Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By: Judith Ferster

One day in November 2019, when I was traveling with a group in Israel and Palestine, we were walking along the wall separating Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank.  There was much to see because the wall was heavily decorated with graffiti and  murals.  In some places, expert artists had painted things like doors opening out to vistas, including the Old City of Jerusalem, that we couldn’t actually get to from there.  The tromp l’oeil emphasized the real-life limits.

Suddenly we heard buzzing in the sky—American-made  bombers on their way (we assumed) to Gaza.  The distance is so short—it’s just a few hours’ drive from the military base to Gaza—that it’s a wonder the planes could get airborne. But there they were, going south, glinting silver in the sky, on the way to bomb Gaza. This was not part of what Israel called “Mowing the grass,” periodic  bombing of  Gaza as in  Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012 and Operation Protective Edge in 2014, with which Israel tried to control Hamas and protect its own security. They were longer and more lethal. What we saw was the beginning of Operation Black Belt.

We later found out that this operation was a response to rockets from Islamic Jihad, which had been fired because of Israel’s targeted assassination of Baha Abu al-Ata, an Islamic Jihad leader, with his wife and children, and an unsuccessful attempt to kill another lslamic Jihad leader in Damascus.  

Islamic Jihad took vengeance by firing long-range missiles toward Tel Aviv, 90% of them topped by the US-assisted anti-missile system, Iron Dome.  Israel and Egypt quickly negotiated a cease-fire with the help of a Bulgarian diplomat from the UN.  Thirty-four Palestinians were killed in the 48 hours of Operation Black Belt, of which Israel said 25 were militants. The Palestinian Ministry of Labour in Gaza measured the damage at a half a million US dollars.

With the unremitting bombing of Gaza after Hamas’ October 7, 2023 breakout from the blockaded territory, I was reminded of what my group witnessed in its 2019 walk along the wall.  

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