More Important Topics than the Garden
From Where I SitOpinion

More Important Topics than the Garden

Dave would rather write about other things, but the hostages and other issues related to the war are more relevant.

Dave Schechter is a veteran journalist whose career includes writing and producing reports from Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Dave Schechter
Dave Schechter

I would prefer to update readers on the progress in our garden, but Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza is more important.

I would rather talk about the plum tree in our back yard and how its branches are bent to the ground from the weight of fruit growing on them, but there are men, women, and children held hostage in Gaza who likely have not eaten fresh fruit since Oct. 7.

I would tell you about the lettuce, arugula, tomatoes, basil, and cucumbers growing in our garden box, but the line between legitimate criticism of Israel’s government and expressions of anti-Jewish hate has been blurred too often and feels a more pressing issue.

I would tell you about blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries, and the evidence of figs finally growing on that tree, but the American Jewish community is fracturing over how much is too much when it comes to war, while large numbers of Israelis have resumed marching in the streets, demanding accountability from their government.

I would tell you about my ongoing struggle to trim back “the kiwi plant from hell,” but we are a bit more than five months away from an election and my inbox already is filled with speculation about how issues related to Israel will play into the vote for president and other offices.

In short, I would rather talk about anything — even Atlanta United’s miserable form of late — other than Israel, the war, the hostages, tensions in the Jewish community, and politics, but those are what a columnist for a Jewish newspaper probably should discuss.

I have lost count of how many times I have written the following: On Oct. 7, 1,200 people were killed and 240 kidnapped in Hamas-led terror attacks on kibbutzim, towns, and a music festival in the “Gaza envelope” in southern Israel.

Shoshan Haran reminded a United Nations panel on May 16 why it remains necessary.

Haran, an expert in seed development, is the founder and president of Fair Planet, a non-governmental organization that has over a decade supported thousands of impoverished farmers while also providing an estimated million Africans with a reliable source of food.

On Oct. 7, at Kibbutz Be’eri, her husband was murdered, along with her younger sister and her sister’s handicapped husband. Haran was taken hostage — along with her daughter, her son-in-law, her two young grandchildren, her sister-in-law, and a niece. The Haran home was burned, apparently by incendiary devices detonated by the terrorists.

At Be’eri, an estimated 10 percent of 1,100 residents were murdered and some 30 people kidnapped and taken to Gaza.

Haran and the other five women and children were freed as part of a Nov. 25 exchange for a larger number of Palestinians held in Israeli jails. Her son-in-law remains a hostage — one of 125, though upwards of 40 are feared dead.

She told the U.N. panel how, for weeks after being freed, her then 3-year-old granddaughter spoke only in a whisper and would not go outside, fearing that she would be kidnapped again. Yahel, now 4, and her 8-year-old brother, Naveh, “have experienced a lifetime of trauma, all before the age of 9 and need all the support they can get,” Haran said. “Adi, their mother and my daughter, is psychologically a mess. The thought of her husband in captivity is terrifying but she must be strong for her family.”

Speaking on day 223 of the ordeal, Haran said, “We are all walking on air and cannot heal ourselves until he [Tal] rejoins our family. Only then we will be able to start coping with the long-term trauma.”

Haran concluded by saying: “If you care about the humanitarian situation in Gaza, like me, who dealt with humanitarian aid in all my professional life, use all the leverages and political power and do everything you can to bring all the hostages back home as soon as possible. Only this will enable the rehabilitation of the people in Gaza.”

I don’t mean to sound callous, but when the suffering of the hostages’ families ends, I’ll have more bandwidth to devote to broader issues, such as how Israel is waging this war, the role of the United States, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, the depravity of Hamas, the influence of rightist elements in the Israeli government, and concerns that the prime minister’s is prioritizing of his own future.

In the meantime, I keep an eye on the plums, the crops in the garden box, and the various berries. I continue to trim the kiwi. The elephant ears along the driveway wave nicely in the wind. But for now, there are more relevant topics for this column.

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