Friday, August 29, 2014

Back to Normal

All over Israel, things are settling back to normal. I've spent much of the last 50 days writing about the military aspects of the conflict and how they impacted on daily life around Israel.

What we didn't have was summer - oh, it was hot and dry as usual. Things were slow and people did take vacation but everywhere there was something missing - not a sense of peace, because we've never had that. But there was this unsettled feeling. If we were having fun, we felt bad because those in the south were sitting in bomb shelters and running to safety. How could we having fun?

And if weren't having fun, we felt the summer slipping away and time running down. We usually go camping - we didn't. We try to take a day here or there; we really didn't.

Aliza started school today. Yesterday, I drove Davidi to his new Hesder yeshiva program. Shmulik is settling into his beautiful new apartment; Elie and Lauren are still unpacking their boxes. Amira bought her son a pool and he's been enjoying the water for a while now. Aliza took pictures of Amira's son and Elie's daughter yesterday - I wish I had permission to post the pictures - they are so so sweet.

Rosh Hashana isn't far away - one month...the summer flew by with so much sadness that each drop of happiness is celebrated. Today was a good day - a friend had a granddaughter born; another friend announced her son just got engaged. Two friends have children getting married in the next few weeks; another friend's son got married last night.

It's a subtle message that life goes on.

And if the world isn't insane enough - for the last two days, Syrian rebels and government forces have been fighting very close to the Israeli border and someone has fired mortars and shot into Israel. An Israeli officer was moderately wounded, but is doing well.

The UN has a "peacekeeping" force on the Syrian-Israeli border. I have to tell you, the UN doesn't have much luck (or courage). In 1967, the UN forces were ordered by Egypt's Nasser to retreat and without hesitation, they did.

Again and again, each time tensions rose on the borders, the first to run was always the UN and once again today, the UN peacekeeping forces decided keeping the peace was too dangerous and so they ran into Israel, away from the Syrian violence.

So, our children are back in school; the UN is on the run; Syria is threatening; Gaza and Lebanon aren't so far behind - in short, things are back to normal.

On a personal note, once again it has been proven that the fastest way to get your stats go crazy is to be involved in a war. I spoke to journalists from several countries - Brazil, England, Sweden and the US; my blog was again quoted in The Guardian.

And as the number of visitors grew each day into the thousands, I waited for things to go back to normal, when the rockets stopped, the reservists sent home, and the curious who came to read my blog would get bored. It's happened several times in the past - and amazingly enough, contrary to most bloggers, I am more at peace with my regular group would leave and I and my long-term friends would be back to the familiar.

There are sites that get tens of thousands of visitors a day...I'm so happy to have those who come to share, to comment, to read. Thousands of visitors a day for me means life is not normal, that my country is going through the worst of times.

So, to those who came for a while and now will look elsewhere, thanks for visiting and I hope that maybe I provided some insight into what it was like here in Israel over these last 50+ days.

And to the rest of you - thank you for being here, for commenting, for reading. I have felt your support across oceans and seas, in Israel and from all over.

Israel's army is slowly returning to its normal level of alert, grateful that as bad as it was, it wasn't worse. Sometimes that's all we can hope for.

And as Thursday ends and Friday comes, here in Israel, we get ready to do what we do each week - cook and clean and prepare...shabbat shalom.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Day 50 - Are we there yet?

Yesterday was Day 50 of Operation Protective Edge and in the end, the day ended in a ceasefire that is supposed to last for 30 days, during which the sides are supposed to talk and get to some long range agreement.

Today, Ismail Abdel Salam Ahmed Haniyeh, leader of the Palestinians in Gaza, crawled out of the bunker in which he hid for the last 50 days. Much of the world laughed when he claimed victory in no uncertain terms.

Israel was under pressure to accept a ceasefire. The pressure came from beyond our borders - this is unacceptable; and the pressure came from the calendar - and this is understandable.

In just a few days, the new school year will open. Yesterday, a nursery schools was destroyed - had this happened next week, we could have lost so many children. Today, my daughter and many high schools students begin.

The ceasefire was announced to begin at 7:00 p.m. - I saw a few places that said it would begin at 8:00 p.m. If indeed it began at 7:00 p.m., Gaza clearly broke it within minutes.

