Friday, November 23, 2012

Quiet outside, quiet inside

We have had a ceasefire for one and a half days. The only sounds and sights that we have now are lightening and thunder, wind and rain. Hopefully the rain is washing away the filth tht the ugly war left behind. Unfortunately it can't wash away the hurt and pain inside all of us - Israelis and Palestinians - who lived through this latest violence.

It's raining it's pouring
the old man is snoring
bumped his head when he went to bed
and he couldn't get up in the morning
rain, rain
go away
come again some other day

I hope that the only booms we hear from here on out are booms of thunder
and the only 'burning houses' are the small leaves set on fire by fireflies

The Hamas and Israeli governments put us - their civilian populations - at terrible risk for 8 days. They disregarded our lives and rejoiced in the pain inflicted on 'the other side.'

Hanukkah - 8 days that commemorate light and freedom and banishing of darkness - begins in a few weeks.

During Hanukkah, I will be lighting many candles of freedom, light and brother/sisterhood - for those of us in Israel and Palestine (and beyond - why not?). Perhaps if we all light these candles, the light will be bright enough for our 'leaders' to see that their paths of war, hatred and destruction are not our ways.

To days of thunder, lightening and rain
To days of washing away the ugliness that mars the outside
To days of washing away the anger and hatred inside that can never solve anything

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

My mind has turned to mush

Since the war began, my mind has turned to jelly. I seem to have a very difficult time deciding which bus to take to Jerusalem, and what time or how to go back home. I can't decide whether or not to stay outside and clean up the leaves that have overtaken the garden, or if I should keep the doors and windows open or shut in the house.

The reason for this severe difficulty is not dementia or a blod clot in my brain. At least not as far as I know.

The reason is the war.

The constant sirens announcing the onslaught of the constant rockets and the constant booms, one right after another, so close and so loud have turned my mind into mush. I begin one thing only to find myself starting another. I start a sentence, lose my train of thought, and then begin another, completely different, conversation. I feel myself holding back tears many times during the day, but am no longer sure who or what I am upset about. I try writing this blog, which usually seems to almost write itself, and find that I don't know what I want to say, or how I want to say it.

Yesterday, when my oldest son and I tried to go from Beer Sheva to Jerusalem by bus, I came very, very close to freaking out. On the way from the kibbutz to Beer Sheva, I was pressed against the door, ready to roll out of the car and take cover if a siren went off. When we got to Beer Sheva, we saw the bus that had been hit by the rocket just a few minutes before we got there. At the bus station, the 9:10 bus to Jerusalem never showed up, and we had two sirens. The bus station, which has now turned into a huge construction site, does not have available safe rooms, unless you are standing right next to one. We - a hundred of us or so - ran into one of the new rooms that they are building. It had a roof, but plaster walls. There is no floor, and there are construction materials all around. Nothing safe about this safe room. When we went to inquire about the bus that was take us away from this nightmare, that never appeared, the answer we got from the Egged administration was: "We don't know. Sorry. Yes, we agree that its chutzpa that no bus came and that we're not sending another one."

Yes, yesterday morning did a lot to bolster my sense of security.

A bus came that stops at every bus stop from Beer Sheva to Jerusalem, but I refused to get on. This ride would have taken an hour more than the express bus AND it would have had the extra advantage of driving through many of the places that are being constantly  hit by rockets these days. No way was I going to get on a bus that was sure to put me in danger for 2.5 hours.

I felt trapped: I so desparately wanted to get away from this life-threatening madness, but couldn't get out! Since my mind had turned to jelly, I couldn't decide what to do: Should we look for a taxi-sherut that is going to Jerusalem, but is also, very likely to stop at different stations along the way dropping people off and picking up others? Should we get on a bus and go to Tel Aviv and from there get a bus to Jerusalem - making the whole ordeal twice as long? Should we give up and go back to the kibbutz that is under rocket attacks, and where we have no safe rooms?

