In the Shoes of an Israeli

I often try to place myself in the skin of an Israeli southerner. It is an abstract exercise to envision, however inadequately, but I have often wondered: what would it be like to live amid a constant barrage of rockets, dashing for shelter with every renewed blast of the siren?

But never did I conceive actually taking a small step in their shoes.

Such was the case last week, as the “Code Red” early warning rocket alarm system blared throughout Tel Aviv for the first time since the Gulf War in 1991. As I looked out my window, the tension was palpable. Nobody so much as flinched. It took 30 seconds—what seemed like a small eternity—for the enormity of the situation to sink in. As people regained their senses, panic set in, sending everyone racing for cover.

And then the explosion.

The whole surreal sequence lasted all of 45 seconds—less than one minute to find shelter; not a bomb shelter, mind you, as there simply is no time, but rather any enclosed space, devoid of windows of course, preferably a hallway or staircase.

Fourty-five seconds. Count it out. In Israel, it can be the difference between life and death.

Tragically, three more Israelis fell victim to this harsh reality last week, after their apartment building in Kiryat Malachi was struck by a rocket fired by Gaza-based Palestinian terrorists.

The missile was one of approximately 1000 fired towards Israel from the Strip between Wednesday and Sunday, following the launch of Operation Pillar of Defense, a military offensive which saw the Israel Air Force strike an equal number of terror targets in Gaza over the same period.

It is important to keep this in mind as accusations of “disproportionality” inevitably begin to be hurled form all directions at Israel. It is hogwash. The Jewish state cannot be faulted—but rather should be hailed—for investing billions of dollars to develop a technological miracle: Iron Dome. By intercepting in the last week upwards of 300 rockets destined for Israeli civilian centers, the anti-missile defense system saved countless Israeli lives. Likewise, it also saved Palestinian lives, which surely would have been lost in the event the IDF was forced to retaliate to a direct hit, say, on Tel Aviv.

This is in stark contrast to Hamas’ practice of concealing weaponry in residential buildings, schools, hospitals and mosques thereby guaranteeing the unnecessary loss of life despite the precision of Israeli strikes.

On this point, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s statement to the foreign press at the outset of Pillar of Defense was particularly poignant:

“Seven years ago, Israel withdrew from every square inch of Gaza. Now, Hamas took over the areas we vacated. What did it do? Rather than build a better future for the residents of Gaza, the Hamas leadership, backed by Iran, turned Gaza into a terrorist stronghold.

“I’m stressing this because it’s important to understand that there is no moral symmetry; there is no moral equivalence, between Israel and the terrorist organizations in Gaza. The terrorists are committing a double war crime. They fire at Israeli civilians, and they hide behind Palestinian civilians.”

The fact of the matter is that Israel had no choice but to act, given that residents of the south have been living in a state of paralysis for nearly a month. The mission, after all, was initiated only after Palestinians fired over 150 rockets into southern Israel from November 9- 11; mass terror attacks which came on the heels of the more than 100 rockets fired from Gaza into the Jewish state in a span of 24 hours in late October.

But with restraint comes consequences, and the bitter truth is that, even with this temporary ceasefire in place, it may be too late to defuse the Gaza ticking time bomb. The geopolitical conditions in the region have changed, and Hamas’ newfound assertiveness is the direct outcome of the emergence in Egypt of its progenitor and patron, the Muslim Brotherhood. In the result, any future ground incursion into Gaza, which constitutes the only way to root out Hamas’ terror infrastructure, now risks setting off a full-scale war with Cairo.

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi made this clear by recalling Egypt’s ambassador to Israel at the onset of the “brutal assault” on Gaza. Last Friday he vowed that “Cairo will not leave Gaza on its own. Egypt today is not the Egypt of yesterday.”

In a further show of solidarity, an Egyptian prime minister for the first time travelled to the Strip; the visit was, in Hamas leader Ismael Haniyeh’s words, “a message to the occupation.”

The nature of that message was repeatedly conveyed throughout Hesham Kandil’s trip—the beginning of which was supposed to usher in a three hour ceasefire—with the launching of fifty rockets at Israel, including two at Tel Aviv. That Egypt’s new Islamist government backs Gaza’s terrorist rulers was expressly confirmed by Hamas’ armed wing, which claimed responsibility for the attack on Tel Aviv while Kandil was still in the coastal enclave. And for good measure, as Shabbat descended on Jerusalem, an emboldened Hamas fired two rockets at Judaism’s holiest city.

The point is this: when strategic threats are permitted to fester, they inevitably intensify. In this respect, for far too long one million Israelis living in the south were left to endure inhumane conditions. The eventual outcome of inaction in the face of terror was entirely predictable: what was tolerated in Sderot became the norm in Ashdod and Ashkelon, and then in Beersheva. Now, the rockets are being fired at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, as the front lines of the Arab-Islamic war against Israel shift to the heart of the country.

(Charles Bybelezer recently moved to Israel to begin working as a breaking news editor at The Jerusalem Post.)

