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AFFECT OF HAMAS FOOTAGE ON ME
Only woke up from nightmares twice last night. I’m getting better…
Last week I attended a private press screening of footage from the Hamas atrocities. It was 47 minutes of footage recorded by Hamas themselves and captured on CCTV. You can read an account of it here. Attendees weren’t allowed to take phones or recording equipment into the screening. I had a notepad and pen. I sat down in my seat. The entire wall in front of me was a screen.
The film started. The footage was objectively distressing - but I was surprised and impressed with myself that I was immediately okay watching it. I was focused so hard on writing down what I saw that I wasn’t emotionally connecting with the footage. I didn’t have time. I had a job to do. I didn’t gaze too deeply at the HD quality images onscreen as I had to look down at my notepad to scribble notes. I felt like crying a couple of times - when they did something to a baby - or when they did something to a child - but I pushed that down to continue the job - and I was impressively okay.
I left the screening not really remembering much of what I’d seen. I thought, “Oh wow - I got away with that okay. I can’t even picture anything I saw.”
Later I had a pizza and a walk along the sea front. I made a guy in a shop laugh.
That night I burst into tears.
The next day I had to go get a sim card for my phone and I pulled my hat low over my eyes as I burst into uncontrollable sobs while walking the streets. There was sunshine and people sat outside cafes and I was just unable to stop myself sobbing. Deep sobs coming from my chest and my eyes streaming. I sniffled like a child while walking down the street. I couldn’t make it go away. I thought one good cry would get it out my system, but more whimpers and tears just came out of my chest. I was whimpering. And there were images in my mind now. I remembered everything. I saw things Hamas did. Things I don’t have the language or life experience to compute. I was baffled. I don’t understand what I saw. But every part of my body on a cellular level was rejecting it as the most wrong thing that could happen under the sun. It was an accumulaton of every piece of evil since Cane killed Abel. Hamas had mastered the art of sin. And they had conquered morality. They stood in a place where humans were not meant to stand. Where they are no longer human. They were free of all human shackles. They had achieved a power that transcended human frailty but became monstrous in the process.
Things went like this for the next few days. I’d break into an instantaneous sob. I often didn’t even have an image in my mind when I burst into tears. The screening would be mentioned and something in me happened that bypassed any kind of thought. My head would just bow in tears. I went to stay with some family. They picked me up and within ten seconds of being in the car I burst into tears when asked what I’d been up to. Being in a family home and around normal things was a useful antidote. But I’d still break into debilitating sobs when I recalled what Hamas did or if someone tried to speak to me about it.
It was also confusing and annoying. I wasn’t depressed! But yet I’d break into tears. I didn’t understand it. I wasn’t depressed but I’d cry like a broken man.
I’d had no sleep since I got to Israel. That obviously didn’t help. I’d visited a kibbutz that had experienced a massacre. That didn’t help. But still I thought I’d be okay.
The video fucked me up against me will.
The human brain has built no immunity against the things Hamas filmed.
It put some kind of splinter in my head. But simply being aware of that and wanting it to be out didn’t mean it would come out.
I thought I’d improve as days went by but my outbursts seemed to be just as intense. I worried if things continued like this I’d have some kind of mental breakdown.
I didn’t want to keep seeing what they did to that man.
I was also frustrated because I’d come to Israel to help and I didn’t want to be taken out of the fight with a mental injury. The particular skillset I have means I have to stay immersed in all the ugly shit. I wish I could just pack food for soldiers. If I can communicate well it’s because I’m sensitive and stuff flows into me. I become what I see. People have been demanding my time and I’m trying to help as much as possible but it was getting difficult to be useful to them or myself. In this spirit I didn’t have any macho pride. I’d openly tell people I wasn’t feeling great and didn’t feel shy if I cried in front of them. I didn’t really have a choice. I just wanted to try and find a way to temporarily shovel shit out of my head so I can keep being of service.
