Forty-four days after and I’m still haunted, perhaps I’ll always be, perhaps I’ve always been: haunted by the possibility of evil. On Oct 7, 6:29am, I was still jetlagged from my visit to the US. I had ambitious plans for some posts: about the nature of dreams, following two wonderful weeks at Mark Twain’s Quarry Farm; about the global fight for democracy, returning to Princeton’s LISD after a long hiatus; and, well, about Barbie, the film which I should have forgotten by now, but somehow haven’t.
I will write these posts, partly because I’m starting to see a thread that goes through them to 10/7. But returning now to Sapienism, I will start with the carnage, in this and follow-up posts. I want to put my dark and hopeful impressions on this canvas, and to gradually connect the dots, and see what image emerges.
On October 7, 2023, the Saturday morning of the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah, Israelis woke up to a nightmare, not knowing when they will wake up from it, and to what.
Fifty years earlier, to the day, on the second day of the Yom Kippur War, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan proclaimed, “It’s the destruction of the Third Temple.” The expression is lost in translation: the Hebrew for “temple” reads “home.” Dayan was wrong, but fifty years later, on that bleakest Saturday, with the gravest catastrophe in the country’s history, his proclamation of doom seemed prophetic. Many Israelis felt they lost their Home – and must fight to rebuild it.
The collective shock is larger than that of 1973. Then, due to a fateful intelligence error, the vast Egyptian and Syrian armies inflicted heavy losses on the IDF forces, which quickly recovered; Israel itself was not invaded. On Oct 7, 2023, at daybreak, Israelis witnessed their southern military posts, townships and Kibbutzim overrun, not by state armies, but by a militia and a mob, who crossed the supposedly unbreachable barrier, killing the soldiers left to guard it, and butchering over 1200 civilians, men and women, old and young, including children, even babies, torturing and kidnapping hundreds. Families with small children, young people celebrating a music festival for peace, foreign students and workers – terrorized, brutalized, raped, burnt alive, decapitated, humiliated, and paraded. Hamas spared no one.
Citizens of other advanced societies should take a momentary leap of imagination. Picture, if you will, the 9/11 attacks going far beyond the destruction of the World Trade Center to some eighty thousand Al-Qaeda gunmen invading the US, spreading carnage throughout NYC, massacring forty thousand, then kidnapping five thousand survivors to Taliban’s Afghanistan.
On 10/7, Israel became a failed state, its core institutions collapsing before our very eyes. Leviathan in the sands.
While Hamas attacked, the victims’ desperate cries for help were largely unmet, for hours on end, by the IDF and other state institutions. The state, that modern promise of omnipotent Leviathan, whose main task, indeed its raison d'être, is to shield its citizenry, vanished, or rather defected, leaving a harrowing collective sense of betrayal and abandonment.
With the state canopy removed, the very veneer of civilization – mutual help, respect and trust between human beings – seemed withdrawn, and we felt exposed, vulnerable, and alone. It was as if the 75-year-old Israel, this “high-tech nation,” had joined the ranks of failed states, its core institutions, in charge of protecting its own people, collapsing before our very eyes. We watched Leviathan dying in the sands.