Reflections in a time of war

December 1, 2023

October 7

October 7. A day that will go down in history, a black sabbath.

Early that morning I wake to a siren, a missile alert. Glued to the television throughout the day and into the night, the news of what happened unfolds bit by bit, and it transpires that Hamas militants from Gaza had occupied an area of villages and towns in Israel on its border, and had committed in cold blood a ruthless massacre, widespread and systemic, murdering over one thousand civilians including hundreds at an all-night music festival, while taking dozens hostage, full numbers still unknown. All day long the numbers of civilians dead, kidnapped and missing rose. The horror is unimaginable, beyond words. I am, we all are in total shock amidst the chaos. The stories of the many who survived are hair-raising, while those of the hundreds who have no word of their loved ones and do not know their fate, whether dead or taken hostage, are heartbreaking.  

It is also an utter fiasco. The fact that we were taken by surprise is the consequence of a conception, an idée fixe of divide and conquer that guided Israel's policy towards Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. There was also a failure of military intelligence, as well as a delay in engaging with the terrorists to rescue the thousands of people cowering in their shelters that first day. And as time goes by, there is the government's ongoing failure to provide care and support for those immediately affected - the survivors and their communities, the families of the kidnapped and missing, and the tens of thousands of people displaced from their homes on the border. I find a ray of hope in the amazing way civil society rallies in solidarity to provide for their needs. Its capacity to do so comes from the organizational infrastructure developed by the protest movement here over the nine months since our government with its messianic nationalists came into power, the protest against a legal reform or judicial coup that would have undermined the rule of law and given the prime minister virtually unlimited power. We were divided internally, at a point of weakness, and now we are at war.

Here in Tel Aviv in between the alerts all is quiet, everybody staying close to home, schools closed, streets empty. I sense we're in for the long haul, and who knows what will unfold? The only thing is to take it day by day.


As the dimensions of the trauma slowly sink in, each day carries an emotional flux. There is a tsunami of emotions, wave after sweeping wave. First, a paralyzing shock from the unspeakable horror. Then, shaken to the core of our very existence, came a mixture of confusion and fear, a loss of personal security and profound existential angst, as well as concern and trepidation about what will yet come. Underlying them all was a heart-wrenching sadness and sorrow for the tragic follies of humankind, for all the suffering on both sides of the conflict in all its forms. And at the same time, a sense of helplessness touching on hopelessness for the future, though at the end of the day I have no choice but to believe in the triumph of good over evil, that we might be able to build a better future out of the horrific devastation. The feelings come and go from day to day, some days are harder than others.

A week later I feel an impulse to do something, anything, to help, to be of use. I find no outlet and spend hours playing sudoku on the web over and over again, an addictive habit that affords distraction and dull respite. Meanwhile I take care of myself, it's the least I can do. I have an unusual appetite, perhaps the result of a survival instinct, and I prepare tasty nutritious meals, the end of summer corn is still on the shelves. I ration the news on tv and the radio and avoid social media, the WhatsApp groups are buzzing anyway with all the latest. I call friends to ask after their wellbeing as I did during the closure at the start of the covid pandemic, and I do what I can to support my daughter who is a political journalist in the thick of things.

Living from moment to moment, I get up in the morning and one thing leads to another. My body reverberates layers of trauma from the rounds upon rounds of warfare I've been through since we came to live here when I was a girl, so many that in recent years I no longer keep track of the campaigns. I use mindfulness, the breath, and qigong to bring awareness to the body as it contracts around the emotions, to breathe into the tensions, to relax and ground myself in the earth beneath me. It takes a caring state of mind.

When I walk the dog, I choose to stick to the pavement and avoid the park, staying close to buildings that can give shelter if a siren were to go off. I walk mindfully, aware of the fear in my body, a tension in the chest and between the ribs. I breathe step by step, inhaling and exhaling in rhythm with the count of the footfalls, I notice the tension and discomfort in the body, releasing it downward through the belly and the legs to the soles of the feet, grounding myself in their contact with the earth, feeling its steady support. 

At home, when an alert sounds, we go down to the shelter in the building basement where we meet and huddle together with the neighbors. My dog is scared out of her wits, she trembles uncontrollably and I stroke and soothe her. Some of the neighbors too are obviously upset and in distress. No matter how shaken up I am personally, when others need a kind touch or word, I can be there for them.


