Losing my faith in humanity: Six years since ‘Operation Cast Lead’

Somewhere between that Saturday, when the gates of hell had opened on Gaza, until the ceasefire 22 days later, everything I had known about human beings, about my society, even about myself had been blown to pieces.

By Lilach Ben David

File photo of an Israeli air strike on the Gaza Strip (Photo by ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com)
File photo of an Israeli air strike on the Gaza Strip (Photo by ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com)

It happened exactly six years ago. Three weeks of murder, blood and unfathomable cruelty came to a sudden halt. All of a sudden the noise was gone.

As my life quieted down following weeks of protests, violence, news and arguing, I felt it for the first time. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that for the first time I had the breathing room to comprehend just what had changed inside me.

Don’t get me wrong. This wasn’t my first “operation” as an activist. I was already yelling into the megaphone during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, and the smell of tear gas is something I have gotten quite used to. I remembered the horrors of Operation Defensive Shield during the days of the Second Intifada, the killing of 13 unarmed Palestinian youth during the events of October 2000, and despite my age, even Operation Grapes of Wrath in 1996 left a mark on me. None of what was coming should have taken me by surprise.

But despite those memories, when the three weeks of Operation Cast Lead ended, it felt like someone had reached into my chest, tore out a piece of my heart, and left me breathing.

Somewhere between the Saturday I spent with a group of lovely women near the end of December, which was cut short by the news that the gates of hell had opened on Gaza, until the ceasefire 22 days later, everything I had known about human beings, about my society, even about myself had been blown to pieces. My heart broke during Cast Lead like no unrequited love, unfaithfulness or false hopes could ever break it until then or even since.

Protesters in white suits covered in fake blood arrive at Sde Dov Air Force Base in north Tel Aviv to protest Operation Cast Lead, January 2, 2013. The signs read: “You have children’s blood on your hands.” (Photo: Activestills.org)
Protesters in white suits covered in fake blood arrive at Sde Dov Air Force Base in north Tel Aviv to protest Operation Cast Lead, January 2, 2013. The signs read: “You have children’s blood on your hands.” (Photo: Activestills.org)

During Cast Lead I lost much of my faith in human kind, in Israeli society, in the Left and in the hope that one day things will be better here. My ability to love and believe in the goodness of others was damaged.

Six years have gone by, and in some ways I am still picking up the pieces – still trying to make sense of the 1,400 killed, the majority of whom were innocent.

This last summer, like a sprinter competing for blood and tears, we broke our own record in cruelty, destruction, indiscriminate murder and collective hysteria that moved us to seek comfort for our own grief in the blood of the innocent. But like all of us, the occupation is mortal. Better days will come to this land after it is over. And when those days come, Gaza will remain an open wound that needs healing. A crime whose real proportions are impossible to understand, yet demands rectification.

God, please grant the Palestinians the generosity, strength and compassion to, one day, forgive us for Gaza.

Lilach Ben David is a transgender and feminist activist based in Tel Aviv. This article was first published on +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it in Hebrew here

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