[Archived from January 23, 2009]
On December 27, Israel launched an attack against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The attack was aggressive and designed to keep Hamas from continuing to fire rockets at cities and towns in southern Israel.
While the media here had many stories about the war, the perspective of people who are living in Israel was missing. Community contacted Alexandra Shklar, who recently served as Louisville’s community shlicha, and Ayala Golding, who is spending a year in Jerusalem, and asked for their perspective on the situation. Golding’s comments reached Community before the ceasefire was implemented.
From Alexandra Shklar
First, I would like to thank our friends in Louisville for the warm emails of concern in the last couple of weeks. Since we moved back to Israel in August, my husband Simon (new immigrant in Israel) got to experience his first Rosh Hashana, first Hannukah, first local elections and finally first war. This is very similar to the experience my family and I had when we made Aliya in 1990. While we live in Jerusalem and didn’t experience the daily bombardment of rockets, the sense of war, fear, and solidarity is felt all over the country.
People in the north, who still haven’t recovered from the Lebanon war, [including our friends in the Western Galilee, our Partnership with Israel region] are continuously reminded that another confrontation in the North is possible in the near future.
People in Tel Aviv fear that Hamas possess rockets that can reach the center of the country or a suicide attack can occur at any moment. Likewise, people in Jerusalem feel tension with the local Israeli Arabs and fear for another Intifada.
These feelings bring about consensus among Israelis that the government should do everything necessary to deliver to its citizens security and a life without continuous fear. When I say most Israelis, it includes not only the people in the South but even the mothers of soldiers in the IDF and politicians from competing parties.
Two years ago, when the war in Lebanon took place, we lived in Louisville and experienced the war via the news channels and phone conversations with family and friends. I recall making judgments and justifications about the war. I often questioned Israel’s actions and measured the morality of the war by the amount of destruction and casualties on both sides.
Today when I live in Israel during the war against Hamas (not the “War on Gaza” as the media refers to it) I see a different picture. It is clear to me that Israel’s actions are acts of self defense. What other country would allow seven years of rocket assaults on its citizens before it reacts?
No moral equivalency can be drawn between the actions of Hamas and the IDF. The Israeli Defense Forces are trying to protect its citizens, while the Hamas is using the citizens of Gaza as human shields. While IDF actions target the Hamas leaders, the rockets from Gaza are aimed at innocent Israeli citizens.
Yes, there is collateral damage, and, unfortunately, many innocent people were killed and hurt on both sides. War is never pretty, however, when the fear of being hit by a rocket or a suicide bomber becomes something very close to you and your family, your instinct of self defense seems to outweigh everything else. In an attempt to protect yourself, you learn to accept the inevitable price of a war.
The government and the IDF did a superb job learning and implementing the lessons of the Winograd Commission to assure that the war is conducted properly, which perhaps minimized the amount of casualties in the IDF.
As I mentioned before, war is never pretty, however, many beautiful things happened in Israel in the last few weeks. The grief and the fear bring about creativity in ways people comfort and support each other.
Many Israeli politicians and celebrities, including President Shimon Peres volunteered to teach classes on various topics for students from the south, who missed school for over two weeks. Many private companies and philanthropists partnered with non-profit organizations and volunteers to deliver packages of food, toys, computers, etc. to the people in the south.
Performers from all over the country volunteered their time to entertain soldiers and people in shelters. Idan Raichel, who performed in Louisville for the Israel @60 celebrations, was a leading star in this effort.
Mayors opened the sites of their cities, families from all over the country opened their houses, and shoppers opened their wallets to support the people in the south. Moreover, Israeli hospitals and doctors treated wounded Gazans.
As you know, a ceasefire took place on January 19. Time will show if it will last. Meanwhile, I think that along with the sadness of war, Israelis illustrated a tremendous sense of community and showed once again how strong we are when we stand together.
From Ayala Golding
For the most part, in Jerusalem, life is almost normal except that there are more soldiers all over the place getting ready for deployment, returning home, or just hanging out, waiting.
In fact, people from the south come to Jerusalem to get away, so the children have kids from the south who have joined their classes while the schools in the south are closed. In addition the kids have been asked to gather gifts for soldiers and for families who have injured by the rockets, etc.
Children’s television programming has been preempted by near constant news since the beginning of the Gaza incursion, so my kids are unhappy with that disruption.
In addition there are frequently scheduling problems as soldiers get very little notice prior to being called to active duty, and the soldiers are frequently the wedding photographer, the dentist or other service persons.
You asked that I address why this war is important. Again, living in Jerusalem, I have not faced the rocket attacks, although today for the first time there was an air attack siren that went off at 1 p.m. today, but as far as anyone can tell it was merely a test of the alarm system.
However, the Israeli residents who live in the south closer to Gaza have, for a significant amount of time, been facing daily rocket attacks that have killed, maimed or otherwise injured many people in the south.
These attacks are always unprovoked and target civilians in their homes, schools and hangouts. Israel cannot continue to allow the Hamas operatives to continue with these attacks,
While most Israelis are disturbed by the innocent civilian deaths in Gaza, I think that for the most part, Israelis recognize this as one of the necessary evils, if the IDF’s and Israel’s goals and mission are to be accomplished.