The trauma awakened in me a collective identity I was not at all conscious of before, as a daughter of the Jewish people that suffered pogroms and the Holocaust. It rose from the subconscious, striking deep chords in the pit of my stomach, the pelvis, perhaps the womb, as if the lived experience of those ancestral calamities was somehow embedded as an epigenetic imprint in the tissue of my body.

For the first time in my life, I have the experience of becoming the object of blind hatred. I knew that the Hamas charter was committed to destroying Israel, but now I learn that in article seven they actually pledged to kill the Jews. Might they really mean it? From webinars with local experts, I learn too about their culture of death. I never realized to what extreme degree they revere death over life in the cause of the holy war, so that they are willing to sacrifice not only their warriors but also their people, for whom they provided no protection and who they used as a human shield in that faith. Whereas we, as a rule, go by the principle of the sanctity of life. There are exceptions no doubt, but our culture reveres life.

The crisis sent shockwaves amongst Jewish people around the world, as it also gave rise to the outburst of a one-sided public sentiment on ivy league campuses in the USA and on the streets of London that glossed over the unspeakable violence we suffered, blamed us for acting in self-defense, and applied a double standard that reeked of antisemitic prejudice. The mindset is binary, black and white, simplistically either/or. It is unable to hold the complexity of the suffering and its causes on both sides of the conflict. A mantra from my childhood keeps coming to mind - two wrongs don't make a right. I'm not sure it's entirely appropriate, but it at least recognizes two wrongs.

We talk about climate change and bemoan the greed and ignorance that feeds it, but this manifestation of hatred is a harsh reminder of a base human tendency to kill the other; perhaps a gendered, more masculine than feminine disposition. I feel it is a message to beware of and to contend with the very same forces of hatred in other parts of the world, to protect and preserve the universalist ethic of human dignity for all, regardless of circumstance of birth. It is a precious and precarious vision that we have carried for less than one hundred years out of ten thousand of human history.

I seek cracks where the light might come in. Perhaps we can find allies among Muslims who are moderates and for whom Islamism is an aberration of faith, like our own Mansour Abbas. The world is in dire need of a middle way.

Numerous forces are at play, potentially explosive far beyond Israel, Palestine, Gaza and the West Bank, an Indra's web of international players - the USA and western democracies; Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, and the Hizballah in Lebanon; then Russia and the Ukraine; and Qatar, with China too... I think of the global dimensions of the military industry and its arms race. (Talk of capitalism and the global market, do you know how much one missile costs?) I think of the destructive impact of warfare on the environment and the climate. I think of all the living beings caught in cycles of violence fed by hatred. And I think that any contemporary ethics must address the hatred that interplays with the poisons of greed and ignorance. 


I remember a talk with Stephen Batchelor in the library at Gaia House when he spoke of his recent visit to a township in post-apartheid South Africa. He said it left him with questions about the Buddhist teachings and practices of dharma under such conditions of survival, when one's most basic human rights and needs go unmet in any dependable way, and there is nothing to rely on, no security of existence.

I also remember a visit to a village in the West Bank around the same time, during the second intifada, with a doctor who had just arrived from the UK and was volunteering for Physicians for Human Rights. We had an Arabic-Hebrew translator with us, and I was there to translate the Hebrew into English for the doctor. We came to the bare family home of a young woman, the mother of children, whose father was worried about her nerves. The doctor suggested she find ten minutes each morning before the start of the day to sit quietly alone and breathe. I couldn't imagine how and where she might get away from her family before dawn - in the dark and cold stairway?  

Tragedy and suffering of this order are very often what puts our practice of the dharma to the test, said Stephen in a zoom meeting with our sangha three weeks after the atrocities of October 7 started this current bout of conflict. We are living through extremely challenging times that raise excruciating questions about our paths in the world. But they are also ground for growth in seeking a middle way within the complexity of the situation, in resisting the temptation to take sides. "However difficult, perhaps however impossible, that might feel to many of us now," he said, ‘this path, this practice enables us to comprehend the human situation for all of its beauty, for all of its horror, in such a way that wisdom may finally dawn.’

