the heart, but at the same time, it breaks it. The Israeli peo­ple are fill­ing the void cre­at­ed by a non-func­tion­ing night­mare of a gov­ern­ment, who for the past ten months based its deci­sions on the needs of its mem­bers, while sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly weak­en­ing — if not crush­ing — the army, the wel­fare sys­tem, and oth­er pub­lic ser­vices, all while con­cen­trat­ing its efforts in break­ing Israel’s democ­ra­cy. The facts are no secret: Ben­jamin Netanyahu has been warned, time and time again, by army high rank offi­cials, that the Judi­cial Coup weak­ens the Israeli army by the day, that a dis­as­ter is on the hori­zon — to no avail. When defense min­is­ter Yoav Galant warned of a cat­a­stro­phe, Netanyahu’s response was to fire him (and lat­er reversed his deci­sion, after hun­dreds of thou­sands of pro­tes­tors flood­ed the streets). The inhab­i­tants of the Gaza Enve­lope were aban­doned by a gov­ern­ment busy secur­ing the well-being of MP Zvi Sukkot, who felt the need to cel­e­brate the Jew­ish hol­i­days in the Pales­tin­ian vil­lage Huwara, as well as oth­er extrem­ists among the set­tlers, who will for­ev­er pre­fer the past — often an imag­i­nary one — over the future.

The sad truth is out there: it is broad­cast­ed 24/7, live on TV. No one in Israel will ever for­get the long hours of watch­ing TV reporters – their eyes wet with tears and their voic­es bro­ken with frus­tra­tion – read out loud text mes­sages sent to them by peo­ple besieged in locked rooms beg­ging for help – from the police, from the army, from any­one – while the Hamas ter­ror­ists tried to break down their doors. Some of them were locked there for over twelve hours before being res­cued, often thanks to the reporters, direct­ing the sol­diers to their loca­tions. Many oth­ers were murdered. 


There will be time for bring­ing those respon­si­ble for this calami­ty to jus­tice. This will prob­a­bly be the begin­ning of a new Israel, hope­ful­ly a bet­ter, san­er one. Right now, there are over 130 peo­ple held cap­tive by Hamas, many of them are small chil­dren, even babies, young and elder­ly women. My hairdresser’s moth­er, eighty-five years old, is now there. Hamas kid­napped them all in what can only be described as an inhu­mane war crime. The Israeli gov­ern­ment, with the help of the sane world, head­ed by the Unit­ed States, should free them now, at any cost, with­in a mat­ter of days, before it is too late. Any oth­er out­come will be unfor­giv­able in the eyes of the Israeli peo­ple, who are done forgiving. 

The views and opin­ions expressed above are those of the author, based on their obser­va­tions and experiences.

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Noa Yedlin is a best­selling and award-win­ning Israeli author. She is the recip­i­ent of the Sapir Prize (the Israeli Man Book­er) and the Prime Min­is­ter’s Lit­er­a­ture Award and author of the best­selling House Arrest, Stock­holm, Peo­ple Like Us, and The Wrong Book. She cre­at­ed the tele­vi­sion series Stock­holm based on her best­selling nov­el of the same name.