We arrived in Israel on Thursday morning July 24th. The airport was almost empty. I noticed just one other ELAL plane on the tarmac besides our British Airways flight.
While criticizing Israel certainly isn't anti-Semitic, it is important to note there is a fine line to cross when some begin equating Zionism with Judaism in an effort to show support for Palestine during this politically charged time.
The Palestine Monetary Authority has kept cash flowing to a besieged population struggling to survive in a devastated economy. Gaza's 45 bank branches have been mostly closed during the nearly month-long conflict, with working ATMs depending on the availability of generator fuel and the daring of bank staff to maintain them.
With or without an infusion of massive amounts of international aid, clearing away the mess of this war will take years. Streets can be cleaned, but the wounds, both physical and mental, will not soon heal, nor will the survivors easily erase the feelings of helplessness, despair and anger with which they have been left.
This conflict has devastated the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians, and readers of the Times require clear and accurate comparisons of data.
I am trying very hard not to choose sides in this conflict and I can see the issue from both sides, although I do not think we truly understand what is going on in the Middle East and I do not think we ever will.
All three groups have been dehumanized as the "other," the bogeymen that will destroy if they are not destroyed. And all of us know what it is like to be trapped in the ghetto and have the walls close in on them, and all know how it feels when the lynch mob comes.
Despite the ability we now possess to destroy ourselves and most life on this planet, we have barely begun to question our reflexive violence. Doing so requires looking courageously inward.
I wake up each day to depressing news of what's happening in Israel and Gaza. The question is: how can we collectively reach an unsatisfactory conclusion and come out as honorable people?
I disagree with those who suggest that Netanyahu will never change his stripes. Many deeply ideological leaders before him have unexpectedly risen to the occasion to answer the call from their people and the international community for a drastic change.
In the widely-praised naval series by Patrick O'Brian, following each engagement, Captain Jack Aubrey would ask ship doctor Stephen Maturin "What is the butcher's bill"? The fictional hero wanted a casualty count.
Calls for a reorganization of the Israeli military including a review of its strategy and doctrine are fueled by the fact that military intelligence struggled to cope with Hamas' ability to quickly change tactics and strategy.
I thought I knew enough to have a position. But I was wrong. I experienced something two weeks ago, and it rocked my world. My isolated, protected, and insular American world.
How can we send soldiers, not yet old enough to buy a beer in the U.S., to risk their lives for our country without a little dose of indoctrination? Don't they need to be hyped up, adrenaline rushing, in order to have the best chance for survival? Will this be my own children someday, drugged on patriotism and music and history?
When peace is at stake, no one is too good for talking.