If it began at 8:00 p.m. - then a last (fatal) barrage was fired at Israel a short time before. The barrage lasted more than a half hour, involved dozens of rockets - including in areas in central Israel and resulted in the death of two Israelis.

All day long, they pounded us with rockets - over 100 hit in the Eshkol region very close to the Gaza border; but others were fired throughout the south and even central Israel.

In the end, two interesting things happened around 8:00 p.m.

Gaza came out into the streets to celebrate their victory and Israel accepted that this war may finally be over.

The idea of Gaza celebrating was both amusing and informative. It was amusing because once again, Gazans fired into the air to celebrate and once again, gravity defeated them and dozens were evacuated to local hospitals. How hard is it to understand the concept of gravity?

But also, there is something quite interesting in their choosing to celebrate. This is a people that shouted that we were committing genocide and had destroyed nearly all of Gaza. It would take, they swore to the world, decades to undo the terrible damage. 

From 1939 to 1945, the Germans committed genocide against the Jewish people. Any Jew was their target - old, young, male, female. Over 1.5 million Jewish children were murdered.

Overall, if one were to do a statistical analysis of the casualties of the Holocaust, one would find that babies died in similar numbers to elderly; men in similar numbers to women. I would guess, young people in their late teens and twenties had a better chance of survival because they were put to work by the Nazis. I know that most of my husband's relatives of that age (men and women in this age range), returned while most of the older and younger family members were murdered.

And in the devastation that followed the Holocaust, Jews did not celebrate - not even their liberation from the death camps. The first time I think we celebrated was three years later, when Israel was created...recreated, after 2,000 years in exile.

The interesting part about this conflict that seems to have come to an end, at least for this round, is the casualties. There is no question, other than among a fringe bunch of lunatics (one of which even wrote to me), that the Jews of Europe did not go to war against the Germans, before, during or even after WWII.

Overwhelmingly, Jewish men in their late teens, twenties and even thirties had a better chance of survival than women, children, the elderly.

And what we see from the statistics of dead in Gaza, is an overwhelming number of men these same ages. Children are by far well under-represented, as are women and elderly. In other words, a large number of the dead in Gaza were military age...connect the dots.

What is happening now is a retrospective of 50 days at war - the longest single operation/war we have ever experienced. Israel hit Hamas hard, very hard and yes, Hamas didn't fall. To the very last minute - and fifteen minutes beyond, Hamas continued to fire rockets, even at Tel Aviv. 

Throughout the day, as it became clear that there would be a ceasefire, Hamas bombarded Israel with rockets.

In total, almost 5,000 rockets were fired at Israel in just 50 days.

No, Hamas continued - but not because we didn't cause them any damage. Instead, it is part of the mindset - as completely inaccurate as their claiming victory in the end.

Day 50 ended in a ceasefire. The signs on the highways warning that you should pull safely to the side if you hear a siren, have turned back into regular highway signs warning you to check your tires, what number to call in case there is an accident. The flags and signs remain - the people aren't quite as ready as the government to believe this is over.

Aliza thought she heard a siren at one point; we all still listen and check the news. A few ceasefires ago (this is the twelfth - Hamas broke all the other 11, a perfect record - not one agreement honored), the mother of one soldier came over and told me how happy she was that it was over. I didn't have the heart to tell her it wasn't over...but now, I believe it is.

The truest end to war is peace. So far, for eleven ceasefires, we didn't even get to a cessation of violence. But peace...

Are we there yet? No. And sadly, it's been a long time since I believed we would ever get there. The only difference now, post war, is that so many more Israelis now stand beside me in believing that peace is not possible so long as Hamas is the legally elected representatives of the Palestinian people. A poll released today says that 89% of the Palestinians are in favor of firing rockets at Israel. 89% - that tells you so much about the enemy we face.

Someone wrote to me complaining that nothing had been accomplished. I don't agree with her and think she is being unfair, especially since she lives in the US, not here. I shouldn't have to explain to her and yet I find myself trying to break through the militant voice she so easily spews out. We did a tremendous amount to push Hamas back. Tunnels were destroyed; their top military leaders removed permanently from the equation.

