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Neighbors

TEL AVIV – During the military operations in Gaza, code-named “Fused Lead” (after a Hanukkah song about a small spinning top – one of that holiday’s symbols – made out of fused lead), we Israelis have been reminded of a fundamental fact: Gaza is not Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, or even Lebanon. It is a region composed of a common country that we share with the Palestinians. It is a country that we call Israel and they call Palestine.

One and a half million people live in Gaza. They are part of a people of whom another 1.3 million live in Israel, and another two million in the West Bank. The men and women of Gaza are our neighbors and have lived back to back with us for a long time, even if we are separated from them by a border.

Our homes and our cities are just a few kilometers from each other, our fields brush up against theirs. The men of Gaza, the activists or policemen of Hamas whom we observe through our military binoculars, were in the past the activists and policemen of Fatah.

They were born in Gaza or pushed there as refugees during the war of 1948, or in other wars. Over the course of the years, they were the masons who built our homes, they washed dishes in the restaurants where we ate, they were the merchants from whom we used to buy goods, and workers in the greenhouses of the kibbutzim.