Eran, a Tovana teacher who co-hosted the meeting, shared a moral dilemma. For many years, he said, of practicing and reflecting on Buddhist ethics, its first precept - the value of not taking life, seemed clear and vivid. Eran lives in an ungated and unfenced village near the northern border with Lebanon, and now, after what happened in the south of Israel, he found himself in a survival mode, fearful as never ever before about being at home with his family. What if someone with a rifle appeared all of a sudden on the doorstep? What would he do?  He realized that if he could, he would take that person's life. It was, he said, a very, very scary understanding.

I have a memory of Thich Nhat Hanh telling a similar narrative, about a mother and daughter living in a village in Vietnam when armed militants enter their home and threaten to rape the daughter. What should the mother do? In Love in Action (1993) he wrote that ‘a this-or-that kind of answer would be superficial.’ (p. 70) It is a dilemma; it has no right or wrong answer. One does what one can and what one sees fit in the circumstances. The challenge is to train oneself in advance to act in the most nonviolent way possible in the circumstances. Sometimes there is no real option other than to use force.  

* * *

I also remember a talk the Dalai Lama gave at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where he spoke about the restraint of criminal offenders in prison as a necessary use of force so long as they do not see the error of their ways, in order to prevent further harm to others. So, violence or the use of physical force is sometimes called for to prevent a greater likely harm or to protect oneself or others against a threat to life.

Stephen suggested that violence is built into the very system and structure of the nation state, which then provides us with the freedoms that we enjoy and with the conditions of comfort and privilege that allow us to live as nice peaceful Buddhists, without being existentially challenged. So too, the social contract envisioned by John Locke and Thomas Hobbs entrusts the use of force to those in government for the protection of individuals and their liberties. Surely the use of that force is justified in self-defense against an external threat to the state.

It feels now as if the very right of my own nation state to exist has been called into question. Since early adulthood I have had deep reservations about the outbreaks of war between Israel and its neighbors, but this time I feel we had no option but to respond with military force. This time I feel that my country, as flawed as it may be with its corrupted internal politics and its own extremist religious fundamentalists, has the right to act in self-defense.

Still, what is the appropriate measure of force to be used? What amounts to excess? To what end is the military being used? What is the purpose of the combat? Are its unintended consequences for noncombatant civilians proportional? I wonder, when is enough enough? But then there are the hostages, all in all over two hundred and thirty, of all ages, including babies, children, and old and sick women and men. If they are not released all together in one fell swoop, who should be first? In exchange for who? That too is a shocking dilemma, one of prioritizing, pricing and placing a value on individual lives, of bargaining and trading in human beings as it were.

* * *

I never realized how much the how of killing matters. There are international laws of war that define the limits of justifiable force. There are humanitarian rules that protect those who are not fighting and address the suffering of the vulnerable. There are crimes of war and crimes against humanity, such as mass rape, mutilation and murder. And according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, no one shall be subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. ‘Cruelty,’ said Stephen, ‘strikes me as what is really the one thing that cannot be justified, that cannot be forgiven, that has no justification at all.’

But how to deal with the anger and the rage? Causes and conditions of life have led to these powerful feelings and emotions, said Stephen, and they need to be allowed the space to be, they need to be honored. Emotions of rage and anger are not by definition evil and wrong, and may, at times, be appropriate responses to the situation. The practice is one of neither repressing these feelings, nor allowing them total free play. The ethical starting point of the middle way, he said, is a practice of making the judgment, what is appropriate and what is inappropriate.

We engage with life and its suffering, he concluded, but at the same time we seek to find within a space of peace, a space of clarity, a space of understanding which then becomes a ground and a source from which to respond wisely and compassionately.


Day 40. The fighting goes on, in the north now too. The hostages have not returned, it's not clear what our military has achieved so far, the situation is complicated and fragile, and who knows what will be? I bear witness. It is something I learned once from Bernie Glassman on a visit to a Palestinian village in the West Bank - to accept not knowing and come with an open mind and open heart, to bear witness, and to wait until the time is ripe for skillful action or speech. I speak with friends from around the world. The sharing is itself a healing, it releases the trauma and prevents long term harm.