Their rocket arsenals have been seriously depleted. I believe I saw a report that said our military intelligence estimated they had around 10,000 at the start. Close to half of those were fired at us, many thousands more were destroyed in the hospitals, mosques, homes, and tunnels they converted to arsenals. Of course, we were condemned by the UN and France and others for daring to destroy these arsenals because of the shapes and sizes of the buildings in which they stored, but that's okay because we value the lives we save more than the voices we would hope to have silenced by not bombing these legitimate military targets.

In January, 2009, as Elie fought with his unit - I wrote a mosque is not an arsenal and an arsenal is not a mosque. This is true of hospitals and schools. The minute UNRWA schools were used to store rockets, they ceased being schools and became legitimate military targets - even Ban-Ki Moon admitted that.

It will take Hamas years to recuperate, to get back to the level they were 51 days ago. Is that enough? No - it stinks that we can't utterly and completely remove Hamas forever from the picture. But Hamas played this brilliantly and did all it could to show the world its true colors. If the world is too blind to see or too filled with hate to admit this, that is their loss, and ours.

Foreign journalists, reluctantly and resentfully, in some cases, ultimately added their voices and pictures to show Hamas firing from civilian areas, hiding behind children, and lying about the number of casualties.

Like many in Israel, I wish we could have finished the job, permanently buried Hamas. Without question, we brought Hamas to its knees and that will have to be enough. If the Palestinians can honor a leader that hid under ground while his people took the brunt of the war he waged, that is their loss.

Benjamin Netanyahu has claimed victory. This is to be expected of a politician and yet, despite the politics of it, he's right. Ultimately, the victory is ours because as a nation, we did what we could to protect our young and now we stop this was for them. Hamas stole their summer. There was no camp, little fun. They were mostly inside, awakened night after night. In a few days, they will start school and, as children do, bounce back. For our children, we would do all and despite many political differences, with this I agree with Bibi.

The reality of the Middle East could have been changed in this war, had we been allowed to do what needed to be done. Instead, the history and the future, at least for now, will be the same. We will all bounce back...and then, in a year or two or three...we'll do this all again in an operation or a war with a different name.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

STOP - They Are Bombing My People

Surreal...just surreal. I'm sitting in a meeting and as we go around the table speaking of tasks and accomplishments over the last two weeks of work at this hi-tech company - in the last 30 minutes, the screen constantly goes red on the small window on the side of my laptop. Again and again.

"They are bombing my people," I want to scream. Except that everyone here in the room is "my people" too. There is one that connects from Germany. He sits there and listens, has no idea that my screen is turning red; no idea that my heart cries as I explain what tasks were accomplished, what problems there were in delivering the document before him.

The names of the communities mean nothing to him, to most people in the world but each is so precious, so beautiful. Each is a community built with love, tended by people who chose to live there.

Nahal Oz, where little Daniel was killed; Alumim, where another friend lives and close to where Elie was stationed during Cast Lead. Be'eri, beautiful Be'eri. Kissufim, that I passed so many times driving south.

On and on...

They are running for their lives, or sitting in their bomb shelters afraid to leave because only there are they truly safe. I want to scream in this meeting. I am asked an opinion and I speak..and as I speak, my screen turns red. Do I stop and say - they are bombing my people! Or do I answer the question...

And, of course, I speak. I answer questions...and my heart cries. They are bombing my people.

The Sound of Scared

This morning as I was driving to Tel Aviv - early because I prefer to beat the traffic, the 6:00 a.m. report said that there had been no rocket fire from Gaza since 9:00 p.m. You're tempting fate, I thought to myself.

And sure enough, a short while later - sirens in Ashkelon. A few minutes later - Rishon L'Zion - far enough north to begin to worry. If the missiles were ont point on a graph and I was another - we would collide in the middle somewhere. Of course, the rockets - for the good and the bad - fly faster than I'll ever drive.

They're firing up here, I thought to myself - coming north. I was passing the airport - a major target (which in practical terms means the airport is fine and everyone else around it has to worry). I moved to the left lane so that if I had to stop, there would be a place and a dividing wall. Many other cars did the same and traffic slowed dramatically. What a concept this is, I thought to myself - driving to work waiting for a rocket. In what world? And the answer, of course, is only in Israel. And how the world finds that acceptable is quite sickening. How the world can worry not about those being fired upon, but those who are firing the rockets.

