Friday, 16 November 2012

The View from Here

A facebook status by a friend and neighbour, posted yesterday, says so much about the situation as we see it from here - just far enough away - at least for now, from the missiles. I couldn't have said it better, so I won't. Here it is verbatim, reprinted with permission, from Sophie Vardi.

A perspective from Modiin

I felt the need to write something to say to friends throughout the world that despite the fact that we face extremely worrying days ahead, it should also be noted that life is continuing in some ways as normal. However, the background of war is very much in the forefront of our minds. We have been instructed by the IDF not to post status about where rockets have been fired so I won't be writing about those details of events today. You only have to look at the Jerusalem Post, Ynet or MFA websites and you will get the facts rather than read the bias seen on BBC, CNN or the likes. Rather, I want to write about the way we as individuals can respond to the situation. Life should, as long as it is safe, continue as normal. We should go about our normal lives and not spread panic and fear. That is what the likes of those in Gaza want. Disruption and fear on its highest level. We have to fight back.

I'm sure I can speak on behalf of many in Israel that few people could sleep last night and even less tonight as the tension heats up in the region. All day, people on facebook have been updating their status about their safe rooms and the general situation. On one hand it is informative and people here feel the need to be heard about what is actually happening here and show solidarity with those in the front line. I get that. I too have posted my status about how I support the people of south etc. However, what occurred to me so much as the day progressed and the intensity increased is that the facebook/twitter/social media updates also spreads panic and fear- exactly what terrorists want.

The panic is legitimate; people, including myself, are extremely worried when a barrage of rockets are targeting our fellow civilians in the south; are targeting are fellow Israelis in suburbs in central Israel and we all worry about whether they will reach our own city. Yet at the same time life is also continuing as normal, at least it is at the moment here. Less so in other parts of the country but we need it to continue as normal as possible, as long as it is safe to do so.

As individuals, we need to fight back in our own way against the men and woman who seek our destruction. Our children must go to gan and school and have their daily routine, despite the fact they were told about the situation by their teachers in a child appropriate way. Our children are aware that some ‘aba's’ have to spend some time over the next few days in the army and special tefillot were said to protect them. This is a reality of life in Israel. Our children learn young, as one day they will become the IDF of the future. We must continue as usual as we go about our daily lives, albeit that the radio plays songs that are thoughtful and poignant and the Israeli Russian cashier in the supermarket remarks about how worrying the situation is in Gaza. In her words, "Matzav lo tov" (situation's not good) and then we shared a moment of silence. Not exactly a deep analysis of the situation but somehow so direct and poignant. We are all getting on with our daily lives yet our minds and hearts are connected with those sitting in their safe rooms, unable to continue life as normal. We connect to our soldiers who are fighting for our safety and our right as civilians to live in peace, yet risking their own lives to safeguard ours.

This double situation of knowing that actually today on some levels was so very normal (I took my kids to gan (nursery), worked, went to the shops, picked them up, went to the park, made supper, played, did homework, read stories and finally got them to bed-my most difficult challenge of the day!) Yet the day was so very NOT normal.

It was a day that every few minutes I checked the headlines, worrying about the civilian loss and the potential escalation that could lead to IDF casualties if a ground operation into Gaza occurs, which could result in severe losses on our side. Each soldier is someone's son, brother, father. No one wants to see another Israeli soldier’s coffin draped in our flag. Yet the people of the south and now those in central Israel, cannot live in the very real fear that they are the constant target of rockets attacks from Hamas militants in Gaza.

It was a day that I felt so incredibly frustrated by the bias seen in the media. Why is the world so slow to react to this?

It was a day that I shared in the worrying of friends in other parts of the country, who are more directly affected by the situation. It was a day where I said a few extra prayers and hoped that a "Neis Gadol Haya Po"[1] will happen this Rosh Chodesh Kislev.

It was also a day that I felt so Israeli. Being here nearly a decade, it struck me how this really is so part of the backdrop of life. I have been in this situation before, the second intifada where suicide attacks were frequent in the early years of my aliya. I remember stocking up the safe room only weeks after arriving in Israel. We lived through the second Lebanon war again feeling so connected yet not directly affected. It was during this time I opened my home to people from the south and here we are again, people offering random strangers shabbat hospitality to make life a little more normal for those in the direct line of fire. That is part of being an Israeli. No stranger is a stranger, we are all connected ...our pain is shared for those who lost their lives today at the hands of Hamas militants. Our prayers join for those who were injured by shrapnel, including an infant. Our hearts go out to them.

It was also a day that I remembered an article entitled "Fighting Terrorism on the Basketball Court” written by my colleague, Dr Boaz Ganor,
the founder and the Executive Director of the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism, Dr Ganor was interviewed after a suicide attack in 1997, orchestrated by Hamas, likely to have been planned by the same terrorist who was eliminated yesterday. In the article, he was asked what individual citizens do in the face of terrorism?
He answered, "accept your fear, assess your level of personal threat, and respond accordingly. Ganor was then asked
“What are you going to do about this right now?” he asked me.

“I’m going out to fight terrorism.”


“I’m going to play basketball.”

The journalist was astonished. “Look,” Ganor said, “I was pained by news of the attack, but I play basketball every Thursday, and today will be no exception. Believe me, I’m not in the mood to play basketball, but my personal message to the terrorists is: I am not changing my way of life because of you.”

It is my prayer, shared by many religious and secular alike, that we will ALL be able to continue life as normal in all parts of Israel. No one wants war, but Israel must defend itself and enable its citizens to live in quiet and play basketball!! (or whatever takes their fancy!)

May G-d protect all our brave soldiers and may calm return to our borders.

On final thing, when IDF soldier Nachshon Wachsman was kidnapped in October 1994, his mother requested all Jewish women to light an extra shabbat candle that Friday night. When Gilad Shalit was kidnapped in June1996, masterminded by Ahmed Jabari, many did the same. At times like this, when we as a nation are being targeted by those who seek our destruction, it seems fitting to add an extra candle as we bring in Shabbat, to add some extra light into the darkness of this world. I will light an extra candle, will you?

Shabbat shalom.
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[1] Reference to the story of Chanukah, which will be celebrated this month. It is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple (the Second Temple) in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt of the 2nd century BCE. The words "Neis Gadol Haya Sham" mean a Great miracle happened here”.

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