A Bushey resident has branded his own decision to fight in the ongoing conflict currently escalating in the Middle East as a “selfish one”.
The Palestinian militant group Hamas led a major attack of unprecedented size on Southern Israel on Saturday, October 7, invading towns and army bases, killing soldiers and civilians alike.
The Israeli retaliation has seen airstrikes in Gaza, killing and injuring thousands more.
BUSHEYnews sat down with three generations of a local Jewish family five days later to hear how the surprise incursion has turned their worlds upside down.
Ely attended school in Israel and served in the army for three years before returning to England for university.
On the fateful Saturday when the attack took place, he woke in his Bushey home to a flurry of texts from friends and loved ones.
He said: “Out there, there’s always some sort of tension going on, and it didn’t really dawn on me until that afternoon the significance of what had happened.”
The interview played out to the haunting soundtrack of beeping phones, as texts brought updates from the front lines or messages of condolence.
Ely, whose every steely word radiated the sheer gravity of the tragedy, spoke of his own feeling of helplessness after his flight to Israel was cancelled the day before.
He said: “My friends are there now, fighting or prepping to fight. My former classmate is dead, another is kidnapped. Not one person I know doesn’t know someone who has either died, been taken prisoner, or been injured.”
Grandmother Adela was born in England and can recount a story of sitting with her father as they listened to the United Nations counting the votes on whether Israel would be founded as a state in 1948.
She said: “I’m heartbroken. I’m watching the news all the time; it’s killing me.
“They [Hamas] are not human; they are pure evil. It’s unheard of. It’s the worst since the Holocaust.
“If Israel goes in, it’s going to be a high price, because everyone will suffer. I’m very unhappy that innocent Palestinians are getting killed. Had we got this right, we could have all lived happily together.”
Adela’s daughter Linda believes the attack has forced a point of no return.
She said: “It’s a terrorist organisation ruling a country and using the Israel – Palestine conflict as an excuse. They’ve crossed a line, and there comes a point where you have to make a stand.”
Recently graduated and now in full time work, Ely has made the decision to drop his life and take up arms to be a part of that stand. Trained as a gunner in a four-man tank division, his squadron await just outside of Gaza.
He said: “I am not a pacifist and believe in just war. For me, it’s not about Judaism, but Hamas don’t care. They wouldn’t stop and ask me if I am a Jew; they would just decapitate me. They’re not just coming for Jews; they’ve killed Christians and Muslims and various ethnicities. They just want death. Judaism is a cover up. Yes, they want to kill Jews, but they want to kill you too. They just want to kill. It’s not about freeing Palestine.
“It’s hard to put into digestible words for the average western person who doesn’t have to live with this existential threat over their heads, but the most important point is that it doesn’t matter what position you held, if any. It doesn’t matter if you were pro-Israel or pro-Palestine. This is an attack not just on the Jewish people; this is an attack on mankind. It’s a crime against humanity.
“These are terrorists who want to bring death everywhere, and everyone should condemn them.
“If you are pro-Palestine, you are inherently anti-Hamas, because they are not a pro-Palestine organisation at all.
“I am going to fight out of my own interests. It’s an entirely selfish choice. I won’t be doing this to protect some land I don’t care about. I won’t be doing this out of duty to my country or the Jewish people. I will be doing this because my friends and family are so important to me, and I don’t know how I could continue without them, and I’m willing to fight for them.”
Photo credit: Opachevsky Irina / Shutterstock.com