Though I intended to write sooner, it has been three weeks since I posted a new piece on my blog. I meant to write a post about Syria. But I procrastinated. Besides, those who know the book business tell me that I should write only about my memoir No Laughter in Winter, if I want to have it published.
As it happens Syria is closely intertwined with my past in a very real way. If you read my recent post about my family trip to the Golan Heights, or other posts I have written, you know that a Syrian missile killed my husband forty-five years ago. It was a tragedy that shaped my life; it is what much of my memoir is about.
For the past two years, another generation of Syrian soldiers is killing not their Israeli neighbors (though they probably would if they could), but their own people. By UN estimates there are 70,000 dead Syrians, and according to the organization Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), among the slaughtered there are over 3,700 children and 2,150 women. These figures do not include the wounded and the tortured. Among the latter there are hundreds of children too. Additionally, there are about 670,000 refugees and 2.5 million estimated internally displaced Syrians.
Syrian soldiers have had the reputation of being particularly cruel to their enemies. I can never forget the shocking photos published internationally by various news organizations after the October 1973 war, showing the disfigured bodies of Israeli soldiers who had been captured by the Syrian army, their mutilated penises stuck in their mouths. Once, those defaced soldiers were beautiful, healthy men, like my husband had been before he was burnt beyond recognition. Decades later the Syrian army, now fighting to save its patron, is just as cruel.
“They are your enemy and mine,” an acquaintance said to me recently during my visit to Israel. “Why should we care about those Syrian civilians?” This, I should add, is not a widespread response among ordinary Israelis to the Syrian civil war.
“Because they are human beings,” I replied. “Old and young; mothers and fathers, and children who are jailed, tortured and killed.” War. Civil, or international. It forever changes the lives of those who are affected.
True, like everyone else, Israelis in particular, I worry about Syria’s future: what type of government will be established there when Assad is defeated and the rebels take over? Most alarmingly, in whose hands will the country’s huge chemical arsenal will fall? Will Hezbollah and Hammas, or other terrorist groups in our globalized world get hold of it, ? And what relationship will a new Syrian government have with Iran? These are frightening questions.
But the women - wherever they are and whatever nationality they hold – those who like me in the past, see their unrecognizable husbands; those who see their children, brothers and sisters, those who hear their last breaths, are my sisters in grief, past or present.
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