Originally published in Tikkun Daily
In the weeks since Israel launched Operation Protective Edge, nearly 1,000 Palestinian civilians have been killed in unspeakable violence visited upon Gaza by Israeli missiles, while in Israel three civilians have been killed by Hamas rockets which have steadily fallen, fortunately harming few.*
Every death has been tragic, each loss amplified by the fact that this violence, this 'war,' did not have to be. Every innocent life, taken by the hands of leaders on both sides who have acted criminally, calls out to us for this conflict to end.
Twelve years ago today, my wife almost became another civilian tragedy in this ongoing conflict when a Hamas attack nearly took her life. The two friends of ours with whom she was sitting in a university cafeteria on July 31, 2002, when a remotely-detonated bomb went off, were not as fortunate.
Today, as happens every time this day rolls around, I mourn those friends we lost, just as I mourn the pain my wife endured in her recovery. But today, twelve years later, feels different than the previous eleven. As I watch scenes of innocent people being injured and killed in hospitals, schools, open-air markets and in their own living rooms, I shudder.
I shudder not just because it is human to do so, but because I am acutely feeling on this day the absolute horror and senselessness of the human tragedy which occurred twelve years ago, and which is taking place repeatedly, by the hour, in Gaza today.
Israel, the country in which we lived and the country which I want to see thrive, has been striking civilian targets in Gaza, a dense, urban strip of land, with much force. It has been doing so knowing that innocent men, women and children are being killed, knowing that there is nowhere for residents to flee, that over 70 percent of those lost in the rubble of downed apartment buildings and schools are innocent.
And yet it has continued to expand its military operations in a war history has shown will in no way achieve its stated goals of achieving quiet and peace.
On the other side, Hamas has been much less successful at killing innocent Israelis, though it hasn't been from a lack of trying, as crude rockets have indiscriminately been fired into Israel daily. Many intercepted by the Iron Dome. Others falling into desolate areas. All of them hoping to strike innocent civilians.
I've written previously about my opposition to this Gaza operation as both a Jew and a progressive American, about the importance of speaking out and showing empathy for victims on both sides, Palestinians and Israelis.
I'm not going to rehash political arguments and chronicle events to demonstrate why both sides are to blame for where we are today. This isn't the space.
All I simply want to say, as one who has been affected by violence visited upon civilians, is this: as I mourn today for what has occurred, I am also mourning for what is occurring, and for what I fear will continue to occur.
Unless someone steps in and demands that this end. Now.
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, recently published by Oneworld Publications.
*Approximately 1,360 Palestinians and 59 Israelis have died since the violence began.