A war overseas, yet close to home


The war in Israel is one that I have clear opinions about, and one that has affected my personal life. Yet at this time, when expressing thoughts is more important than ever, I find doing so more difficult than ever. I’ve never had to fear for my safety when it comes to choosing a side, supporting it, and offering a personal perspective in response to global events. Now, however, I can’t help but think cautiously about the ideas I put forward.
I’ve written about current events before, but never could I have conceived that I would need to provide a teenager’s perspective on the war that’s occurring in my family’s backyard.
There is no use hiding it, so I will state outright: I am an American Jew. My father and my mother’s father are Israeli, and I have hundreds of relatives in the tiny country that I call my “homeland” in the Middle East. Now, because of my identity, I am greeted by Nassau County police officers from the 6th Precinct when I walk into my Jewish school each morning. My hearing-impaired grandmother, who lives in a peaceful village outside Jerusalem, can discern the roar of sirens and the thump of missiles landing in her neighborhood. My teachers have children who may never return home.
My people cannot continue to suffer brutally at the hands of terrorists. For my safety, I have been taught to think twice before making that statement.
In my tight-knit New York Jewish community, the unfortunate reality is that everyone knows somebody who has been killed, kidnapped, traumatized, or tortured by Hamas terrorists.

My daily classes are shadowed by the hollow faces of my classmates, distracted by the anxiety of knowing that their families are running to shelters. The television lulls me to sleep with talk of bombings and invasions. I am scared.
I am scared of the horrors that are occurring, with no end in sight, and of the possibility that the terror can travel too close to my own home — in this country that my ancestors have relied on as a haven from persecution for generations.
And yet, while my family, friends and peers suffer, I know that the Gazans cannot continue to suffer, either. My stomach churns at the graphic images, the tragic stories of refugees fleeing their homes, which have been reduced to rubble, and civilians crying for their families. I pray that Palestinians can live happily and safely — and that safety comes alongside, not at the cost of, the safety of Israel.
I am pained by the loss of innocent lives, and mourn the loss of our friends. I fear for the lives of Israelis, and fear for the lives of Gazan civilians. I want Israel to exist peacefully, and I want Gaza to be more than a city of rubble. Must these all be mutually exclusive?
I want nothing more than peace, yet many are convinced that a brutal war is the only solution.
I wish that I could offer a resolution to these conflicting emotions, but in this war, there may not be one. Death does not pick sides. Need I explain that a bullet will kill an Israeli and it will kill a Palestinian, without considering in which country the lifeless flesh originated?
Regardless of the sides taken in this brutal conflict, I hope that the one thing we can all agree on is the sanctity of human life — though not everyone does. Maybe one day, that will be enough to unite us in a common desire for peace.
For now, I need not continue to express my thoughts on this tragedy. The thousands of voiceless bodies speak loudly enough.

Ilana Greenberg lives in Valley Stream, and is a junior at North Shore Hebrew Academy High School in Great Neck.