Every war, I lose more and more friends

Sometimes I fantasize about what would happen if I were to be declared a traitor by the authorities. How would those women with whom I’ve worked for so long react. Now I’m beginning to understand.

By Ruti Lavie (Translated from Hebrew by Michal Wertheimer Shimoni)

This week I unfriended another friend who reacted to my posts on Facebook with so much anger and rage I just couldn’t take it anymore. How can one compare unfriending friends to losing lives, which has become so ubiquitous here? But life isn’t a balanced affair. Technically it was very simple – a click on the mouse and I was done. In reality, she is a friend whose life had been intertwined with mine for half of my life. A friend with whom I shared so much happiness, pain and love. Someone who became a part of me has disappeared, along with all the suffering, pain and happiness that were a part of my own life.

And as so often happens, her anger did not stem from me calling for an end to this damned war. As always, what enraged her were seeing those horrible photos, the pain expressed over the suffering of the people of Gaza and their children. Every war I lose friends. In 2002 I cut ties with a woman who was like a mother to me, after she said that it was a good thing that a Palestinian girl died from lack of access to medication, because “had she grown up she would have turned into a suicide terrorist.” And so it goes, war after war. It happens not because I call for an end to end the war, but because I feel the pain of those who have become the Other in this land – those who have lost their humanity in the eyes of the state.

Destruction in Shajaiya, Gaza. 27 July 2014. Photo: Photo: Iyad al Baba/Oxfam, cc by-nc-nd

Destruction in Shajaiya, Gaza. 27 July 2014. Photo: Photo: Iyad al Baba/Oxfam, cc by-nc-nd

I am trying to understand what is so scary about feeling someone else’s pain? You don’t have to agree with me in order to be able to admit that “yes, this is painful.” Why is the ability to feel or hurt so scary that it causes people to forget who I am and hate me? Why does the ability to empathize with another’s pain create a feeling of danger, so much so that the first impulse is to annihilate it? I’m trying to understand whether it is the fear of looking in mirror; the fear of understanding who we have become and what we have let ourselves be made to do. Or perhaps is it the fear that if we were indeed made to commit these atrocities to others, the same can be done to us? The fear forces its bearer to push out whoever he or she thinks brought it on. Because the only way to be sure that this evil does not befall us is if it is clear that they are non-human.

Please excuse the comparison, but now I understand those who reacted to the evacuation of an elderly woman from her home by saying: “she should have paid her debts, she had it coming,” without ever thinking about how would she be able to pay in the first place. I also understand those who answered a single Mom by saying: “why did you have so many children? It’s your own fault.” Those who supported the cutting back of pensions and said: “Go to work and stop living on our account.” Now I understand all those who agreed to dispose of those weaker then themselves, fearing that they might drag them into poverty.

Those who know me know that I spent half my life fighting for dis-empowered women. I have been fighting, taking it in, feeling and hurting for half of my life. Ever since I became an adult in 1973, when I was in Sinai, I have witnessed the bombardments and have known the futility of war, understanding full well that if it continues, it will destroy us as well. Half of my life has been dedicated to the struggle – not for others, but alongside them. For half of my life I have been aware of my privileges as a kibbutz survivor, as an Ashkenazi woman, as someone who still exists on the edges of middle class. For half of my life I have been aware of my relative power, insisting on using it to be with those who have less power and access to making a living. For half of my life, I have been constantly listening and learning about the pain of other women, the burden they carry and the oppression they experience. For half of my life I have never preached to others; on the contrary, I made it a point to learn, grow and try to understand, even when different opinions hurt me.

Sometimes I fantasize about what would happen if I were to be declared a traitor by the authorities. How would those women who worked with me react. Now I’m beginning to understand. I still believe in the heart, in holding, in understanding and most of all, in solidarity. I will go on supporting and being active alongside all those who are hurt, even if they do not think like me. Even if they express opinions that I find terrible. I refuse to give up my heartfelt pain for all the soldiers who have died. Whose opportunity to grow and perhaps even understand the reality in a different way was taken from them. I refuse to give up on feeling the pain of Palestinians, who have nothing left but fear and agony. I refuse to hate anyone living in all this pain and fear – and I insist on hating only those who have created a reality of “no choice.” I refuse to give up on this hurting heart of mine, because it is who I am and without it I have no hope and no life left.

This post was first published in Hebrew on Haokets.

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  1. I suggest you should try to befriend with some true Jews instead of Zionist Jews.

    Who poses more danger to Israel? In December 2012, former Zionist prime minister Ehud Olmert said: Netanyahu.


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