The other night I had to move accommodation. I hired an airbnb but then a friend of a friend offered for me to stay at their place whilst they were away. I cancelled the airbnb and I arrived at the accommodation. It was night and I met a neighbour who had the key. We went up the dark stairwell and everything felt off. It was a world of flickering lights and mosquitos. We stood outside the apartment as she searched for the key. There was this terrible noise above us. “What’s that?” “That’s the arabs upstairs drilling.” We went inside and the occupants had left the house a total mess. It all felt grim to me. And the sound of drilling continued upstairs. And the world felt like cockroaches. And I knew once the door shut behind me this would be the most awful night alone. So I plucked up the courage and overcame my politeness and said I can’t stay there. I called a friend and asked them to find me a hotel.
Whilst that was being arranged I waited in the apartment of the woman with the keys and her baby. Toys were everywhere. I was trying to politely respond to her conversation as a cartoon about trains was playing, but I was quietly managing a panic attack as I saw in my mind dead people on her floor amongst her baby’s toys and lying by the fluttering curtains.
Arranging the hotel was taking time and it was getting late.
In that time a family friend phoned and I started crying to them. Their daughter then messaged and said I could stay with them so I stayed at hers for the night, cried a few times in conversation, and had my first rocket experience - going into a safe room twice. I got about one hours sleep after trying to kill some mosquitos at four am.
The next afternoon I got a bit better because I tried not to talk about war things with people. I tried to give more territory in my mind to healthy things. I got an hours sleep in the day. I felt better when I transitioned from fear to healthy anger in a video - which was a relief because I was pushing my feelings outwards rather than crumbling inwards. I spoke to a lawyer friend who has worked on cases involving war crimes and has seen things. I got a good night’s sleep and felt good in the morning. I had a few moments of anxiety overcome me during the day. But it feels like they’re becoming less frequent and less powerful. I did cry again after speaking to a pair of siblings whose sister has been kidnapped and who asked me if I’d seen the video. When we hugged goodbye in tears it felt like the first real hug I’ve had since I’ve been here.
A trauma therapist kindly arranged to see me for free. And time passing seems to be helping. I’m glad I reacted badly because it means I’m a normal healthy human being. A healthy person should be horrified. Only an insane or wicked person could be comfortable with the crimes Hamas committed.
I don’t know what the language is yet to describe what I saw. I’m not sure what the vocabulary is. They did things that I don’t understand. I don’t understand how they did the things they did. I saw them do things and I don’t understand how they did it. To be able to do what they did is almost a superpower. It’s a superpower I don’t want. To be able to do they things they did and feel nothing but happiness. To be able to inflict that level of cruelty and be utterly indifferent to the people crying.
This is an account of how I’ve been affected. I wasn’t even there. I’m not even a family member of someone taken hostage. I wasn’t on a kibbutz hiding. I haven’t had to bury someone.
God only knows how the victims will get through this. I can only hope He does know and He doesn’t keep it to Himself.
We need to help the victims. There has to be an international coalition of love to help them through this.
As for the terrorists?
I don’t believe in the death penalty, but I believe those Hamas involved in the atrocities have to die. I hope the IDF kill them all. I hope they die in the sun or underground in darkness. I hope they die awake or asleep. I hope they die by bullets or bombs. They cannot be allowed to infect the world with their actions or words. I still don’t understand what I saw in the footage Hamas shot. I can only repeat myself: there is no vocabulary for it. It is almost a superpower to be able to behave the way they did. A superpower I don’t want. To commit such acts of evil - such inventive cruelty - and to have no pangs of empathy or conscience. They look like us and they have hands and legs - but they’re not us. They have eyes but the windows into their souls go into a charnel house where they wash themselves with skulls. We can’t share this world with whatever they are or whatever is inside them. They didn’t open a gate to hell. They are hell. And hell smiled to see its work. They want to devour anything that is not them. Which is any human incapable of doing what they did to women, children and babies for thirty six hours.
They mastered the art of sin and it is something no human should have ever learned to do, because now there are monsters among us. We cannot share the planet with them.
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