For all children, everywhere…
“If they didn’t find him by now, they never will.” Those were the words I heard when I woke up one morning, a morning I will never forget.
My name is Nitzan Regev Sanders. I am an Israeli, I am Jewish, and because my father was an air navigator in the Israeli air force, I was born and raised in military bases.
“If they didn’t find him by now, they never will” – the words echoed in my head. I was only ten years old, but I was already aware of the risks my father took every time he had a night flight. I started walking slowly down the hallway, which seemed to go on for infinity. My mind and heart were racing. I was terrified. I was certain that when I reached the kitchen my mother would inform me that I would never see my father again. I was only a young girl, but I was already picturing life without my father. I could already see the empty chair at the dinner table, the empty spot on my wedding day and the empty place in my heart. I finally reached the kitchen.
“There has been an accident”, my mom said, “two planes crashed”. “Did dad die?” I asked in a trembling voice. “No” She answered, “Dad managed to press the ejection seat and save himself”. But before I had a chance to sigh a sigh of relief, she added, “but they could not find Roni or Yuval.” My mind reeled. The father of my neighbours, Ofir and Iftah was gone. The son of Meir and Sarah was gone. The words echoed again in my head – “if they didn’t find them by now, they never will”. My father survived. But how could I feel relief that my father was alive when my neighbour’s father was gone?
That was the most horrible day of my life. All of the grownups were too busy so I went to a little shop by myself and bought raisin chocolate and a bag of chips. Then I went to my small pink room and I cried. On that day, my world was shattered. On that day, my reality changed forever.
Years passed. I graduated from high school, finished my two years of obligatory military service and like many other Israelis I decided to go backpacking around the world. When I returned, it was during the time of operation Cast Lead, also known as the Gaza war. I watched the bombing of Gaza on the big screen T.V. in my lovely, safe home in Israel and my heart clenched.
On the 16th of January 2009, I was just about to leave my work place in Tel aviv, only an hour drive from Gaza, when I heard a live news broadcast of Doctor AzAdin Abu el-Ayesh, a Palestinian doctor who worked for years in Israeli hospitals, crying in terror and calling for help after his three daughters and niece were killed by a tank bombing his house in Gaza. Today, they added on the news, 22 rockets were launched at the Sothern cities of Israel from the Gaza strip. I walked slowly out of the office and on to the Tel- Avivian street. It was as if nothing had happened. The pubs and streets were full of smiling young people who seemed not to have a care in the world. A cool breeze was rustling the leaves on the trees. The world stayed the same.
On that day I went back to my room, which was no longer pink, and I cried. I cried for the children of Gaza and in the South of Israel. I cried for Gilad Shalit, the kidnapped soldier, whose rescue was one of the main goals of Operation Cast Lead, who was probably feeling so afraid and alone. And I cried for my society, that after all it had been through developed such a tough skin which made them not notice also the suffering of their fellow human beings.
These stories make me who I am today.
On that day when my father’s plane crashed, I figured that the only way to save my father and my friend’s father would be by bringing about peace.
On that day during Operation Cast Lead I decided to dedicate my life to trying to bring this conflict to an end.
And today I am standing here sharing my story with you.
I do not know the solution. But I do know that our conflict is complex. It is more than just a one or two state solution, more than the settlements or refugee problem. Our conflict is first and foremost about human beings.
I am not a politician, nor am I a policymaker. But I am a human being.
My story is just one out of millions of stories, of millions of people who are affected by this ongoing conflict and others like it.
Let us no longer be oblivious or lose hope.
Let us no longer support governments who are dedicated to nothing more than preserving their own power – governments who decide not to decide, and who choose to maintain the current destructive status quo.
Let us get up from our comfy living room sofas and take a stand today for every child that ever stood terrified at the end of an infinite hallway- in Israel, in Gaza, in the West Bank, in Sudan, in Syria. In all countries of the world. We have a saying in Hebrew- im lo ahshav az ey matay, if not now than when?
by Nitzan Regev-Sanders