I’ve been comprehensively trying to isolate myself from the war next door. I willfully chose to ignore following up on the number of casualties, the most recent attacks, and even the proposed solutions to end this never-ending massacre of humanity.
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I stopped checking platform X, formerly Twitter. I would quickly swipe if I encounter a video on Instagram, and I would try to end any conversation that discusses the war amicably. I was the ostrich convinced that if I couldn’t see the looming danger, it would somehow dissipate. I opted for consuming myself in the day-to-day humdrum of my life until I couldn’t do it anymore.
“There is a horrible war going on next to us, why didn’t you tell me?” This was the question my eight-year-old asked two weeks ago. I answered in a way that would not make him worry. The war was far away and he shouldn’t concern himself with something that doesn’t impact him. I lied. I lied to him and I lied to myself because no matter how hard I shut my eyes, every time I squint to see, the bodies of dead children will be there, the wailing of bereaved mothers and the rubble of the demolished buildings will be there to remind me that I am a liar. And the question that is omnipresent within my mind is, “till when?”
Ever since my childhood, wars have erupted incessantly in the Middle East. Even when I wanted to save this document, I called it Gaza War 2023 because I lost track of how many times wars have been fought over my lifetime without any real triumph but only vanquished to varying degrees. The reality of war is too ugly and too blatant for me to recount.
Social media users have flooded platforms with videos that aim to document the atrocities of war. I’m not interested in providing a hot take or an insightful angle that aims to deconstruct the dismal situation. I simply want to stop lying. I want this cyclical and nonsensical violence to stop. I realize that all parties involved are reiterating their desire for peace. Yet, we all must admit that we failed. Regardless of how much they are invested in finding a peaceful solution, every single adult has horribly failed. The only thing that we can do right now is to invest all our efforts to ensuring that we break this cycle so that perhaps my son’s generation will not have to lie anymore.
To attempt to break future cycles of violence, we must reflect on the current one. Israel is carpet-bombing Gaza and targeting Palestinians in the West Bank. Hamas infiltrated Israeli borders and killed and kidnapped citizens. However, Israel isn’t simply retaliating to a security breach.
Whenever Israel is attacked, its defense is not simply against the current attack but a primordial defense for Jewish survival. Whenever Hamas attacks Israeli citizens, it is not trying to terrorize peaceful residents. It is orchestrating an act of resistance against the occupier. Israel exists within hostile territories. Thus, it must retain the right to defend itself not against a particular enemy but against the historical desire for Jewish extinction that manifested in the current security breach. Hence, the disproportionality of its reaction is justified by its survival instinct. The Palestinians are consumed in their daily hardships and merely want to survive. The ones who generally harbor an animosity towards Hamas can’t help but support the resistance because it reignites the hope that they, too, can hope to return to their land and homes. Palestinians dream of the right to return. Israelis need to protect their right to their promised land. Each side, as disproportionate as they are and as the power lopsided in Israeli’s favor as it is, has incorporated this inevitable struggle as an integral part of their core identity.
Israeli children are taught that they must continuously be vigilant because the mere fact that they were born Jewish puts them in harm’s way. Accordingly, anything they do is self-defense. Palestinian children are taught that the settlers displaced their ancestors and that it is their duty to resist the occupation. They are taught that any form of resistance will bring them closer to their dream of returning one day.
I believe that we must emerge from a particular historical grounding, allowing us to prosper. Nevertheless, I fail to see the prosperity that can arise from making our children inherit our generational trauma. It feels like we are chaining them to a horrid past. Despite any efforts towards a peaceful resolution, it will inevitably fail because the new generations are imprisoned and haunted by our past narratives. The past has stolen our present. Let’s not allow it to steal our future.
Heba Yosry teaches psychology and philosophy in Cairo. She holds a post-graduate degree in Arabic Literature and philosophy from the American University in Cairo.