And yes, I know the world isn't worried about Hamas, they are worried about the poor Palestinian civilians...who continue to ignore when we drop leaflets in targeted areas, who climb to the roof tops of buildings because they know that we won't fire if we identify them up there, who don't build bomb shelters but use the cement that could save their lives to build attack tunnels and bunkers for their leaders. These are the people who worry the world and bring the vile Chris Guinness, spokesperson for UNRWA, to his knees in fear.

So mixed in with my concern, as I thought of this, was anger. They are firing at over one million people who are doing nothing but waking up, showering, and driving to work.

And within a few seconds, more cities. I could feel my heart begin to race - seriously. Tel Aviv...Jaffo...Herziliya...that's where I'm headed. Shoham...Rosh Ha'ayan. Shoham is somewhat close to where my sister lives; Rosh Ha'ayin is very close to where my parents live. Rosh Ha'ayin on one side; Tel Aviv in the distance on the other.

It was about 6:30 a.m. and I decided to call my parents and wake them. My father answered and I explained quickly - I didn't hear the name of the city where they live, but I had already figured that it was too hard for me to listen for their city and listen other places while calculating where I was and if I needed to stop.

I looked at the sky long after anything fired from Gaza would have landed. A friend driving from the north of Herziliya saw Iron Dome take out two rockets - or at least be fired twice.

Israelis have come to the call to the bomb shelter relatively calmly - we go, we sit and even if there is a direct hit - as there was a few minutes ago on a house in Ashkelon, most often, the people are okay. It's only possessions and that is not what we worship.

But being on the road adds a whole new dimension of scared. This is why Gaza fires. After close to 4,000 rockets and mortars, even they know they are unlikely to hit anything major with our amazing Iron Dome. They killed little Daniel on Saturday only because he lived in a beautiful village so close to Gaza, built long ago when people still believed peace would come some day.

No, Gaza doesn't really fire to kill, they fire to terrorize.

Monday, August 25, 2014

How Homemade is this Rocket?

One laughable claim that Palestinians and their misguided supporters like to lob at Israel is that the rockets and mortars they fire at us - like the one that killed little Daniel Tragerman two days ago, were "homemade."

I don't know what kind of home they have or what they think home is, but home is not where you store rockets and certainly not where you make them.

This is the remains of a rocket that was shot out of the sky by our amazing Iron Dome.

Homemade? This rocket piece looks to be about as long as that man is tall. Even if he's short - it's a good 5 feet long.

Homemade? Maybe we've gotten to the root of the Palestinian-Israeli problem - if this is the kind of homes they have, no wonder there can be no peace.

Sirens sounding now in Nahal Oz. Alumim. Yad Mordechai. Netiv Ha'asarah.

Day 48 - How is this Possible?

I have to work. God, I have to work. I can't work. I can't think. I am bombarded by messages of hate and though on the outside I try not to show that they get to me, deep down they do. Not because I doubt, even for a second what Israel is doing, and why, but because hate is an overpowering emotion. It is ugly and ignorant; it is irrational and loud. So many Israelis are on edge - traffic accidents are up, people are tired of the rockets - even those of us living in relative quiet.

Sirens in Alumim and Nahal Oz (where little Daniel was killed on Saturday)

I keep thinking they have to run out of rockets; that

Sirens in Kerem Shalom

that they have to stop - but they don't. Yesterday morning I was in Tel Aviv - a few short hours later, a rocket hit empty fields.

Sirens in Kerem Shalom
Sirens in Kerem Shalom

Not even time to type a sentence - this is how it goes...all day long. How can I work? How can I write documents and proposals in the midst of this? Oh, it's simple enough really. I'm far enough away

Sirens in Kerem Shalom 

I'm far enough away that I can just shut the application, close the browser and not hear - but what right do I have to do that? I have so many friends who tell me that they can't listen to the news anymore. I understand the feeling but I can't. We all center the world around us - we see through our eyes, our experiences...but somehow I carry this idea that I have to see it all - through my eyes and theirs. I have friends in the south - how can I sit at a desk and type when they are running for their lives - literally.

Little Daniel was killed in his living room because for some reason, he didn't run to the shelter like he always did. His parents will live with that - though with two smaller children and seconds to get to shelter, had they hesitated, they could all have died - Daniel, the other two younger children, and them.

