Superheroes in the Middle East

by Brian on October 20, 2023

in In the News,Living Through Terror,Only in Israel,War in Gaza

Palestinian terrorists detonate a radioactive dirty bomb at the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station. 

Israel responds by destroying the Al Aqsa Mosque. 

Iranian missiles whistle towards Israel and – miraculously – vanish midair. 

Leading Iranian clerics and politicians mysteriously die on the spot. 

And then there’s the Ark – the Holy Ark that tradition says carried the 10 commandments – which has been discovered under the Temple Mount and is…inexplicably floating.

Those are the broad plot strokes of the sci-fi novel Alpha and Omega, which I finished reading just hours before Hamas launched its shock pogrom on Israel this past Simchat Torah. 

Alpha and Omega was written by Harry Turtledove, dubbed “the master of alternative history” (he has another book set during World War II where Nazis, Jews, Americans and Russians all team up to fight a bigger enemy: aliens). 

While the narrative Turtledove presents is very different from our current reality, I nevertheless found myself at times mixing up what happened two weeks ago in southern Israel with Turtledove’s audacious fictional attacks.

As the events unfolded on that dreadful morning two weeks ago, I found myself hoping against hope that a supernatural presence would intercede, as in Turtledove’s magical realism.

Alas, there were no superheroes with capes to be found anywhere along the Gaza border in the excruciating first hours of the attack. Neither Iron Man nor Captain America have yet to swoop down from the skies to stop the bad guys with their super strength and superior technology. 

I’ve had superhero envy since I was a child when I was relentlessly bullied at school. After one particularly nasty incident, I ran to my father’s home office, which had a window looking out on our cul-de-sac, stretched my arms wide, and concentrated as hard as I could in order to change the relationship between me and my tormentors.

But it’s all just fantasy. There’s no way to turn back time, as Superman did to save Lois Lane by flying around the earth at super speed, or to “unsnap” Thanos’s decree from Avengers: Infinity War.

But there are heroes in southern Israel. They just aren’t supernatural.

Israeli civilians have stepped up in remarkable ways, volunteering to make, pack and deliver food and supplies to soldiers on the front; standing in line for hours to donate blood; traveling for days on multiple flights to get back to Israel to help. The anti-judicial coup protest groups transformed overnight into aid organizations, applying their proven logistics infrastructure to aid a country in its hour of need.

Among the stories of heroism (I’m writing early in the week, so more tales of bravery will undoubtedly come to light) is that of Rachel Adari from Ofakim who, along with her husband David, was held hostage for 15 hours and stalled the terrorists by serving Coke Zero and cookies and offering to teach them Hebrew in exchange for Arabic lessons.

The Adaris were eventually rescued; the terrorists in their home were killed.

Amir Tibon lives with his wife and daughters on Kibbutz Nahal Oz. When they heard machine gun fire, they barricaded themselves in their safe room. Terrorists were literally on the other side of the door. 

When power was cut, the Tibons had only their cellphones to light the space. After spending hours in the pitch black, a text message arrived: Amir’s father, Noam, a retired IDF general, wrote that he and Amir’s mother were on their way from Tel Aviv. 

While racing towards uncertainty, the elder Tibons encountered young people who had escaped the massacre at the outdoor rave. The Tibons picked them up and dropped them off at a location further north before turning around to head to Nahal Oz again. 

When Noam arrived at Nahal Oz, he quickly joined a firefight. Six terrorists were killed; dozens of kibbutzniks – including Amir and his family – were freed. 

Never have the words “Saba is here” sounded so sweet.

Meanwhile, at Kibbutz Nir Am, 25-year-old Inbal Lieberman, the community’s security coordinator, discerned that the sounds she was hearing from outside were not the usual missiles or incendiary balloons. She quickly unlocked the kibbutz armory, distributed guns, positioned her makeshift “staff” strategically around the kibbutz, and successfully repelled the incursion. 

A key decision: disconnecting the electricity from the kibbutz fence, which prevented the terrorists from getting in. 

Finally, there’s Nuseir Yassin, better known as “Nas Daily,” with some 21 million social media followers.

“Sometimes it takes a shock like this to see so clearly,” he wrote on X (formerly known as Twitter). 

What does he see clearly now?

“For the longest time, I struggled with my identity,” Yassin, 31, who grew up in the Lower Galilee town of Arraba, wrote. “Many of my friends refuse to this day to say the word ‘Israel’ and call themselves ‘Palestinian’ only.”

That bifurcation didn’t make sense to Yassin. “So, I decided to mix the two and become a ‘Palestinian-Israeli.’

“But after recent events, I started to think. And think. And think. And then my thoughts turned to anger. I realized that if Israel were to be ‘invaded’ like that again, we would not be safe. To a terrorist invading Israel, all citizens are targets.

“I do not want to live under a Palestinian government. Which means I only have one home, even if I’m not Jewish: Israel.

“From today forward, I view myself as an ‘Israeli-Palestinian.’ Israeli first. Palestinian second.”

That took courage. Thank you, Nas.

And thank you to all the superheroes in our midst. You may not wear a cape or be able to stop missiles enroute, as Harry Turtledove envisioned, but you’re the real deal. 

I first wrote about superheroes in the Middle East for The Jerusalem Post.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: