Israel is in the midst of a brutal war it didn’t want and didn’t initiate. And here at Israel Story we immediately stopped everything we were doing and began releasing “Wartime Diaries,” which is something completely new for us – not exactly stories, but rather quick conversations, or postcards really, that try to capture slivers of life right now.
Thus far we released twenty diaries that shine a light on the pain and resilience that is evident everywhere. We’ve profiled families of hostages and of the fallen. We’ve heard from survivors of the October 7th carnage and from civil society leaders who have initiated incredibly inspiring projects. We’ve asked what it’s like to be a mom at home with four little kids and no kindergarten, or what it’s like to volunteer for reserve duty at the age of fifty. We’ve spoken to farmers and chefs and rock stars. To rabbis and educators and programmers. To a Holocaust survivor and to real world heroes. But one thing that’s common to almost all those from whom we’ve heard is that they represent mainstream Jewish Israeli perspectives.
That’s not a coincidence. Our name is Israel Story, and our team is made up primarily of Israeli Jews. We are not neutral observers. We’re a side to this war. But we also keep in mind our show’s motto – that a person is a person is a person, no matter what. We know that pain is pain is pain, no matter if it’s inflicted in Be’eri or in Khan Younes. Empathy is the core of what we do here at Israel Story, and even now – maybe especially now – empathy is crucial, because everyone is suffering.
We know many people don’t have the desire, or the capacity, to make space for anyone else’s pain during this terrible moment of anguish. And that’s understandable. Now is definitely not the time for any kind of judgment.
But after thinking about it very carefully, our team has decided that in order to remain true to our mission, it’s also important to share stories from the other side. To complicate, and humanize and insert shades of nuance into what can often feel like a black and white, us versus them, reality.
This is not a statement about equivalency or about hierarchy of pain. We’re not here to make political proclamations or point fingers. We’re just us doing what we believe is right – telling the stories we’re hearing among and around us.
Today we’ll hear from Sahar Vardi, a Jewish-Israeli peace activist who lost a dear friend, Khalil Abu Yahia, in Gaza.