Israel has been grappling with a crisis since the Hamas attack on October 7, which resulted in over 1,400 Israelis losing their lives in a single day. The attack left Israel unmoored, and shattered faith in the state’s commitment to its citizens’ defense and the superiority of the country’s army. High-tech fortifications crumbled within minutes, and for the first time since the 1948 war over Israel’s creation, enemies seized Israeli territory and dragged at least 199 civilian hostages into Gaza.
The military took hours to respond, and desperate families of missing and captive Israelis found no government officials to talk to for days. The situation has left many in the country feeling vulnerable and abandoned, with many knowing someone who was killed, is missing, or is held hostage.
In response, Israel has hit Gaza with airstrikes, prevented food, water, fuel, electricity, and medicine from entering the territory, and called up 360,000 military reserves for an expected ground invasion aimed at destroying Hamas. More than 2,700 people have been killed on the Palestinian side.
Tamar Ashkenazi, author of a book on coping with loss, is consumed by tremendous fear for her 22-year-old son, Yonatan, who has avoided TV since he headed off to the war as a paratrooper. She doesn’t trust the government to take care of her son and is consumed by tremendous fear for her 22-year-old son.
TV stations have been broadcasting stories of grief, heroism, and national unity following the Hamas attack in Gaza. They focus on the aftermath, ignoring the humanitarian crisis and referring to Hamas militants as “Nazis” or “bastards.” People donate food to soldiers and medical workers, offer homes to displaced residents, and hold posters with victory slogans.
Families of missing or confirmed hostages in Israel have formed organizations and collaborated with press teams to share their stories. Protesters outside Tel Aviv’s defense ministry called for the hostages’ safe return, shouting “shame” in Hebrew and displaying signs referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israelis remain united against rocket fire from Gaza and the military offensive, with some expressing mixed feelings. Some activists argue that the spirit of the 2014 Gaza war is not present as reservists report for duty.
Reservists who initially refused to serve until Netanyahu backed his government’s judiciary overhaul plan have paused their protest and are now urging the nation to rally to save Israel. Josh Drill, a former combat soldier and protest leader, believes that the protest movement must shift its rhetoric to support the war effort. As Israel enters a war for survival, hundreds of Israelis have cut short overseas stays to join the military campaign.
Civil society has also entered the breach, organizing relief efforts for evacuees and helping to identify victims and hostages. Three of the four children of Joshua Greenberg, a 54-year-old neuroscience professor, are serving in the army, with one likely to serve on the front lines. Greenberg believes that Israel must respond to the scale of the calamity and that their children are going to serve in combat units to protect everyone else.