Five weeks in, Israel and Israelis have undergone a profound change. Where we're headed is not clear. But what is certain is that we're not going back.
A few quick glimpses from Israel's press on what Israelis are thinking and talking about these days
This Shabbat marked five weeks since the beginning of the war. Or, as some people here are counting, it was the sixth Shabbat that some 240-ish people have spent in captivity.
To open the week, some glimpses of what Israelis are feeling and thinking about.
Today’s main item is above, a video put out by Kan 12 (we did not do the subtitles—I assume that Kan did, but we got those from several sources over social media), with a glimpse into what these young women and men fighting these battles are made of. As one of the soldiers says towards the end of the video, they’re really not the TikTok generation everyone thought. That is quite the understatement. There’s some stuff about a helicopter and landing it after it gets hit, but that wasn’t what moved me. What moved me—and deeply so—was the devotion of these young soldiers to their nation and their place in history, and their claim, without bravado, that of course they’re willing to die in this war. They’re made of something different.
Aside from that main item, a few small things ….
Holocaust imagery is now everywhere. The cartoon below, from the Shabbat edition of Makor Rishon, is brilliant. As Shabbat entered, Israel had surrounded Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, under which Hamas has built its command center and connections to the hundreds of kilometers of tunnels. The way the tunnels are portrayed in the cartoon captures much of how Israelis see the battle we’ve waging. Keep this in mind: in WWII, approximately 350K Americans were killed. British losses were in the same ballpark. But 4.2M Germans will killed. No one spoke about proportionality in terms of numbers back then—they spoke about winning. To Israelis, this conflict is a replay, which is why the Holocaust imagery is so widespread.
Ron Arad, the airman shot down in 1986 who was never retrieved or even found and is by now presumed dead (for his sake, one has to pray that that is the case) still haunts Israel almost forty years later. With 240 new hostages, some of his friends and fellow pilots speak out—and what they have to say about the importance of the hostages might surprise you.
Israelis are facing an unfolding crisis, but also an important opportunity to rebuild. If you would like to share our conversation about what they are feeling and what is happening that the English press can’t cover, please subscribe today.
For now, we’ll suffice with a translation of the text accompanying a Yedi’ot Ahronot article about Ron Arad, and the reflections of four of his flying buddies 37 years after he was shot down.
The larger headline in the upper photo reads:
“We didn’t do enough in Ron’s case, and how we’re going to fix that. We have to make sure that that does not happen again.”
The text in the longer paragraph reads:
They met in Flight Course #87, but it’s been 37 years since the their buddy from that course, the navigator Ron Arad, fell into captivity. They still have a feeling of work not completed and opportunities missed. Now they are determined to create a different picture for the 240 people kidnapped in Gaza. Erez Gissin, Efraim Bar, Ronen Meirav and Chemi Peres [DG—Shimon Peres’ son, second from right] from the group known as “Ron’s Friends” speak about the pilots’ protests, Netanyahu’s responsibility, their conflict with Shimon Peres, Tami Arad’s support [DG—Ron’s wife] and the training they received for how to survive captivity. And they have also made a promise: “We’re going to get them all home. Otherwise, we might as well turn out the lights here.”
That we should do everything we can to get the hostages back is obvious. Though the government is rightly saying little about what is going on behind the scenes, one has to assume that much is happening. While some say that pursuing the ground war endangers the hostages, the government—and many other experts—say precisely the opposite: only when the last remnants of Hamas know that they will be killed if they do not release the hostages will we have a chance of getting them all home.
But from many corners, one hears statements more strident than “we need to do absolutely everything we can.” The claim is, “if we cannot get them back, there’s no point to this country.” I’ve heard people in my own family say that.
I don’t know how I feel about that. I struggle with that. But the sense that this country has simply failed if we do not get them back is sufficiently widespread that one cannot really understand contemporary Israeli discourse without being aware of it.
Later this week, a chilling (and heartbreaking) video interview with some of the children of Kibbutz Be'eri who spent an entire day in safe rooms while friends and family were massacred by Hamas terrorists. They’re only in elementary school, but what they can articulate left me speechless.
And interviews with representatives of the IDF Spokespersons unit, some surprising polls about Israelis and their attitudes to the government and their future that have just been released, some podcasts, and more.
Prayers for a much better week.
A few links for which people have been asking:
The IDF Spokesperson’s Division has started its own Substack, and is asking those of us who can to share it. It’s here:
The IDF Spokesperson’s Division also has a podcast, which is here:
Some people have asked for the link for signing up to do volunteering on farms. There are a few websites, but this is by far the biggest. Yes, it’s in Hebrew (though Google might be able to translate … I haven’t tried) and it might require an Israeli ID number .. not sure. But that’s the link.
Finally, several people have asked for the URL to the video directed as Muslims, arguing that the horrors of October 7 are an absolute violation of Islam’s principles. I can’t find it online, but have uploaded to YouTube and you can watch it or or share the link here.
And this opportunity for volunteering (just passing it on … I have no further information):
As explained above, Shalem College is making use of its financial infrastructure to help the Hamal (which we covered in a previous post) collect funds, and to get 100% of the funds to the Hamal immediately. To support the Hamal, use the link immediately below. There is a place on the web page to note that you want your contribution to be directed to the war effort.
If you’re just joining us, Israel from the Inside typically posts a written column on Mondays and a podcast on Wednesdays. That is obviously irrelevant for the time being.
We’ve delayed all the podcasts that were ready to go, because the people whose stories they tell deserve to tell them when we all have the bandwidth to hear. Hopefully, that will return some day.
In the interim, we’ll post as possible. Here in Israel, there are non-stop funerals to go to, shiva homes to visit, grandchildren to help care for while sons and daughters are in the army, so we’ll see.
Schedules are the least of our worries.
Our Twitter feed is here; feel free to join there, too.
Our Threads feed is danielgordis. We’ll start to use it more shortly.