Thursday, October 25, 2012

500 Rockets and not one demonstration

I write mostly about the positive and/or humorous side of life in Israel, even when it’s not so positive or humorous.
Not so today. I can’t help it, and so if you don’t want to read my sadness- and outrage-filled blog, stop now.

A month ago, an Israeli soldier, 20-year old Corporal Natanel Yahalomi from Nof Ayalon, was killed while serving on the Sinai border. I don’t know if it was the fact that he came from the village where my oldest son is now living, or that he was the same age as my second son who is also currently serving in the army, or that he was a hesder soldier as all three of my sons are (one post army, one in the army, and one pre-army), or whether it was that he was shot and killed while giving water to African refugees attempting to illegally enter Israel, but something in his death affected me very profoundly. I sat staring at his picture on the computer and crying. I remember I had trouble sleeping that night, and when I went to work on Sunday (he was killed on a Friday, but I only heard about it Saturday night – by Sunday it was old news) I could not get him out of my mind. I did not know him or his family, yet I felt like I did.

A few days ago, an officer, Captain Ziv Shilon, was critically wounded in a roadside bombing near the Gaza border while on a routine patrol (on our side of the fence). Asked to say Tehillim for his recovery, people around the country apparently responded because, as of today, he is, Baruch HaShem, in stable condition. However, he lost an arm.

Yesterday morning, my son – the one in Nof Ayalon who is post-army – phoned me at work to ask something or other. While chatting, he told me that Ziv Shilon had been one of his officers when he was in the army and that the Shilon family lived down the street from us. Ziv and my son would take the same bus home from the bus station.

My breathing stopped when he told me this. My hands began shaking. I said goodbye to my son and tried to concentrate on my work. I suddenly found myself crying, and I had to leave the open office where I work and hide out in the bathroom, because I couldn’t stop.
The morning was pretty well shot for me, and when I finally came out of the bathroom, it took me twice as long to do any of my mundane tasks as it usually does.

There are two points one has to understand here:
1.   I cry very easily. I cry when I watch ER. I cry when my kid gets an A in a test. Or a D. I cry when I hear HaTikvah. I cry when someone says “you did a good job”, or alternatively, “there’s too much salt in the soup.” Crying is an almost every day occurrence for me, one that has gotten worse (or better, depending on how you look at it, i.e., I cry more) as I have gotten older.

2.  This is Israel. There is bad news every day. Mostly, I hear the bad news, feel bad, say prayers, and get on with my day, not out of callousness, but because there is nothing else one can really do. 

I understand that these two points are contrary.
Perhaps it is because I am getting older that I took these two particular incidences so hard. I understand the tenuousness of life. I understand that no matter what we plan, ultimately, we are not in control. And more and more, I understand that there, but for the grace of G-d, go I.
It took me many hours before my hands stopped shaking, before my eyes stopped inexplicably filling.
And I realized that I was suffering from a very mild case of shock.

Death after death, attack after attack, war after war, horror after horror takes its toll. Though I do not know the young men I mourned for, they and their families were my sons and families. I felt, with all my heart and all my might, to my very marrow כל ישראל ערבים זה לזה, all Israel is responsible one for another.

Over the past few days, well over a hundred rockets and mortars (some say as many as 500) have been fired on Southern Israel—including 80 in one day. (None have actually hit Beer Sheva, as on this round, the terrorist are only shooting short-range rockets. They know attacks on Beer Sheva would warrant a more serious response from our army. Tomorrow is a Moslem holiday. They don’t want our planes to spoil it.)

Over and over again, we in Israel hear that a rocket was fired at the south but landed in an open area so there was no damage or injuries. The government, army, and media claim that by stating this, panic is kept at bay and the terrorists get no satisfaction of knowing that they are creating mayhem in Israel.

Unfortunately, that there are no injuries or damage caused by mortars and rockets is emphatically not true. Each rocket does immeasurable and irreparable damage and injury. If I suffered from mild shock after hearing about an injury to a man I didn’t know, what must people suffer after 80 rockets have rained down on their heads?

It is hard to fathom rocket attacks, and buses exploding, and shooting at a Bar Mitzvah. So I’ll put it into terms others might be able to imagine, especially if you have kids.

Think of a bully in school. He might not hit another kid; he might not even say anything directly to him. The bully might not physically injure anyone. But just walking past him in the hallway and seeing the bully’s smirk or hearing his whispers to his gang and their laughter can hurt a child in ways we can’t see or define.

These are the injuries that are occurring on a daily basis – on an hourly basis – in Israel. We are raising a generation of kids afraid to go to school, afraid to leave their parents, afraid to play in the park, afraid to be away from a safe room. A generation of parents with post-traumatic stress disorder is raising a generation of kids with the same disorder.

Worse, we are raising a generation of kids who are ashamed of their fear, ashamed of their parent’s inability to protect them, and perhaps, ultimately, ashamed of their people.

Where is the outrage? Where is the horror? Where are the demonstrations by Jewish communities throughout the world protesting the shooting of rockets at small children? Where is the indignation when farms are turned into battlegrounds? Where is the rage when places of worship are damaged, when schools must be canceled, when private homes and parks turn into places of carnage?
Where is my people?

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