The news on television has become rather militaristic as it does during war times. I watch nonetheless so as to bear witness to the suffering of civilians and the destruction in Gaza, whoever's to blame. I watch despite the searing sorrow, to hear the smarting stories of those who themselves survived the massacre here, but who have numerous family members who were taken from their homes and are now no longer with us, alive or dead who knows where. There are also uplifting testimonies of acts of selfless courage. Still, there's only so much I can stomach and take in.

We seem to be settling into a new-old routine of daily living, amidst the occasional alerts that also seem to go off at a regular time in the first hours after dark. Even my dog has become less scared of the sirens, she has learned the drill, and the first thunder of winter weather shakes her up far more. I have a nephew who was injured badly in the fighting last week, but he received wonderful medical care and is recovering with close family and friends at his bedside 24-7. And there is life again in the city. The cafes on the sidewalk are busy, and at the end of the day the traffic of cars and people on the roads and streets is heavy. A series of lectures on Spinoza opens at the municipal library next to the museum and the court entrance, which is now the plaza of the hostages and the missing. In anticipation I find myself smiling once again. The teacher proves to be excellent, and I continue to smile in appreciation. I am grateful for the respite.

I do what I can to cultivate an inner centeredness, a gatheredness, a collectedness, a calm and stable balance. For me the essence of the dharma is the opening of the heart and its qualities of kind care: friendliness, compassion and appreciation, together with the ability to remain centered. My understanding of equanimity has deepened. I feel it is an opening of the heart in the face of suffering to really acknowledge and embrace it, as painful as that might be. In the body it is an upright dignified equipoise. In the mind it is an inner poise that comes in friendship and responds with compassion and appreciation. It is a gentle and caring presence that harbors no harm and wishes only well.

‘Without our doing anything,’ wrote Thich Nhat Hanh, ‘things can sometimes go more smoothly just because of our peaceful presence. In a small boat when a storm comes, if one person remains solid and calm, others will not panic, and the boat is more likely to stay afloat.’ In the hardest times, I found it easier to recall that calm collectedness when I was stroking the dog or in the company of others who were far more scared than I.

I come across a paper on Emmanuel Levinas. His ethics are about responding to suffering in a particular setting. They begin with seeing ‘the face of the other’. The face speaks, and it is an action of both other and subject. As a subject, I too show my face. The term he uses for being present for another in that way is Me voici!, I am here. I learn that it comes from the Hebrew hineni, which means the same and appears numerous times in the bible in many different encounters between human and god, as well as between human and human. I remember the chorus of Leonard Cohen's last single, You Want it Darker, the song that came out just before he died. ‘Hineni, hineni’; he sang, ‘I'm ready, my lord.’

It is terribly painful to open the mind and heart to the cruelty we witnessed on October 7. It is tragically sad that some of the kibbutzim hit hardest were the home of well wishing, hardworking communities seeking to build peace with their neighbors. It is heart rending to see the suffering of the hundreds of thousands of people in Gaza who have lost loved ones and are displaced. It is sad too to witness the ongoing count of the lost lives of our young soldiers. Yet it is what it is. The question is: and what now?


The day after Stephen spoke with us here on zoom, Tara Brach did too. She spoke about love and its power to heal, starting with acceptance, tenderness and care for the self. When we find ourselves in self-judgment, she said, we should ask how that helps us, what is it asking us to pay attention to? Then we should ask, what is the voice of love asking of us? It is a voice of friendly care and concern, and it is a voice that calls to apply ourselves to what we do best and might make the world a better place for all. Acting from love brings joy and meaning to life.

We are living in times of radical uncertainty as to what the future will bring. Will the extremists and their hateful violence prevail? Will the arms race continue until we destroy humankind, and the planet in the process? Or will skills of wisdom and empathy, the emotional intelligence we seem to have acquired in recent decades, enable us to reach out, to truly listen to one another, to bridge the differences, and to arrive at a mutual understanding of acceptance, respect and tolerance?

There is tremendous suffering on all sides in this round of violent conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, there is dismay for the magnitude of the destruction, there is grief for all lives lost and injured or displaced, there is concern for all those whose close ones are missing or kidnapped, fate unknown. We need help and support from like-minded friends around the world, who can hold the complexity of the tragic conflict here with compassion for all those suffering, and who can bring a vision of change that might break the endless spiral of hatred, animosity and mistrust, so we can learn to listen and to talk and to live eventually side by side in friendliness, rather than at war. 



