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  • Gail Wilson Kenna

The Mayor of Sha’ar HaNegev, three kilometers from the Gaza strip, had extraordinary dreams.

Mayor Ofir Libstein, age 50, was killed in the Hamas attacks on October 7th. I only learned about his death after writing last week’s blog on two mayors in the West Bank. This man’s obituary appeared in The Economist (October21st – 27th edition).

His death is especially tragic because of all he had done and was planning to do. In his five years as mayor, 40 companies arrived in a new enterprise zone to benefit “the whole diverse human mosaic,” and create a prosperity that involved everyone. “He was sure that most Gazans wanted what Israelis did: peace, well-paid jobs, care for their families.” To this end, he had planned the industrial zone would draw up to ten thousand Gazans to work in Israel. Read the obit to understand about this visionary man, who was identified with the Red South (Darom Adom) anemone festival and so much more.

The same day I read this obituary, I received e-mail from my Israeli friend who lives in Har Adar, close to the border fence that divides Israel from the Palestinian Authority.

Welcome to our terrible new world, Irit began, then asked: What are the changes in our life besides the sadness, the grief, the anger?

Well, we have new routines: We park our cars towards the entrance of our street, so that in case of physical attack, we’ll be able to escape.

We sleep again with a pistol next to us, in case…

We organized our shelter, so we’ll be able to be there, even for a long time.

We listen to the news constantly (the only thing we have right now in our tv).

In her e-mail Irit expressed deep concern for family members and said she is a volunteer observer in a special place, with their whole area watched, 24-7.

In 1986 my friend gave me a book published in 1983. In it the Israeli writer, Amos Oz, recounted his wanderings in the land of Israel. Twelve chapters in twelve settings in his country’s diverse landscape. In re-reading the book, I paused “On Light and Shade and Love,” which recounts a conversation between Oz and Father Dubois, a French Catholic priest, who then headed the philosophy department of Jerusalem’s Hebrew University. The two men discuss the latent evil in hatred.

If Oz were still alive, would he ask how the hope of Palestinians for rights, dignity, and self-determination could become the evil slaughter that occurred on October 7th? The Hamas fueled hatred included mass slaughter, rape, incineration, decapitation, beheading of babies, and more. But what then of the necessary action that follows such barbarity? This is the shade, the darkness, that a country, in its reaction against Evil, commits it in the attempt to protect itself.

I will say no more, only end with a statement from the recent article on Amos Oz, “A Nation’s Narrator” in the WSJ Review, September 23-24 issue.

“The best way to know the soul of another country is to read its literature.”

Next week, a short, insightful & powerful novel, Ironweed, by William Kennedy.

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