And yesterday, hour after hour - and today again, endless rockets. Yesterday, a German woman lectured me on humanity and I lost it. She dares to accuse Israel of murdering innocents? Sometimes, I'll admit, it is 

Sirens in Yad Mordechai and Netiv Ha'asarah
Status Update
By Miriam from the south...

Good morning everyone...Yesterday from 6:22 a.m until midnight Israeli citizens were bombarded with 135 missiles..on day 48 I have only one is this possible?

This is totally unacceptable!
Sirens in Yad Mordechai and Netiv Ha'asarah

Our morale is not broken; we are not too tired to fight. Our soldiers know what they do is holy and right - no, not a holy war, that isn't what we Jews fight. We do not believe war is holy; Jihad is not ours. But to defend life is holy; to live and fight to live - that is right.

But I'm sad today - sadder than I've been in a long time and tears come easily. Last night, Aliza saw a newspaper I had brought home. It had a picture of little Daniel Tragerman, who was only four and a half when he was killed.

"Did he die?" Aliza asked him though I didn't have to answer because born in Israel and 14, she reads Hebrew faster and more fluently than I ever will be able to read it. 

"He was in the living room," she told me, though I knew it already. 

"Why didn't his parents take him to the shelter?" she asked.

"Don't blame them," I practically begged her. "They did what they could. It was impossible." She lowered her head and started to cry and her tears broke me in a way that 7 weeks haven't. To watch your child cry over the death of a words, just such sorrow. No way to comfort her. I just held her and cried too - for Daniel, for Miriam, for Miriam's children, one of whom I know - and Devorah's children, for all of Israel's children. 

Daniel's parents have decided not to ever return to their home, to Nahal Oz so close to Gaza. They had a mere three seconds...they lost Daniel. How could they possibly have protected him?

That's what I thought of when I read Miriam's words, "How is it possible?'

How is it possible that I can receive so many messages of hate - Hitler should have killed you all; that we should all be gassed, that Hitler was right. That we, not the Syrians, not the Iraqis, not the Nigerians or North Koreans, not the Russians, not the Ukrainians, not ISIS, not Hamas, not Hizbollah - that we are the greatest threat...little the moral, physical, economic, and social balance of the world.

That we started the genocide of the Palestinian people in 1948 - when they attacked us with five armies...

That we dropped nuclear bombs on Gaza in this

That half the dead in Gaza are, only if you define children as men in their 30s with rifles and rocket launchers.

How is it possible - in 2014 - that people can be so stupid?

Sirens in Kerem Shalom

Sirens in Kfar Aza and Kibbutz Sa'ad

Sirens in Kfar Aza and Kibbutz Sa'ad

Listen - He Speaks Truth

A young soldier speaks of his experience in Gaza. He's not a trained spokesman; not a propagandist. He's simply one soldier who was called to fight and did what he had to do. You'd have to be blind to think he is not sincere - both in his determination to do what he is required to do to protect Israel and in his attempt to avoid harming innocents in Gaza while doing it.

He, like so many of our soldiers, were put in a horrible position of having to decide whether to let the Hamas soldier escape, or harm the young child behind whom the Hamasnik was hiding.

The decision has to be made in a split second and often involves endangering your own life - because while you hesitate, the Hamas gunman does not.

Listen to this soldier - yes, he is wearing the uniform of Israel but note that unlike Hamas, he does not hide his face; he does not lie. He is telling you the truth - and if you are too blind to see it, the fault lies with you and not with him.

More Sirens than a Person Can Count

I started this on Friday, otherwise. If I had started it today, I would have called it "Goodbye, Daniel."

Somewhere in Israel, there is someone responsible for counting how many rockets Hamas fired at us today, this week, this month, this year and all of the 15 or so years or more that it has been firing at us. I don't know how many fell. I only know that it seemed endless.

Today and yesterday, I have been balancing the needs of three children, missing one terribly, and realizing the fourth is about to move on and out and with all that has happened this summer, he was robbed of so much.

My children, like most of the kids in Israel, have had virtually no summer. Who could think with what was happening here?

Today, yesterday, the day before, last week and even last month, Israel has had endless attacks.