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28 Replies to “Reflections in a time of war”

Olivia Bezalel

I just read this wise and painful article by Carmel
It echoes my thoughts and feelings in every way and by doing so help me realise I am not alone
Thankyou Carmel

Mihal Ronen

Carmel is so skilled at describing the heart and mind’s experience of an unimaginably complex and tragic reality. My own mind and heart are soothed by her witness.

Anne-Laure Brousseau

Dear Carmel, Thank you for writing here, bearing witness to your experience and the complex situation which your share from an ‘objective’ perspective and yet also intimately, from your heart. I am deeply moved by your practice and awareness of care. Your reflections call to mind many frames of reference for me; two in particular are especially meaningful:

“…No matter how shaken up I am personally, when others need a kind touch or word, I can be there for them….”
Reading this evokes for me a passage in About Buddhism when Stephen writes of Gotama’s appreciation of care as the highest good in the dharma: “…Pasenadi asks Gotama: ‘Is there any one thing which secures both kinds of good (attha), the good pertaining to this world and that pertaining to what follows after death (samparayika)? ‘Yes,” Gotama replies. ‘There is such a thing: care (appamada). Just as the footprints of all living beings that walk fit into the footprint of an elephant,’ he explains, ‘ so care is the one thing which secures both kinds of good….’ “Elsewhere he says that all skillful states ‘are rooted and converge in care, and care is considered the chief among them’…”.(101)

In another passage, you write: “I find a ray of hope in the way civil society rallies in solidarity to provide for their needs,” a capacity honed in the organization achievements of protest in civil society. This calls to mind the model of care in the work of feminist political scientist Joan Tronto writing of the tasks involved in care and the ethical qualities associated with these tasks. Solidarity is such an ethical quality or attitude associated with the task of “caring with.”

Again, thank you for your reflections here, so that as your readers, we can “care with” you.

Carmel Shalev

Dear Anne-Laure, thank you for your insights.
I agree that care (appamada) is key. And even before Joan Tronto there is Carol Gilligan’s “In A Different Voice” (1982) where she suggested an ethic of care and responsibility, a feminine ethic that complements a masculine ethic of justice and right, and ethic that is rooted in our being in relationship. And solidarity in times of need is too an acknowledgement and fruit of our essential relatedness.

Carmel, I read your reflections carefully – you are in the center of the storm and your witness is so valuable to all of us far away from it. Your writing is exquisite in fleshing out the range of emotions that regularly cascade over you, the sorrow of feeling undefended against them, the shock of strong emotions of fear and anger. But soon your touchstones begin to reappear, to offer you (and us) some sanity and solace, since the mind can’t stay for long in such complete distress: “I have no choice but to believe in the triumph of good over evil” . . . “I seek cracks where the light might come in” . . . and “the voice (of love) calls to apply ourselves to what we do best.” It was tremendously reassuring that you who are surrounded by the calamity can tap into the groundedness that the dharma offers. We MUST be able to hold the complexity and the tragedy of human conflict without completely shutting down. The middle way is the only truly possible way. Thank you for expressing this all so eloquently.

Carmel Shalev

Thank you dear Joanne. Embracing the pain and suffering continues, alas, to be challenging at times. May the new year bring better tidings for all.

David Dane

A very wise article Carmel.

Carmel Shalev

Thank you David. May we all learn to live wisely day by day, and to open our hearts with empathy for others in need and appreciation for the simple joys of life.

Here is a link to a peace initiative conducted by two young people, one with Israeli background and one with Palestinian background.

This article may provide some hope (I love the Forward, and now there is no paywall):


I cannot imagine what you’ve been through. I’m sorry for all the loss. But I’m equally vexed at the lack of awareness as to the steaming kettle. Tops blow off in revolt when suppression feels no other options available. Not excusing Hamas but that doesn’t let Israel off the hook. And the response has been brutal and more terrible still. 20,000+ people, mostly women and children dead.
Please don’t pass over their suffering. They bleed and die just as Israelites do.
War is horrible. It’s stupid to think it solves anything. It only curates more hatred and revenge. And on the cycle goes. Terribly sad.