I had an insight - for the first time in my life, I began to understand, just a tiny, tiny bit what the Gazans must feel during this war. What they must feel most days of their lives. They are trapped and can't get out. They are bombed, and have no safe rooms. They are cornered and cannot make a clear decision about what to do.

Yesterday, I truly understood the meaning of helplessness and fear, or what it means to be trapped.

My son and I eventually got on an express bus to Jerusalem and arrived safely after an hour and twenty minutes. When we were having lunch with my sister and niece at a cafe in Jerusalem, there was a siren when a rocket was fired toward Jerusalem.

Yesterday, while my mind was a jelly mold, I felt deep pain for myself, for other Israelis and for Gazans.

Let's see what today will bring.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Lying, Running, Crouching, Shaking

At 9:40 on the way back from a doctor's appointment in Beer Sheva, with my husband and oldest son in the car - there was a siren at the moshav we were passing. We stopped the car and we all laid down on the road, covering our heads. The booms were very close. After a few minutes, we got up, dusted off our clothes, and drove on to our home - 2 minutes from there. My son and I came into the house to put down our things and get bags for the store.

Walking over to buy some food, there was another siren. We dashed into one of the offices and shut the door. We then noticed that unfortunately in this small office, the window was open - so that wasn't much protection. But since the rockets were already hitting, so we didn't dare go outside. They were very loud and VERY close. We crouched on the floor, holding one another. After a few minutes we tried going out again. The sirens began again and we dashed into the dining room, to the stairwell, next to the place where the mirrors used to be (they took them down so that they wouldn't break if a rocket hit the building). We couldn't count all those booms - that were so close, you felt them inside your body.

We eventually got to the store, which was mostly deserted, and bought what we needed. We then got a text message to stay indoors and off the sidewalks if at all possible because of the ongoing rocket attacks.

I had just finished talking to one of my dear friends in Gaza right before we found ourselves lying on the ground, near the moshav where the siren went off. She told of horrific things she is seeing. I wonder what all this is doing to her psyche, and how she can take care of herself. I know now she only wants to help others - women and children - who are the main victims of this war.

We parted with words of love and care for one another and to be safe. I will try to call her later today.

After the morning adventures, more sirens, This time my son and I are in our house, that has no safe room. We go into the corridor and close the doors to the bedrooms. He gives me a hug and a peck on the forehead. Shouldn't I be doing this to him?

I hope that I do not need to continue to lie down on the ground, run for cover, crouch on the floor, hug my loved ones, feel the bombs bursting inside anymore, or anything worse...

We Palestinians and Israelis must ban together and say NO MORE WAR; NO MORE BLOODSHED. We are all fed up being sitting ducks in this killing carnival

Sunday, November 18, 2012

This craziness has got to stop


Sometimes I can’t believe that this is happening to me. The siren cuts through like a knife; I find it hard to breathe. I close the doors to the bathroom and the bedrooms. David and I stand in the corridor, our ‘safe room’, hugging one another, hoping that the rocket will not hit (near) our house. There is one boom, then another, and a few seconds later, a third one. The first two sounded very close; the third one perhaps a little further away. We wait another minute to make sure that the booms are over, before leaving our ‘safe room’ – a corridor separated from the bedrooms by plaster walls. We are lucky once again; the rockets did not hit close enough to cause physical damage. David returns to finish his dinner; I return to playing Spider Solitaire on the computer.  

When I first met people from Sderot in 2008, who had been living with the rocket attacks, day after day, for years, I wondered why they stayed in that crazy, dangerous city. When I heard their children talk about their parents putting them at risk, since they refused to move away from that dangerous city, I wondered how long the children would resent their parents for putting them at risk, every day. Would the children ever forgive their parents for choosing to live in an area that took away much of their childhood? I secretly judged the parents, though I knew I shouldn’t. I secretly thought that I would never put my family in such danger, that I would never expose them to rocket fire day after day, more than once a day.

