The ongoing Israel-Hamas war has captured the attention of the entire world, evoking a myriad of emotions. The recent humanitarian truce has brought relief as families, including babies, children, and elderly Israelis, are finally reuniting after enduring nearly two months of captivity at the hands of Hamas.
Each night, Israelis are glued to their television screens, witnessing the return of hostages in a global media event broadcasted by Arab and international networks. The anticipation is palpable as people watch with bated breath, hoping to see innocent Israelis emerge from the clutches of their Hamas captors.
However, labeling the truce as a mere “hostage exchange” oversimplifies the complexity of the situation. Hamas has reluctantly released abducted children, babies, sick, and elderly individuals who suffered in underground terror tunnels in Gaza without adequate medical treatment. In contrast, Israel not only agreed to release convicted murderers and terrorists held in its prisons but also accepted a conspicuously unequal exchange, releasing three terrorists for each innocent Israeli.
Despite the significant concessions made by Israel, the nation’s moral stance remains resolute. The safe return of its citizens takes precedence, even at the high cost of halting military operations and releasing Palestinian terrorists. This underscores the unwavering commitment to prioritizing the well-being of its people over other considerations.
The Sanctity of Life vs. The Glorification of Death
The most glaring difference between Israel and Hamas can be viewed in the fundamental belief in the sanctity of life and the glorification of death. The intrinsic value that the Jewish people place on life has come with a high cost, as evident through the hostage negotiations that have taken place throughout the humanitarian truce that began last Friday. While this has been a matter of significant public and political discourse, and even when faced with such a difficult strategic decision, Israeli leadership has demonstrated its adherence to the Jewish value of the sanctity of life.
As part of the negotiations, Israel has released Palestinian prisoners and detainees, in exchange for over 70 Israeli hostages innocent civilians ranging from children to the elderly, some suffering from cancer and other illnesses, without their glasses or medication. There is no moral equivalency between a baby taken from her cradle and kept underground and a convicted terrorist who will most certainly continue to spread violence against Israeli civilians. Hamas and their followers continue to praise the actions of violence and terror at the hands of their returned prisoners, while Israeli hostages are babies, grandparents, and young people who did nothing else other than go to a party to celebrate life.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli War Cabinet ultimately decided that there was no question that the return of Israeli hostages was one of the top priorities, alongside the total elimination of Hamas, despite the significant strategic blow to Israel’s military campaign, and against pressure from Netanyahu’s far-right bloc to hold out for a better deal as military operations would have significantly continued to weaken Hamas strongholds. This deal also enabled the supply of vast humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip for Palestinian civilians who are being abused by the oppressive regime that rules over them. But unfortunately, Hamas will use this ceasefire and the humanitarian aid provided by Israel and the international community to their ends.
The negative outcomes of temporary ceasefires with Hamas and the misuse and reappropriation of humanitarian aid have been proven time and time again. We have seen this in Operation Protective Edge and Pillar of Defense, as Hamas has used the cover of the ceasefire as a means to regroup, import more weapons, and steal humanitarian supplies for their terror tunnels. Hamas will most certainly take oil, medical supplies, and food to their base of operations as a means to outlast the impending resurgence of Israel’s military operation, embedding themselves within the maze of underground tunnels beneath the civilian population. Israel has sacrificed its military advantage by extending a period, halting any intelligence and surveillance, losing more international support, and allowing Hamas significantly valuable time to regroup, rearm, and embed themselves within the civilian population that they are using as human shields.
The IDF is the strongest military power in the region, with undeniable defense and intelligence capabilities. Even with a temporary ceasefire hauling its operation, the Israeli army has the capacity and know-how needed to annihilate Hamas and kill every last terrorist commander, until the threat of the brutal regime is eliminated at its roots. Israel’s strength also stems from its unity and unwavering national spirit. This is most evident in the statement of the families of those who were not released. While their pain will continue to intensify as the weeks continue with the void left by their loved ones still in captivity, they share in the joy of the children and grandmothers returning to their families. There is still a level of envy for the hostages who have been released, but they know that Israel continues to push hard to secure their freedom. It is this collective unity, the overwhelming feeling that each hostage is part of our own family, which Jewish people share and the understanding of the immeasurable challenge that Israel is facing that will continue to be a source of strength as the war continues.