David Bell

Thank you. What a beautiful article. There is peace that comes from the awareness of a place within us that can hold the “complexity of the tragic conflict with compassion for all those suffering brings “

Jesus Perez

I am really sorry for you past experiences. However to be honest I can not deny that my heart is wih palestinian people, who can not live as human beings on his own country, who has to live in a aparheid state without any hope, who has to bear violence from the israeí army and settlers on the daily basis, who know that their lives worth nothing to the israeli army and and now they have to bear a ethnic cleansing in Gaza.
My heart is with all these thounsands palestinian children who has been butchered.
I think I believe that Buddhism should not lead us to live on an island. On the contrary, it should help us see who is the real victim and the aggressor.

Arif Pervaiz

Thank you for your moral clarity, Jesus. On this site and amongst western buddhist’s, in general, an attitude of “both sideism” prevails, where oppressor and oppressed are spoken of as equals. No one with a even a scintilla of compassion in their heart can but feel for the unimaginable suffering of the Palestinians at the hands of the Apartheid state of Israel and, the ultimate architect of their suffering, the USA. It should not come as any surprise that it is countries of Latin America and South Africa, which know a thing or two about racist colonizers, which have spoken against the genocide being committed against Palestinians.

Dear Carmel,
Thank you! I received your post through a fellow Sangha member here in Albuquerque New Mexico. I belong also to congregation Nahalat Shalom here. Just recently I was told that it is volunteerism that is getting things done in Israel, not government services, something you point to. When institutions break down, there is ethical dialog that fuels creative collaboration. I loved the way your post applies Buddhist teaching to what we do for ourselves to have the chutzpah to build community. We do have a choice.

Arif Pervaiz

I imagine that while the writer probably means well, her “reflections” reads more like a reiteration of the racist, self-serving, occupation-justifying propaganda Israelis are born into, eat, breath and live throughout their lives. Of course, there is a tiny minority of Israeli Jews (Breaking the Silence, B’Tselem, Gideon Levy and others) and Jews in the west (e.g., JWP, If Not Now, etc.) who have the courage and moral clarity to acknowledge the immense crimes of Israeli occupation, murder, humiliation and subjugation of Palestinian people over the last 75+ years as providing the context for Palestinian resistance (violence) against Israel and Israelis. Unfortunately, this writer is not one of them. Despite the references to Buddhist teachings and teachers, the writer appears unable to transcend their tribal loyalties and try and explore (as an authentic reflection piece would) the context (and cause-effect dimension) of what happened on Oct 7th. As the French philosopher and playwright Jean-Paul Sartre once wrote about race relations: “‘After so many years that the neck of the occupied has been suffocating under your iron foot and suddenly was given a chance to raise his eyes, what kind of gaze did you expect you would see there?’” Israeli’s saw the gaze on October 7th. Instead of exploring nuance and undertaking self-reflection, the writer resorts to falsehoods, one-sided morality, deeply offensive racist tropes and hateful language to describe and dehumanize Palestinians.

First, the falsehood. Neither article 7 nor any other article of Hamas’s charter calls for the killing of Jews. The writer also slips in the old Zionist propaganda line by conflating the struggle of the Palestinians with religion (in framing it as Muslims vs. Jews) instead of the resistance of a people yearning to be free and regain their dignity, because this helps frame the resistance in terms that suits the occupier. The writer then goes on to repeatedly justify violence and the use of force by Israel in the name of self-defence. I imagine the same principle of violent resistance by Palestinians exposed to decades of brutal occupation by Israel is not ok.

The writer calls Palestinian culture (read: Islam) a culture of death and speaks of Palestinian willingness to sacrifice their people and use them as human shields; and bemoans the absence of moderate Muslims [Read: they are all fanatics!] and extols the superiority of her culture as one that “revers life”. This is the language Zionists use to dehumanize Muslims in general and Palestinians, in particular, [] thereby, making it morally acceptable for Israel to slaughter more than 22,000 people, main and injure another 60,000, 2/3rds of all dead and maimed being women and children, starve 2 million people, destroy hospitals, 50% of the entire housing stock in Gaza, agriculture fields, archives, schools, universities, and bakeries, as is currently being executed with the aim of making Gaza unliveable and, thereafter, ethnically cleansing it. Let’s leave aside what Israeli armed forces and armed Zionist gangs are doing to Palestinians in the West Bank.

