It was a horror, interminable, impossible. Hour after hour, families sat huddled in their homes awaiting rescue from the Hamas gunmen streaming through their towns and villages.
Families were butchered in cold blood. In one home, a terrorist shot the parents dead, took a child’s cellphone and started broadcasting it all in a livestream on their Facebook account. Grandmothers were pulled in wheelchairs to waiting vehicles ready to carry them as hostages into Gaza. Then came the mothers carrying babies. Footage circulated on social media, put there by Hamas, of an Israeli child asking his mother if the gunmen that surrounded them were going to kill them. “They said they won’t,” the mother replied as they were taken outside to some unknown fate.
The stream of videos didn’t stop. An IDF soldier’s body was paraded in Gaza. A young woman, bleeding, was pulled by the hair from a car after being kidnapped and taken into the Strip. And all of it was broadcast by Hamas to the world in joyful pride, sparking celebrations in Tehran, Ramallah and no small part of the online pro-Palestinian activist world.
And all the while came the stream of messages on Twitter and WhatsApp from Israelis still surrounded by the roving gunmen, friends and relatives begging for a rescue that never came.
Hour after agonizing hour.
Where was the army? Where was the powerful Israeli state? Police, who fought bravely in several locations and saw some two dozen officers killed on Saturday, were too scarce and too poorly armed to repulse the attack.
The great and vaunted Israel Defense Forces, a 64-billion-shekel per year (over $16 billion) institution, seemed to evaporate in Israel’s moment of desperate need. And not just because of the initial surprise. Five hours into the event, battalions had still failed to materialize, government ministers failed to explain the events. Everyone seemed shell-shocked. The whole state apparatus, from the politicians on down, disappeared.
And a great and deadly quiet seemed to come over the Israeli body politic.
Until Saturday, Israelis believed they were strong and safe. On Saturday, they started to believe that they were neither. [Continue reading…]