On January 14, the Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury hosted interfaith speakers and donated 500 pairs of shoes to local families in need in honor of the children killed in Gaza and the West Bank since Oct. 7, 2023. (Credit: Bruce Levy)

Reflecting On 100 Days Of War

The nature of human life is such that everyone experiences and perceives the world around them differently, with their own perspectives and sense of context. Another thing that defines the human heart and intellect is our ability to hold multiple ideas in our heads at once; sometimes those ideas conflict, and sometimes they complement one another, and almost inevitably there are shades of nuance, subjectivity, and context involved.

Those points have often come to mind for me over the past three months as I have seen an outpouring of grief, anger, and confusion from around the world and from my New York neighbors regarding the Israeli-Palestinian war. Like anyone else, my long-distance experience of the war this fall has been unique, though I’ve often felt emotions that many others are feeling, or asked the questions we’ve all heard time and again. As a 37-year-old half-Jewish journalist living in a Palestinian neighborhood in a metropolitan area containing the second-largest Jewish population in the world, I have also frequently found it necessary, vital even, to recall my capacity to hold multiple ideas in my head at once.

On Thursday, October 5, 2023, I had surgery in my throat to remove a nodule that had been causing discomfort since 2018, and which possibly appeared to be, but ultimately was not, a cancerous growth. Back in 2019, a doctor had told me it looked like “either throat cancer or Eagle Syndrome,” and then told me not to Google the latter (which of course I did; it isn’t pretty, but cancer seemed worse). During what I’ll always think of as ‘the COVID years,’ I had to put off dealing with a couple of less-than-urgent medical and dental issues, including this one, which caused my throat to make what I can only describe as a big clunk every single time I swallowed and eventually made it hard to talk.

By last October, I was extremely eager to have whatever it was removed from my throat, and (despite having a tiny, statistically appropriate amount of fear of either cancer or rare, unforeseen complications with anesthesia) I walked into the hospital that morning with high hopes; that afternoon, I laid down on the surgery table with calm determination, and awoke again seemingly moments later still in the operating room (to my doctor’s mild surprise) with the problem solved. I walked out again that evening as the proud recipient of a Sistrunk procedure, with a non-cancer diagnosis and a nearly three-inch scar across my throat. About 32 hours later, on the morning of October 7, while I was still walking off (so to speak) the trace emotional and cognitive effects of general anesthesia and of surgery generally, my boyfriend looked up from his computer, asked how I was feeling, and added, “Did you see the news?”

That weekend, both an old friend and an aunt of mine passed briefly through town (inspiring both me and my fairly demure throat bandage to get in some rare ‘face time’) just as the first wave of reports on Hamas-led militants’ attack, the Israeli hostages, Israel’s military response(s), and thousands of Israeli and Palestinian deaths was crossing the globe (as with all breaking war stories, some headlines were accurate in retrospect, and some not, but all were tragic). My friend in Jerusalem responded before too long that she was fine; we both kept it brief, and exchanged emoji hearts. On Monday, as the sun set over my South Brooklyn neighborhood, I heard a sentimental and catchy pop song on the radio, which I recognized (despite mostly being a Rock gal) as “Wake Me Up” by Avicii, a Swedish artist a few years younger than myself, who skyrocketed to fame in the 2010s before facing substance abuse and health issues, who then apparently died by suicide in 2018 at the age of 28. In that moment the song, with its chorus of “Wake me up when it’s all over, when I’m wiser and I’m older,” reminded me of friends and colleagues I lost during the COVID years; it also made me think (as it often has) of people younger than me across this country who never really knew a pre-COVID world, or a pre-9/11 one, or even pre-Hurricane Sandy, for that matter. And it reminded me of what I knew on that crisp fall evening: that war — not a conflict, nor clash, nor the usual simmering violence, but war — was coming. Again. And I wept and wept.

During the more than three months since, I have, like many people, seen a large number of videos and written articles showing utter brutality being committed in various forms, from sexual violence and dehumanization to slaughter, committed on Oct. 7 and most days since. As is inevitably or perhaps even fundamentally the case with war, we know that brutality and tragedy has occurred on both sides. As of this writing, Israeli deaths are estimated at more than 1200, mostly occuring that first day; Palestinian deaths are estimated at over 25,000.

One aspect of this war that many people may not be aware of is the fact that a particularly large number of journalists, estimated at around 100, have been killed there since Oct. 7. According to several journalism and media workers’ professional organizations, most of those killed were Palestinian, but a handful were from Israel, Lebanon, and perhaps other places, too.

I’ll never forget getting a stunned text from my sister when she woke up after surgery on January 6, 2021 and it seemed like the world had changed while she was under. I was covering a story in Trenton, New Jersey at the time, and was following the social media feeds of several journalists I knew who were in D.C. to cover the rally. On that day, once I saw that my friend had safely withdrawn up onto some scaffolding, and that my sister had gotten out of surgery, I laughed with relief and disbelief and drove home, and went to bed early.

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