To call a powerful country with nuclear weapons and one of the strongest and most sophisticated militaries in the world aided and supported by the most economically, technologically, and militarily powerful countries in the world [most of whom, not coincidentally, former colonial states and settler colonial countries with a deep history of racism, subjugation and annihilation of black and brown people around the world] as well as the entire mainstream western media, a victim or its culture as one that revers life is a cruel joke.


Arif, there is a lot of pain and suffering in your words, which you translate as hatred and anger aimed at Carmel. It appears that, by dehumanising her yourself – refusing to address her by name and using violent derogatory epithets – it is much easier for you to ignore her lived experience, which is the point of her post. A rhetoric of blame will not help solve this situation: it requires wisdom and compassion from both sides. Hatred solves nothing. Yes, absolutely, this ongoing conflict is beyond horrible and tragic, and has been so for decades. But perhaps our collective fingers should be pointed at all the countries who provide insane amounts of weaponry to keep this conflict alive in order to profit handsomely from it, don’t you think?

Arif Pervaiz

Colette, I have no hatred towards Carmel and certainly do not think she or any of other Israeli justifying Genocide or (choosing to be blind to it) are less than human. Hate and hate inspired action is a uniquely human trait. Neither do I ignore the fear and suffering of Jews in Israel who have been impacted by the violence and who suffer from the collective generational trauma of the Holocaust. I was merely pointing to her glaring certitude, one-sidedness, and complete lack of introspection, not to mention her use of hateful and racist language (which she seemingly thinks are self evident truths). I am sorry to say that in the grisly calculus of suffering, the fear and suffering of Israeli’s – while very real at the personal level- pales in comparison to the ongoing butchery and whole scale destruction of Palestinian lives. I agree that casting blame is not going to solve the problem but there needs to be acknowledgement that Israel has been and continues to engage in brutal and murderous oppression of an entire society. Public poll after poll shows that Israeli public is fully supportive of the ongoing death and destruction of a Gaza and want even more of it. I am sorry that you think pointing out the collective depravity of the majority public opinion in Israel constitutes “violent derogatory epithets”. The sad reality is that many Israelis are victims too; victims of their own collective historical trauma and the psychology arising from the belief that they are the chosen people (i.e., others are lesser) and the only or most victimised victims in history. The sad truth is that Zionist’s dehumanize themselves by dehumanizing Palestinians. You have pointed to the single most important element behind Israel’s barbarity: the unqualified support and total impunity given to it by guilt-ridden Western Countries. It is this that has allowed Israel to act in the cruel and arrogant manner without feeling the pressure to act in good faith, compromise and agree to a viable state for Palestinians, side by side with Israel. And yes, our collective fingers should indeed point towards the US, which is the true malign actor in this conflict, and western arm manufacturers who are profiting handsomely from the ongoing crimes in Gaza. May Israelis and Palestinians live in peace and harmony side-by-side


Thank you for your clarifying reply Arif. I will echo your sentiments: May Israelis and Palestinians find a way forward in peace and harmony. Too sadly, both sides bear, in their own way, the burden of tremendous past and present trauma, which makes a smooth resolution that much more challenging for all. May wisdom and compassion find a way into the hearts of all those who cling and grasp to distorted and violent ideologies, and that includes the Western world. Only with open hands and hearts can we welcome others. Namaste, Arif.

Jesus Perez

Thank you very much, Arif, for expressing so clearly the frustration of many of us who watch in shock how palestinians people are massacred with impunity, as a genocide is committed live on television, while western nations look the other way, as the media is in most cases biases in favor of powerful and genocidal Israel, how the most abhorrent and criminal injustice has been happening for too many decades.

To be honest reading Carmel Shalev’s article and the first comments, I thought if secular buddhism is just a technology so privileged Westerners with money and easy lifes can live oblivious of the suffering of others, a technology focused on ourselves, on being happier, a technology to self-justify and console ourselves. Reading your comments makes me think that luckily for many it must mean more than that.

