October 18, 2023

Israel in War and Peace

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by Andrew Doran, Senior Research Fellow

On the third morning of the war, I awoke to the sound of drilling outside my window on Jaffa Street in Jerusalem.

With one of the highest birth rates in the world (3.13 children per Jewish woman), Israel is always building. The noise ceased some hours later amid the rocket sirens and distant percussion. Moments later, the drilling resumed. As I walked toward Mahane Yehuda, the Middle Eastern market built by Sephardi Jews in the Ottoman era, it occurred to me that Israel may be an exception to the aphorism that it’s easier to destroy than to build.

As images of unspeakable evil emerged on Saturday, I urged family and friends not to look at the ‘war porn,’ for we have no right to share in that intimate moment of horror unless we ourselves are intimates or in public service that requires it. But that very day came responses that varied from ambivalent to antisocial. It suddenly became necessary to ask: Did you not see what Hamas did? Or did you see and approve?

By now, we all know someone who went from thinking that it was just another day in the Middle East, to expressing horror, compassion, and indignation. Sometimes we need to see to believe. To be fair, we’re inundated with shocking news all the time, much of it exaggerated or false. But reports of beheaded toddlers and crowds cheering for rape and murder are something altogether different.