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  • Asher

    What kind of evil destroys human life, just because they hate. Time and Time again Israel has taken actions for peace, land for peace, treaties for peace, and their word for peace, all to no avail…The events that are taking place will lead to a final conflict, and those who have persecuted Israel will be no more. A teacher in Sderot Israel spoke of the attacks, on CBN, and how her child is left alone but knows how to react to the sirens and to take shelter…he was born amidst the chaos she said, he is well adapted…when asked why she doesn't leave she said, "This is my home, I love it here." Other people when faced with these traumas and attacks would not be able to respond as well with their mission intact and unwaivering. The muslims had better decide if they want to continue to live in a cauldron of insanity, or to have a life of peace and prosperity for their families…the choice is clear.

  • Jean

    The geopolitical conditions in the region have changed, and Hamas’ newfound assertiveness is the direct outcome of the emergence in Egypt of its progenitor and patron, the Muslim Brotherhood

    AND the re-election of Barack Hussein Obama.

    • Tanstaafl jw

      I notice that not too many pick up the fact that the attacks began shortly after the Obamahdi's re-election.

      • Fred

        Of course since he is a Muslim and loves his brothers. By the way many in America believe the election that gave him another 4 years (of misery) was a FRAUD. And he is an illegal President.

  • Mannor59

    May God bless and protect the people of Israel, and may he embolden them to take the necessary steps to put an end to this endless hatred against them. A ceasefire is only a ceasefire for the terrorists. They agree to these things so that they may re-group and recover, only to plan the next terrorist act against Israel. When will Israel ignore the media bias against them, and do what they obviously have to do, once and for all? You cannot negotiate with fanatics, there is only one solution.

  • Taimy

    Has the right the moral integrity to be in the shoes of a Palestinian mother who lost a child to Israeli brutal bombardment? Or wife who lost her husband? Or children losing their father?

    Does the author has the moral integrity to be in the shoes of Palestinians who are living under CONSTANT occupation, illegal blockade, illegal settlement, constant threat of bombing and shelling from Israel, of losing their loved ones?

    Shame on this one sided piece.

    • Mary Sue

      Your information sources are horrifically one-sided and false.

    • Parenthetical Phrase

      There is no Israeli charter stating its goal is to destroy Palestine or the Palestinians. However, there is a Palestinian charter saying its primary goal is to destroy Israel. If you cannot see the difference it is you who is racist and one-sided. Shame on you Taimy.

  • Taimy

    Only Jews have the right to live and feel pain? Not Palestinians? The movement of Israel civilians from their homes to shelter is so aching the author, but the continuous death and destruction that the Palestinians live with on daily basis does not concern him one bit?

    This mentality is Nazi.

    • Mo_

      What idiocy.

      How about Muslims stop bombing Israel FIRST?

      Choosing to defend yourself against unprovoked attack is not (behaving as a) "Nazi". Expecting Jews to lay down and not defend themselves against such attacks, is.

    • Fred

      The Arab nations could have solved this problem decades ago. When the so called "invented people" the Palestinians were thrown out of Jordan, they with all of their money could have absorbed them into their countries but no they want to use them as a tool to try and destroy Israel. So apparent.

    • Mary Sue

      No, it's Nazi to try to dismantle the only Freedom Loving state in all of the Middle East that gives Gay rights when nobody else there does.

    • Lan Astaslem

      the palis act like subhuman savages – not even their fellow sand monkeys want any part of them – they are convenient pawns, a festering lot of useful idiots

  • Mo_

    Why doesn't Israel fight back properly? WHY?!

    How can any country accept the oppression, mental torture and murder of its own citizens, year after year, generation after generation?

  • KKKK

    God bless the people of Israel! they are the standbearers of resistance to jihad! i stand by Israel!

  • Fred

    We only wish Bibi was the President of America instead of what we have now. So sad.

  • Ghostwriter

    I'll give you the Cliff Notes version of what's really going on,Taimy. The Israelis want peace. The Palestinians do not. The Israelis vacated Gaza willingly. The Palestinians use that as a base to launch rockets into Israeli cities. The Palestinians hate extends not just to Israel but America as well. They want to kill us as well. The Israelis like America and for the most part are on good terms with us. Now deal with that slice of reality,Taimy.
    As for the article by Mr. Beybelzer,it was a great article. It's a shame that the article couldn't reach the shriveled hearts of Jew hating swill like Taimy. They would have learned a few things about the real world,instead of their fantasy one.

  • nader suleiman

    Israel will never have peace because it stole Palestine. Killed and kicked out millions of PalestiniansFor now, Israel is strong and will contunue to win. Israel will be doomed once the Muslim world unites which will happen but not soon though.

  • Ghostwriter

    Israel's done alright so far when the Muslims tried to kill them. They'll be alright in the future,Mr. Suleiman,or don't you like the fact of a free and democratic state in the Middle East that only wants to live in peace with it's neighbors. Maybe when people like you wake up and see that Israel is not going anywhere,will there be peace in the region.

  • pyeatte

    If that happened in America, the liberals and Democrats would just soil their pants and grovel.