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Gaza War Diary: 24 MARCH 2024

The thing that I most admire about my fellow Israelis is their resilience. But never, in all my years since moving here in 1971, have I felt the struggle to keep going more demanding, and more difficult.

Purim, of all our holidays, is one of merrymaking. It’s carnival. It’s laughter. It’s visiting friends and neighbors, oohing and ahhing over the children’s adorable costumes.

But with so many heads of families, sons and daughters, in harm’s way, this was no simple task this year. And yet… The children were out there—little soldiers, and little ballerinas— and their parents too were wearing blonde wings and blue jumpsuits and rubber noses, trying bravely to show “business as usual.”

I found myself trying too, but it wasn’t easy. Even though in my personal life there is much genuine joy – a grandson engaged to a girl I adore, another grandson expecting his first baby any day.

I try to remember this when I read how the IDF is in hand-to-hand combat in still another Gazan hospital, Nasser, to which Hamas terrorists have also returned like roaches and now must be dealt with. The negotiations in Doha are, not surprisingly, going nowhere, even though Israel agreed to the outrageously horrendous American proposal to exchange five murderers for every hostage. But that’s not what Hamas wants. They want to win this war they started, despite losing every battle. Our hostages are the only weapon they have left, and they are not wrong to think it is the most lethal of all. Tel Aviv is on fire, literally, with protests to have them returned at any price.

I tried to put blinders on for the sake of the holiday. After all, what could be more appropriate than celebrating a Jewish victory over genocidal Persians, even if it did happen in the fourth century BCE? I recited my prayers, read the Book of Esther, and then exchanged traditional Purim gifts of food and drink with my neighbor, Chana.

Chana is the first person I met when I moved from Jerusalem to Zichron Yaakov. She was there for me when our house was being renovated and I was still in Jerusalem, letting me know when the builder left the air conditioning running all weekend. She watched over deliveries of expensive building supplies dumped in front of the house after the workers had already left. And once I moved in, she explained the lay of the land to me: municipal rules, how to find the best plumber, and what was going on with our neighbors. We especially bonded over our mutual love of gardening, her beautiful lemon, avocado, and pomelo trees. We spent more than one afternoon simply drinking tea and chatting.

A few months ago, Chana felt a pain in her abdomen. It turned out to be cancer. For the last few months, she has been getting chemo. And while she refuses to complain, I understand from what she doesn’t say that it has been hell.

Still, today, she surprised me by bringing me a lovely Purim basket of home baked cookies. You know, she told me, pointing to the house across the street, her husband has just been called up again. I knew the family, a friendly young couple with three tiny children, two boys and a girl, and two enormous dogs. I couldn’t imagine how the mother was going to manage alone.

“I’ll go see her,” I promised. So I picked up a few toys, and packed a bag with cookies and candy, and other snacks traditional to Purim goody boxes, and together with my husband knocked on her door. She was surprised to see us. Unlike Chana, we are separated from these neighbors by a generation or more. I gave her the things, and told her there was a letter inside with our phone number. I assured her I was a very good babysitter with over a dozen grandchildren should she need me. I asked her to please let us help her if she finds that she needs help. She looked ready to cry. If I didn’t think it inappropriate, I would have hugged her like a Mom.

Later, she sent me a WhatsApp. The kids loved the toys, her two year-old daughter immediately enamored of the big-eyed teddy bear. I knew she would be. And for the rest of day, I couldn’t stop thinking about how her husband had gone off to war on the merriest of holidays, leaving her to cope, and that he did it to protect me and mine.

I pray that this terrible ordeal will end. I pray that our troops will achieve a perfect victory, free our hostages without murderers having to be released and our precious soldiers dying. I pray that my neighbor Chana gets well, and that the young mother across the street soon has her husband, the father of her children, home with her, safe and sound.

I pray for another victory over the cursed Persians.

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4 comments on “Gaza War Diary: 24 MARCH 2024”

  1. arlene yufe Reply

    Your words always bring me to tears. I pray for the Jews everywhere and for a true victory without a terrorist exchange.

  2. Sid Levine Reply

    We should emulate the actions of the Jews in the story of Purim and fight back against all odds.
    In every generation there rise up those who wish to annihilate us – for too many years we have ignored this, particularly in the Diaspora, where it was swept, and still is under the carpet whilst the governments pull Israel’s actions to pieces as if they would not behave the same way, or worse, if it happened to them!
    From Jerusalem פורים שמח

  3. Sue Freedland Reply

    I too pray that this war is over and the hostages are safely back home. I think of my Israeli friends and family everyday.

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