by: Cristina Violante on November 21st, 2012 | 1 Comment »
I am sure that I am not the only one whose heart is heavy during these days. Waking up to read the news, that civilians, both Palestinian and Israeli, have been killed, including children, and that Operation Pillar of Defense will most likely commence, as rockets and bombing continue in both directions, feels like a nightmare. Maybe I have not in fact woken up at all.
I first lived in Israel while studying abroad in fall of 2009, only a number of months after Operation Cast Lead. Once on break, I went with a friend to vacation for a few days in Sinai, near Sharm al-Sheikh, a very popular place for Israeli tourists. We met some guys there who had just been discharged from their IDF service, and were there to relax on the beach and enjoy their new found freedom.
They had a lot of glow sticks with them, and as we hung out we sort of jokingly played with them and passed them around. The glow sticks, they then explained after a while, were from Gaza. As they spoke, I started to put the pieces together, and realized they had been on the ground there during Cast Lead. They had stolen these glow sticks from their army unit after the fact, but the main purpose of them had been to provide light after they cut off electric power to the strip, so that they could continue their operation unhindered.
As someone who had grown up far from the realities of war, (my father is a Vietnam veteran, but even that feels far away), I was astonished by the casualness with which they joked about it all. I did my best to hide my shock from the group, but could not help but feel bewildered by the levity of the situation.
I am not proud of this story. I am neither proud of my naïve silence, nor am I attempting to distinguish myself as morally different from or superior to these veterans.
I tell the story because, now, as we stand on the brink of Cast Lead II, I am reminded of the danger of being overly desensitized to the sufferings of war. The world now sees a cycle of violence that shows only signs of acceleration and growth, not prospects of peace and reconciliation. It makes me sick to think that this is happening all over again.