Our various wars provide equal opportunities for all of us, since the north was targeted in 2006, and we Tel Avivians were targeted by the Scuds (shot from Iraq) in 1991. This time around, I feel tremendous empathy for the kids and others in the southern towns, such as those 200 kids in Netivot who have been in shelters for the past 4 days. The trick is to try, at the same time, to feel empathy for the kids in Gaza who don’t have any shelters to protect them. We feel our own pain first, but this shouldn’t undermine our ability to feel the pain of others, particularly since we are fated to live alongside each other forever.
I heard a very powerful expression of this at a meeting of the Israeli Peace NGO forum on Tuesday evening in Tel Aviv. Ibrahim Abu-Shindi, the dedicated director of a wonderful Jewish-Arab community center in Jaffa, said that one of the things that the average Jewish Israeli doesn’t fully grasp is that “our TV” puts a primary projection of the impact of the war on the Gazans via images of fighter planes, aerial missiles, bombed structures and plumes of smoke – at a rather sterile distance learning vision of the war – while the Arabs in Israel and around the region see the images projected by Al Jazeera, which focuses on the torn, dead bodies of innocent women and children who are the “collateral damage” of Operation Cast Lead. Part of this is the fault of Israel’s media policy, which doesn’t allow the Israeli and international media into Gaza, but part of it is a reflection of the reality on the ground.
I continue to believe that Martin Buber had it right. In all of our relations, between individuals, and between peoples, we have to try to make an extra effort to understand the other, while remaining in touch with ourselves. The greatest challenge is to continue to do that in times of crisis.