No emoji could come close to summing up our sadness and fears

Gestures on social media feel woefully inadequate when we are confronted with personal connections to the horror stories of October 7

November 06, 2023 14:00

We say how awful it all is, how horrifying, how terrible. We say that these are crimes against humanity, that they are atrocious, heinous, barbaric. We call the terrorists savages, monsters, psychopaths, sadists beyond imagination.

But then we say that there are no words, no words to describe, to define the Hamas pogrom in Israel on October 7.

I think I am glad we don’t have the words. To have the words would make the nightmare somehow comprehensible.

“The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name,” said Confucius, but I’m not sure I want that kind of wisdom.

I am not sure I want to be on social media either, but I am there all the time, putting a sad crying face emoji on every dreadful post about the murdered and missing. But I don’t want to put a sad face emoji under every photo of a dead baby, abducted child, raped woman or missing family, under the videos of mutilated and murdered families. We put sad face emojis on friends’ posts when they have a cold, or a headache, or have run out of chocolate.

They are grotesquely inadequate for what has taken place.

There are no words and there are no emojis for what Hamas has visited upon our people in Israel.

Some friends say it is disrespectful to even click on these photographs and videos that come with sensitivity warnings.

My son has a frontline job that involves danger and horror, and he cannot bear to click them, to see the suffering. But I see it as bearing witness, and acknowledgement I do not want the pain of the victims tucked away. If anything like this ever happens to me, I would want the world to know.

His sister has seen the images. She’s in America for a few weeks and we have spoken on FaceTime.

Her eyes are red, her face is puffy from crying and she has told me in she is agony. She has been to the nature rave parties in Israel, has experienced the euphoria of being young and alive, of dancing and laughing in the Negev.

In America, she visited a Chabad centre, but it did not provide the comfort she sought. The only person in the building was the rabbi’s son.

He shrugged helplessly and thanked her for coming but had nothing else to say. He, too, did not have the words.

I now been on several Israel rallies and several vigils.

They are dignified and poignant events at which people draw quiet comfort from each other’s presence and share the sadness. No words are needed.

They were quiet moments amid what feels like a tidal wave of antisemitic violence.
Well, is a tidal wave. In the three weeks since the massacre, the CST recorded more antisemitic incidents than were reported in the first six months of this year.

The nation state of the Jews is a tiny speck of land surrounded by hostile neighbours, a prisoner of its geography. Here in Britain, we are a minnow people of some 300,000 who feel, who are, vastly outnumbered by those who wish us harm.

It has made me feel unsafe and paranoid. I beg my children to hide their Star of David pendants. I tell my teenage daughter to be careful what she says at her non-Jewish college.

I agree wholeheartedly with my mother that my frail father should on no account wear his kippah outside. I fret that the mobs will see the mezuzah by our front door.

I went to see Golda with my friend Katy. We called an Uber to take us home.

Our driver Mohammed, a friendly chap, asked us what film we’d seen. We froze. Then Katy said: “Spider-Man!” And so we spent 20 minutes talking about “the spiderverse” and how frightening things were for spiders, what with everyone wanting to kill them.

We lamented on how so many people blindly hated spiders and how unsafe they were.

Mohammed looked confused. And concerned. As we got out the taxi, he called out, “Take care! I’ll give you five stars! I’m sure everything will be OK!”

Would he have said that if he’d known what we were really talking about? I doubt it.

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November 06, 2023 14:00

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