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.