That was before Urim became one of the many communities that received the not-sought-after status of being in rocket range.

When I first met those ‘crazy, irresponsible’ parents in Sderot, I ‘forgot’ that I was teaching at the Sapir College, located across from that dangerous city, that also suffered rocket attacks on a regular basis. I ‘forgot’ that I had to drive those dangerous roads to get to the college, in order to teach students, many of whom were traumatized from years of living with rocket fire. I ‘forgot’ that I often parked my car very quickly when I got to the college, so that I could rush indoors, and be near a safe room. I ‘forgot’ these minor details since Urim, at that time, was a safe haven, and knowing that I lived in a community that was outside rocket range, freed me from having to reflect on why I insisted on remaining living, where I did.

All of that changed in late 2008, before the onset of Operation Cast Lead/The Gaza War, when Urim also became one of those communities within rocket range. All of that changed when the home front division of the Israeli army came to examine people’s homes, and told us that our corridor, separated by plaster walls, was our ‘safe’ area. It was then that I finally understood that ‘their’ crazy and dangerous reality had now become my crazy and dangerous reality and that I had become one of those ‘irresponsible’ parents and grandparents who insisted on living in a war zone.

For over a year we have been able to tell time according to what the media call the ‘newest round of violence’. Every three months, like clockwork, we have a weekend of massive rocket attacks (from them) and they (the Gazans) have a weekend of massive air force bombing from us. Days of 60, 70, 150 rockets became the norm, four times a year for us on the Israeli side. The Palestinians in Gaza have it much worse. After those weekends, things would go back to ‘normal’ – days of ‘only’ one or two rockets that hit ‘open fields, no damage’ and they, the Gazans, would ‘only’ have drones and helicopters and planes hovering above, sometimes shooting, sometimes ‘just’ on reconnaissance – making their lives constantly unbearable.

Two months ago, the clock changed. In our new, worse reality, we had helicopters and warplanes flying overhead every day, constant bombing in Gaza, and rockets fired into our area. Entire populations of kibbutzim, moshavim and towns and cities live in dread of the ongoing violence. Entire populations, in Gaza and in Israel, have forgotten what it is to relax, how not to look up at the sky, not listen for booms, not run for shelter.

Yesterday, the clock changed again when we got our newest war – Pillars of Clouds. Since the assassination of Ahmed Jabari – Hamas’ military head – hundreds of rockets to this area, bombing from air and sea in Gaza, three killed here, over 60 killed there, many more wounded - both physically and psychologically - on both sides. The numbers are sure to rise.

Netanyahu, Barak and Lieberman, and other Israeli ‘leaders’ tell us that help is on the way. They promise those of us who do not have ‘safe rooms’, tons of reinforced concrete so that we can feel secure during the endless rain of rockets. They tell us to remain calm since they are obtaining more Iron Domes to keep us safe from the endless rain of rockets. They tell us that they will keep us safe by assassinating Gazan terrorists, by perhaps sending in our ground forces, by showing them who’s the boss.

Our ‘leaders’ have created a region that is even more crazy and dangerous than before.

I do not want their reinforced concrete or Iron Domes or helicopters and war planes flying overhead day after day after day. I want peace and security. I want to drive to Sapir without wondering if I really will pull my car quickly over to the side, jump out and lay down on the ground, with my hands protecting my head, if the siren goes off while on the road. I want our ‘leaders’ to finally admit that years of siege on Gaza, reconnaissance and targeted assassinations have made our area one of the most insecure on the planet.

I understand that I must be crazy for continuing to allow our ‘leaders’ to blatantly disregard our lives. I look at my ‘leaders’ and think that they must be heartless for continuing to believe that might makes right and for exposing more and more of us to terrifying dangers.

The time for military options is over. It is time for the Israeli government to find the ways to negotiate with the Hamas government in Gaza, and to arrive at a long-term ceasefire. I want my corridor back. I demand my life back.