Arif Pervaiz

Jesus – I know what you mean. I came to Secular Buddhism by way of reading the work of Stephen Batchelor (for whom I have enormous respect and admiration), but in my limited exposure to the community, I have not found the grounds to connect with a group that comprises overwhelmingly of privileged white individuals from the industrialized north who appear very self-focussed and western centric in their worldview. In the few online sessions and retreats that I attended, I rarely saw a person of colour and the session on engaged buddhism I attended via the SBN, was heavy on navel gazing and hair splitting academic discussion about terminology, whereas I was hoping for a more grounded discussion about real world issues that affect the majority of the world and how we may (as “secular buddhists”) respond to these. I guess its early days still and in the fullness of time the community will become less insular and more diverse in terms of culture and worldviews.

Arif Pervaiz

I would urge you and others to listen to the powerful words of this South African Jewish anti-apartheid campaigner.

It is no coincidence that some of the most powerful and compelling voices in the world of social justice and against Israel’s treatment of Palestinians are those of Jews themselves. These individuals recognise that “never again” means never again for anyone!

Luciana Pinto

Thanks for sharing, Arif. It’s always good to see someone clearing up the dusty spots in a skewed narrative. As you said, although we have to recognize the suffering of the people of Israel, it is absolutely incomparable to the suffering perpetrated on the people of Gaza. There are no means of comparison, to do so is to distort reality, to try to force an equality that is simply not possible. It does not seem that the author lacks perceptive sensitivity, but the strength of the deep and racist bias against the Palestinian people abounds, even between the lines.


Good try Colette. The anti-Israel writers are so overtaken by hatred at this time they cannot communicate respectfully and with wisdom. I do not think they should have a voice on a Buddhist site. There are plenty of other sites to express their hatred. Take care and be well.

Jesus Perez

Hate is a natural feeling when horrible things happen. This genocide that we are experiencing, the complete dehumanization of the Palestinians is something that many of us will never forget and that millions and millions of people will never forget either. It is no coincidence that Israel is being investigated for committing genocide. Just for that people who defend Israel should feel ashamed. It is also no coincidence that South-africa that suffered the crime of apartheid, it is also the country that points the Israel’s crimes.

Bill Gayner

Dear Carmel,

I appreciate and am grateful for the coherence, openness, compassion and activism you have cultivated in the face of trauma, despite what appear to me as unexamined assumptions normal in a time of war.

You mischaracterized protests happening in Western countries, where political dissent is coming under attack by a now intensified campaign of neocon authoritarian corporate and government censorship whose views you echo. I wonder if you have critically examined our governments’ and corporate media war propaganda, including claims of extreme atrocities that have already been debunked in the alternative media and even occasionally walked back. While Hamas committed war crimes on October 7th such as killing and kidnapping civilians, your description of October 7th doesn’t seem to acknowledge that it appears to have included what an IDF officer called a mass Hannibal event where IDF helicopters fired indiscriminately at people and, along with tanks, fired into homes and cars killing the Hamas fighters and their hostages in them.

I wonder if you still contrast Hamas as obsessed with blind hatred and death compared to how Israeli culture sanctifies life, notwithstanding decades of Israel’s brutal apartheid and disproportionate, indiscriminate military reactions? Do you still think it was warranted for Israel to respond militarily now that it is spiralling into genocide and a regional conflagration? Would you agree that, even if people find it hard to imagine, it would be wiser for Israel as the occupying power to stop its violence, provide humanitarian care, end its military occupation, and enter negotiations leading to Palestinians gaining political rights.

Warm regards, metta,


Carmel Shalev

I hear and take to heart all the last comments, and I shall respond when I can, in friendship.


Why do you and others keep referring to alternative media under the assumption that it is true? How can it be that not a single non-alternative news source supports the nonsense of the Hannibal event? Please stop with the hatred on this Buddhist site. I am shocked Mike Slott allows it. Also, your warm regards are a joke given what you state above it.

Bill Gayner

Hi Steve,

You ask an interesting question, how can it be that it seems no major news outlets among Israel’s allies have reported on the apparent use of the Hannibal directive on October 7? Especially since major Israeli outlets such as Haaretz and Yediot Ahronoth and broadcasters have done so, for example,

Having hatred projected on me scares me. Acknowledging this, I realize that it might be scary for you too, to imagine such hatred in me and other commentators here. This evokes compassion in me for both and all of us, and for the people of Gaza, the West Bank, and Israel. May we be safe from harm, may we live with ease and well being.


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