Sunday, July 13, 2014

Little Doubt, War Is Hell

Here’s an exercise for you—every time you see the word “South,” substitute Gaza; every time you see “North,” read it as Israel. See how prescient and current these comments are:

“You people of the South don't know what you are doing. This country will be drenched in blood, and God only knows how it will end. It is all folly, madness, a crime against civilization! You people speak so lightly of war; you don't know what you're talking about. War is a terrible thing! You mistake, too, the people of the North. They are a peaceable people but an earnest people, and they will fight, too. They are not going to let this country be destroyed without a mighty effort to save it … Besides, where are your men and appliances of war to contend against them? The North can make a steam engine, locomotive, or railway car; hardly a yard of cloth or pair of shoes can you make. You are rushing into war with one of the most powerful, ingeniously mechanical, and determined people on Earth — right at your doors. You are bound to fail. Only in your spirit and determination are you prepared for war. In all else you are totally unprepared, with a bad cause to start with. At first you will make headway, but as your limited resources begin to fail, shut out from the markets of Europe as you will be, your cause will begin to wane. If your people will but stop and think, they must see in the end that you will surely fail.”

That’s a quote from a December 24, 1860, letter sent to Prof. David F. Boyd of the Louisiana State Seminary by William Tecumseh Sherman, the famous Civil War Union general, reputed to have coined the saying, “War is hell.” It’s not important if he did or did not. What is relevant is his first had knowledge of the consequences of war. 

From his 1864 Letter to Atlanta (substitute Gaza):
“You might as well appeal against the thunder-storm as against these terrible hardships of war. They are inevitable, and the only way the people of Atlanta can hope once more to live in peace and quiet at home, is to stop the war, which can only be done by admitting that it began in error and is perpetuated in pride.”

For the last week, since the aerial war of rockets, bombs and missiles has ripped through Israel and Gaza, I have been tense with dreaded belief that the only way terrorists will be stopped from launching attacks is by ground, door-to-door combat which will inflict heavy casualties on both sides as Israel roots out underground caches of war materiel the Palestinians have chosen to amass rather than invest in making Gaza a land of peace and prosperity. 

As you may recall, I am involved with Shalom Yisrael, a group of Westchester-based volunteers that annually has brought to America for two week vacations first responder-trauma care providers from the Israeli settlements adjacent to the Gaza Strip. One of our guests this year, Lilach, a midwife who lives in Nirim, a kibbutz some four miles from the southern border with Gaza, and who works in Be’er Sheva, sent a note this morning:

“The last week has been very difficult. We were forced to leave our home in Nirim after the education system here was shut down, to help families with young children from the kibbutz relocate to a safer haven in a kibbutz in the north - Mishmar Ha’emek. I (Lilach) am here with the families (and also continue to work at the hospital in Be’er Sheva, about 2 hours’ drive from here), while Esther remained in Nirim to help maintain a life routine there. 

“The kibbutz suffered several direct rocket hits within its perimeters, but luckily no one was injured, and there was only relatively minor damage to property. But normal life has been completely interrupted and we are unable to work the fields. The bombings from Gaza and the ongoing bombardments from the Israeli Air Force mean that life in Nirim is accompanied by an unending soundtrack of war. We know that people on the other side of the border are also suffering, and think of them as well—even now. 

“The worst aspect of this situation is the uncertainty and inability to plan ahead—will it take a few more days or a few more weeks? So far we have been able to provide plenty of good time for the children, but they have also started asking, when do we go back home? We cannot answer, and this is very difficult. 

“Thank you all for thinking of us and for your great support and concern. It means a lot, and gives us strength. Hopefully, this terrible conflict will be over soon.