The truest eye

November 16, 2023   ·   0 Comments

By Anthony Carnovale

If you want to know just how much your child loves you, look for it in their eyes. A person can tell you that they love you, but it’s in their eyes where you’ll see the extent of that love. Or joy. Or sadness. When you believe in something, love something, the extent of that belief and love is accentuated in the eyes. Mikhail Bulgakov writes in ‘The Master and Margarita’: “The tongue may hide the truth but the eyes—never!” 

The images coming out of the Middle East since Hamas’ October 7 terrorist attack, and Israeli’s subsequent response, have been shocking and horrific: a woman being kidnapped and taken away on the back of a motorcycle as she reaches out for her boyfriend’s hand (she has since been killed); Hamas gunmen methodically picking off Israeli citizens on the streets; terrorists throwing grenades into bomb shelters, burning people alive, even livestreaming their atrocities to the victims’ families; the endless stream of bodies being pulled from the rubble inside the graveyard that is Gaza. As horrific as these images are, there is one picture that has been seared into my memory: my heart. No buildings. No guns. No blood. No deaths. Only children. 

There are eight of them: five boys and three girls. They appear to be in a schoolyard. Maybe a parking lot. It doesn’t matter (bombs don’t discriminate). The oldest boy is in the foreground of the pic. He is cradling a young girl in his arms. Her right hand is holding his, her left hand pressed up against his chest as if looking for a heartbeat; her shirt is pulled up past her navel. He looks as if he is carrying her out of harm’s way. Behind them, one of the boys has his mouth open wide; a young girl has a paper crown firmly planted upon her head. One of the boys is wearing Spider-Man shorts. They are all looking up into the sky- in horror. You can see it in their eyes—death is coming for them. On the wall behind them, a sign reads: Better to Set Your Path with A Smile Than with a Sword. None of the kids are smiling; none of the kids are carrying a sword. It would appear that the sword is coming for them. (If what they say is true, that a picture is worth a thousand words, I’m not sure I’ll be able to make it to the 800 that I need for this column). The picture is a too-perfect tableau of fear. 

And all I can do is sit, watch, and listen, trying not to let my heart break. Try to make sense of the levels of coordination and execution that both sides have put into ensuring the maximum number of casualties, pain, and generational trauma. The nongovernmental organization ‘Save the Children’ has reported that more children have now been killed in Gaza in the last three weeks than the total killed in conflicts around the world in every year since 2019. 

My son is about the same age as the boy carrying the young girl, and my daughter is the same age as the girl in the paper crown. When I look at the picture, I see my own children. And I wonder. And I imagine. Those kids. My kids. Our kids. Who will these children grow up to be? How can these children ­— Israelis and Palestinians — not grow up angry, defeated, hopeless, helpless? Generations of families were wiped out. Their pasts and futures obliterated because of the sins committed by others. This is a conflict where everybody is paying for the crimes of someone else — a war of collective punishment. If what my children see and hear shapes their identity, how does what these kids see shape the rest of their lives? Even if they are still alive, will they ever be allowed to live? 

And still, I can’t look away (I have the photo saved to my desktop). 

I’m feeling helpless. A father. A teacher. A writer. I can only try to raise my children in a home filled with love and compassion and bring that love and compassion out into our own community. To help our neighbours, to welcome newcomers. To make sure that the most vulnerable people in our community are looked after. If violence begets more violence, doesn’t it stand that love can beget more love? I don’t want to think about, and focus on, the violence. Angela Davis wrote: “Placing the question of violence at the forefront almost inevitably serves to obscure the issues that are at the center of struggles for justice”. Instead, I want to focus on the children, those children of Gaza and Israel, the children downstairs watching TV and playing Uno, the children I’m going to go downstairs and hug and profess my love to— and look them in the eyes when I say it.

Readers Comments (0)

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.