Surviving Israel from My Safe Room

The world has borne witness to the brutal massacre of innocent Israeli civilians, including women and children. And for the first time in a long time, the humanity of the people of Israel has been recognized all over the world.
October 14, 2023
A home destroyed during the attack by Hamas is seen within Kibbutz Be’eri on October 14, 2023 in Be’eri, Israel. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

I ran to the mammad (safe room) with my kitten as the sirens blasted to indicate rockets fired over Tel Aviv, just as I began writing this a few days ago. Living in the center of the country, far from the main action, I know my death or injury is a statistically improbable event.

Still, I can’t shake the thought that 1500+ terrorists who infiltrated the border were caught, but likely many more are scouring the country to gun down more Israelis. It makes me somewhat hesitant to leave my apartment and my room, which is the aforementioned safe room. Like a bomb shelter, it’s a hard-concrete oasis from terror, which all the newer buildings in Israel are required to build. In times of peace, you don’t even remember it’s anything but a bedroom.

While Israel was never officially at war in the decade I’ve lived here until now, by my count there were already eight major conflicts. I’ve often heard sirens and rocket fire but always felt secure. Only in one instance did I not have time to find a safe room, running through a field to a shelter before the sirens ceased to sound. Other times I stupidly or naively stayed out of the room to watch the iron dome intercept rockets.

That’s how safe I felt, and, to some extent, still feel when I hear sirens.

In the South of Israel, near the Gaza border, it’s a much different reality. These safe rooms did little to secure children watching their mothers murdered and mothers watching their kids’ souls leave their bodies—small bodies that were then wrapped in body bags.

I feel lucky to be alive, but I also feel the pangs of guilt that there’s little I can do to help alleviate pain I could never imagine, memories that will live in our collective DNA for generations. Every generation of Jews has experienced this to some extent and that is why the state of Israel is of paramount importance to its people.

Whether in terms of numbers dead or unspeakable brutality, Saturday, October 7th, was the most devastating event in Jewish history since the gas chambers. In one kibbutz at least 40 babies were killed. Some were decapitated. There are no words.

Forcing myself to confront the freely viewable violence, mostly released by Hamas to celebrate their perceived triumph, I was particularly struck by a group of Palestinian children on TikTok teasing a boy of four of five being poked at with a stick, mocking a child by saying “Ima, Ima,” the Hebrew word for mother, clearly signaling the mom had been killed or held captive.

The evil is so palpable because you see the hate being taught to children who in a generation’s time will likely do the same with their children if they survive their government. It shows a worldview that champions the death of Israelis above all else.

It shows a worldview that champions the death of Israelis above all else.

It breaks down my ability to consider this video, for example, as something objective. I fail to see Israel and Palestine as equivalent victims. Thus I notice the subtle Pro-Palestinian bent so common of news organizations of the day. It altogether ignores the Israeli story.

This simple, seemingly innocuous newsreel shows a fairly even death toll and ignores the brutality Israel has endured. The death tolls in Israel and Gaza have since risen dramatically, but are still counted as about equal today. This paints a false picture of moral equivalence. It also misses the point of the story. Hamas does not warn Israel when it will attack buildings; it just fires rockets, brutally kills children and, now, even their dogs to instill fear. As the days pass the Gazan deaths will outnumber the Israelis by a wide margin. This will signal to those uninformed or anti-Israel that Israel is the oppressor.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Israel tells people to leave military targets in an attempt to prevent death, while Hamas targets civilians specifically. In many cases, Israel provides medical care to Palestinian casualties.

The water and electricity cut off by Israel is provided by Israel free of charge. The food being blocked is provided by the UN. The billions of dollars of aid being sent to Gaza over the past decade are used on military expenditure with the sole aim of destroying Israel. As of 2018, the estimates were 55% of the territory’s total humanitarian aid meant to rebuild infrastructure was spent on military activities (rockets, tunnels, etc.) and only 5% on rehabilitation. Hamas appeared on Russia Today to plainly say they saved money given as humanitarian aid to plan this attack.

Time and again, Hamas has proven their main goal is the total extermination of the Jewish people in Israel, even at the expense of their own. The hatred of Jews is so deep-seated, that Hamas strategically barricades its citizens and children in the most vulnerable places. This is why, for instance, weapons are often hidden in schools and hospitals. In the worst cases, buildings and political leaders are protected by literal, not just figurative human shields. Now, more than 150 Israeli and foreign hostages are being strewn throughout Gaza ostensibly to prevent further attacks and stir more fear. Unlike Hamas, Israel is making attempts to recover them and they’ve been identified. Sadly, according to Hamas 13 are already dead from Israeli airstrikes.

In the words of Golda Meir, “We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.” Nothing has changed in the last 50 years since Meir was Prime Minister. Whether it’s the PLO, Hamas, the PLA or sadly the majority of Gazans who support Hamas and democratically elected them in 2006, nothing satisfies the Palestinian regimes short of the total destruction of Israel.

So this begs the question of why so many seemingly reasonable people continue to side with Palestine over Israel in America, Europe and even within Israel. It forces us to ask why this support continues, even when, in New York, pro-Palestinian protestors are holding up swastikas. From my vantage point, there are two clear interrelated reasons beyond just blatant antisemitism: death counts and misinformation.

When Israel miraculously began winning wars on multiple fronts in 1967, to the extreme left, they began to resemble the West. Israel has been far more successful militarily than Hamas, The PLO, Hezbollah and all its other enemies. Thus many more Palestinians have been killed than Israelis.

Israel has also been very successful at building a nation of innovation and economic growth in 75 short years. This leads the media, and especially the progressive left, to paint the picture that Israel is a colonial power. Others make the false claim that Israel is an apartheid state, in a secular democracy with over two million Arabs with political parties, full representation in government with all the inalienable rights of Israeli citizens.

Israel is not an apartheid state. And for the record, there never was a Palestinian state. Just before the first wave of Jewish migration at the turn of the 20th century, it was part of the Ottoman Empire. There was no Palestinian national identity, national language, or even shared values. Those who lived in Palestine peacefully were Jews, Christians, Druze and Muslims. The Muslims were mostly nomadic people with no will for national self-determination. The land was sparsely populated, especially in Jerusalem.

When the British Empire seized the land, shortly thereafter they made the Balfour Declaration of 1917. It was an effort to give the Jewish people a portion of the territory. England promised the territory to both the secular Zionists, who rightfully wanted to escape religious persecution, and the Arab nobility of Jerusalem, who wanted to form a caliphate. To say this vain attempt at a peaceful transference of land was naive would be an understatement.

The Balfour Declaration did not make for a peaceful Jewish state. In fact, during the Holocaust, with nowhere to go, Jews arrived by ships and battled The British Navy and Arabs to find a safe haven. Thousands died trying to find sanctuary. Eventually, this was partially remedied by Churchill when Israel officially became a state in 1948.

A year earlier, in 1947, when Britain decided to leave Palestine, the Arab leaders wouldn’t agree to Israel taking 56% of the area that now compromises Israel, The West Bank and Gaza. The fact that this state is much smaller than Israel (even by the absurdly insecure UN orders) is forgotten by many, like the man behind the decision to reject the idea.

The Grand Mufti Amin al-Husseini, the Caucasian-looking Muslim noble of Jerusalem who claimed to trace his roots all the way back to Mohammed was an honorary Aryan, who worked in antisemitic Nazi propaganda after having developed a knack for it in the 1920s when he devised the idea of Palestinian statehood in opposition to the Zionists. Eventually, he would aim to be king of a state that never came to fruition.

In his first meeting with Adolf Hitler in 1941, the Mufti requested the Fuhrer’s help in their common enemy, the Jews, but Hitler saw it as a fool’s errand. He knew no united people were living in Palestine. The Mufti’s belief that he could destroy the Jews and take the land for himself is what created this situation, along with Jordan’s fearfulness of a Palestinian State and unwillingness to absorb the Arabs of the region.

Despite the fact that historically Israel has been surrounded by enemies on all sides except for Jordan (for the most part), and even though the Jews had nowhere to go during and after enduring the Holocaust, they are viewed as oppressors. After the Holocaust made it crystal clear that Jews weren’t safe in Europe, it’s hard to argue against allowing Jews to settle what was then sparsely populated land.

The question is why, today, this is still an issue. After all, 49 Muslim-majority countries could easily absorb the Gazan Palestinians. After all, many of these countries expelled large portions of at least 900,000 Jews between 1948 and the early ’70s. But one such country that shares a border, Egypt, has cut off all access to Gaza. And yet still, at least by all mainstream accounts, Israel remains solely responsible for the situation in Gaza as they provide free water and electricity.

While this impeachment of Israel will never end until there is real peace in the region, following the recent terror attacks there has been a subtle shift in how many people feel about Israel. Today there is nearly widespread sympathy for the horrors Israel has endured. Whether or not it persists, this in and of itself is a great leap forward in the right direction. The world has borne witness to the brutal massacre of innocent Israeli civilians, including women and children. And for the first time in a long time, the humanity of the people of Israel has been recognized all over the world. But lest we celebrate too soon, it is likely that when Israel disempowers Hamas, the death toll of Gazans will be very high and this brief moment of solidarity will pass before the Jews are once again blamed for the conditions in Gaza, which is precisely the story Hamas wants to tell the world.

Jesse Bogner is an author and journalist. His memoir and social critique, “The Egotist,” has been translated into five languages.

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