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Reflections on Hope During Unprecedented Violence in the Israel-Hamas War

On Yom Kippur in 1973, I was 6 years old and living in Petah Tikvah, a city in central Israel. Playing a nail-biting game of marbles, I initially ignored my mom calling me from our front porch. But sensing something was wrong, I gave up my potential winnings and ran home.

I arrived to see my dad emerge from our front door wearing an Israel Defense Forces, or IDF, olive-green uniform. He hugged and kissed me goodbye. He then disappeared for nearly two weeks.

Every night, as instructed by the IDF, I switched off my bedroom lights to avoid enemy aircraft detection. Every day, I heard adults discuss the government and military’s failure to anticipate and intercept the surprise Egyptian-Syrian attack that killed 2,656 Israeli soldiers.

Fifty years later, on another Jewish holy day, Simchat Torah, I hopped out of bed in my home in central Pennsylvania at 6 a.m.—an hour before my twin 6-year-olds usually awaken on Saturdays. I’m a documentary filmmaker, and I had planned to use the uninterrupted time to start scoring my post-Holocaust documentary, “Cojot.”

A barrage of messages from family and friends stopped me in my tracks. Hamas had launched a surprise attack on Israel. Before my brain could process the news, my stomach told me that this was unprecedented.

Around-the-clock calls, texts and media reports from Israel have reinforced my feeling that we’ve never seen anything like this before. At the same time, certain aspects of the Israel-Hamas war are familiar. They remind me of previous conflicts, acts of terrorism and retribution in Israel and the surrounding region.

Plenty of Similarities

Palestinians and Jews have been maligning, menacing and murdering each other since the 19th century.

The era of extreme violence began in the 1920s, when clashes between Palestinians and Jews slayed hundreds of people in each group.

Since then, Palestinian terrorism has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 Jews, mostly civilians. In the past 15 years, IDF attacks have killed more than 6,000 Palestinians, many of them civilians.

Mourners gather at the fresh graves of Israeli soldiers killed during the Yom Kippur

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