The Theater of the Absurd
The release of the Israeli hostages has generated a wave of emotion that has swept over the entire country, highlighting the collective and conflicting duality of pain and elation, as children are seen running to their parents and loved ones. Like every other Israeli, I feel that each child is like my own, and while we are overjoyed to see the release of these children, our hearts continue to ache for the horrifying trauma they endured, which is starting to come to light as more are sharing their experiences as captives of Hamas in the underground tunnels of terror. 12-year-old Eitan Yahalomi, who was released this week, was forced to watch the videos of the October 7th massacre over and over, held at gunpoint every time he would cry. While Eitan’s family shares their joy with the rest of Israel, Eitan’s father, Ohan, continues to be held separately in Gaza, and their family remains fractured.
I look at the surreal video of Sharon Aloni Cunio and another unidentified female hostage in matching bright pink jumpsuits, each holding one of Sharon’s twin toddlers, Yuli and Emma, as the group slowly makes their way to safety through a line of Hamas Nukhba fighters, armed and in full uniform, their faces covered with a black mask with the notorious green band tied around their head. Their father David is still being held captive in Gaza. This image of three-year-old twins being carried out of captivity, surrounded by Hamas’ evil special forces, breaks the humanitarian mold that the terrorist regime attempted to stage.
Throughout the rounds of releases, the outward attempts by Hamas to portray an exaggerated concern for these hostages, holding the hands of elderly women and waving at young children, is a production of the theater of the absurd, a thinly veiled attempt to show their world their false sense of humanity. But what kind of humans continue to separate a father from his children, who have been held in deplorable conditions, sleeping on plastic chairs and eating little to nothing for days on end? The failed attempt to show their empathy for the well-being of their hostages, while carrying M16 rifles in a neutral zone is so pitiful that it is almost comedic. These same terrorists who abducted screaming children from their homes and slaughtered their family and friends in one day beheaded babies and kept old and sick grandmothers trapped like animals deep underground, now trying to show the world that they care make a mockery of human rights organizations and media alike who fall into the trap of the theatrical performance they have put on. The bright lights and exaggerated gestures, forcing Israeli children to smile weakly and wave under duress and fear of what will happen to their loved ones who remain a hostage of Hamas, is almost like a Hollywood production, only instead of California, they are at the Rafah Crossing.
But just like Hollywood, this performance is nothing more than an overly lit stage and bad acting. Hamas is spreading fake news, hugging hostages like they took care of them, but the truth is so evident. No level of acting can mask the horrors that took place on October 7th and no level of supposed compassion can overcome the true face of evil- it only underscores the extent of Hamas’s psychopathy and the disillusionment of a world that seems to humanize their actions.
Still, we need to celebrate the return of each life, especially the women, children, and elderly, whose prolonged abduction has been the most heartbreaking for every Israeli.
The safe return of our people makes me feel proud to live in this country, a country that will always choose life over death, no matter the cost – a clear contrast to the values of Hamas, who are praising the release of convicted terrorists like Israa Jaabis, who detonated a car bomb near the Israeli town of Ma’ale Adumim, seriously injuring an Israeli police officer. Marah Bechir was just 16 when she stabbed a policeman and Ragah Abu Kias, also 16, opened fire on a group of Israeli civilians in 2021. Each has returned to their homes in East Jerusalem, where Jewish neighbors will live in continued fear of future terrorist activities as they continue to rally behind violent Hamas’s poisonous ideology. These three terrorists were exchanged for 9-year-old Emily Hand, who was violently abducted by Hamas while attending a sleepover with one of her best friends in Kibbutz Be’eri on October 7th.
But this is not a victory. Even after all of the hostages are returned, Israel will never be able to celebrate after the tragic loss of life that has taken place. There is a clear objective, and Israel cannot allow Hamas to remain in control of Gaza. Despite the military intelligence failure that led to the October 7th massacre, Israel remains one of the strongest military and strategic powers in the world. We can wipe out Hamas, but we are affording more time for a ceasefire to save as many lives as possible. Hamas will utilize the resource of time to rely on the relevant actors, such as Qatar and the United States, to put pressure on Israel to find a diplomatic solution. Arab and European leadership, as well as the vocal protests around the world, are being utilized as a form of psychological warfare against Israel, relying on the influence of external powers to supplement Hamas’ military disadvantage. Hamas wants the world to force Israel into a diplomatic solution, which will also allow them to further poison Palestinian society in an attempt to upend any hope of peace and prosperity in the Middle East.
The coming weeks will be the most trying of the entire war, as IDF soldiers will be forced to resume their military operations with a significant disadvantage, but renewed fervor to stop at nothing until each of the remaining hostages is safely reunited with their families and the threat of the Hamas terrorist regime will be forever eradicated.