There is almost nothing else in the news other than the attacks...or there was nothing new, until yesterday when a family with three children heard the Color Red warning. Their oldest child, Daniel was outside. He had three seconds to get to safety - he didn't make it.

Daniel Tregerman died yesterday and today his family and all of Israel mourn today. At his funeral, this morning, his mother Gila spoke words a mother should never have to say:
Daniel my sweetheart, I cannot believe I am here now, saying
goodbye. We were the happiest family in the world, and I just cannot come to grips with it. We wanted to say thanks, you taught us how to love and you gave us some much joy. I find solace in the fact that you were a loved and happy child until your last minute.
We wanted to protect you but even the code red siren failed to save you. You would always run first and call your little brother (to the shelter) and then in a second it ended. We don't want to say goodbye. You are the love of my life, the perfect child, every parent's dream: Smart, sensitive, ahead of his age group and beautiful, so beautiful.
Mourning the loss of Daniel, President Reuven Rivlin delivered these words:
President Rivlin (Photo: Motti Kimchi)

"We dreaded the moment more than anything. We saw preschools suffer hits and abandon bikes and we knew the terrorists have no regard for the blood of their children would not spare our own."

"He was too young to cross the street by himself because it was dangerous, but old enough to know the Code Red siren means because that too is dangerous; he was stilling learning the alphabet but knew the difference between a shelter and mortar, between an interception and a hit, between birds chirping and the rockets shrieking.

"I think of a flower growing here, with its stem being cut. Cut be an evil hand, cutting a life and smile that will never be seen again. I think of a mother and father, and brother and sister who lost their sibling, their son. They lost you Daniel, the most precious of things in the world."

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Does this look like a defeated army?

After 32 days of Reserve Duty - some soldiers have a message for Israel and the world. Note that they don't address Gaza...

Gaza would have you believe they were victorious, that our troops left in defeat...this is the best response I have found yet. Proof, like most of what Hamas says - lies...all lies.

Here are our glorious, undefeated army - or part of it anyway. While the standing army is made up of young men, generally 18 - 22 years old, these are the Reserves - made up of men in their late 20s, 30s, and even into their 40s. They are free from much of the discipline enforced on the standing army - free to show what they really think, free to sing to the world a message that is so much a part of the Israeli psyche - no matter what today brings, even on a day when our hearts break after the death of a young Israeli child, the first and we pray the last of our children to pay this price...we live in a beautiful country - watch this once just to look at the scenery! Each day here is the best day of our lives!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Threat Like No Other

Last night, Hamas made a threat. No one believed they would carry it out. And if they did, those same "no ones" never believed they would be successful. So all in all, the sun rose this morning in Israel, people woke up, showered or not, dressed (hopefully), drank their morning coffee or tea, took it in a traveling cup or set off for work expecting to drink something when they arrive.

The roads were packed in the typical places, a bit light because it is the end of August but Israel morning traffic as usual. Radios were on because that's how most Israelis drive, with regular news breaks on most stations, because that's how most Israelis live. And above, in the skies, it was relatively normal, if a bit more tense than usual.

No major incoming or outgoing flight disruptions were seen by the outside world. In the past, under credible threat, Israel has ordered planes to "collect" further offshore and then our jets fly them in safely. I remember once hearing that the planes, flown by former IDF pilots, landed every 45 seconds as the air force circled and protected them.

Last night, Hamas threatened to fire rockets at Ben Gurion International Airport at 6:00 a.m. Elie left to pick up Lauren and the baby, scheduled to arrive at 7:00. Security was tight, even when Elie got there, but the planes flew in as normal. It was a matter of pride and a signal to Hamas.

No, you are not going to change us; you are not going to ruin our lives as you have ruined the lives of the people of Gaza. It was meant to be a threat like no other - how many times is an international airport threatened with disaster? I've heard of airports closing because of bomb threats, but not on a scale such as this.

Today, our international airport was threatened - but like most of Hamas' threats, they were intended to cause terror (which they didn't) and to cause disruptions (of which there were none).

Lauren and the baby landed safely and are now back home with Elie in their new apartment.

Only two airlines heeded Hamas' warning - those would be the airlines of Jordan and Turkey - all the rest of the world is beginning to understand that Hamas is nothing more than a terror organization experiencing the end of its existence. The only real question at this point, is how much of Gaza it will take with it into extinction.

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