More reflections from Israelis living through the crisis

  • by:
    • Susan Heller Pinto
  • July 14, 2014

The staff of ADL’s Israel office share their thoughts and experiences about the current crisis.

Phyllis Gerably, Director, ADL Israel

This morning we landed in Ben Gurion Airport after having spent a long weekend in Greece.  The short break was to celebrate a birthday and was planned months in advance.  It seemed so idyllic to see the beautiful view of the mountains touching the sea – only two hours away from home but what a distance!

Despite being physically away from Israel, we couldn’t help ourselves from checking our phones for warnings of rockets, and watching CNN International.  The gap between the two was huge.  On one hand, we were receiving calls and seeing the reports of rockets aimed at Tel Aviv and other cities in Israel.  Meanwhile, CNN was busy interviewing Palestinian families in Gaza.  We didn’t see any such interviews with an Israeli family.  There was no empathy for the Israeli children in shelters or for any Israeli who feared a rocket could land on their home at any time.    Rather, we kept hearing of the Palestinian death toll with a “comparison” to the lack of Israeli casualties. It was difficult watching the cynical call from the Palestinians, including their chief peace negotiator, to stop the brutal killing of innocent Palestinians – and this in the midst of rocket fire on Israel! 

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The staff at our hotel took great care of us.  They wanted to know if any rockets had fallen near our home.  When we said yes, they said, “this is so alien to us; we cannot even imagine you having to go through such a thing.  We hope when you go home, you will be safe.”

We couldn’t return to Israel as planned and were fourteen hours en route as the charter company refused to enter Israel to collect the next group which would take our place.  One of our fellow passengers said – “How ironic – we are doing everything in our power to return to the one place where no one else wants to go.”

 

Ari Bell, Middle Eastern Affairs Analyst

They say crisis brings people together. Last week, when yet another siren was heard in Jerusalem,  I was home.  My building, being one of those old Jerusalem houses, has one shelter for all tenants, rather than one per each apartment, as in the newer buildings. But instead of running for the shelter, we residents prefer sitting in the stairwell, far from any external wall, hopefully protected enough.

I joined in on the surreal social mingling that was taking place between the neighbors under these emergency circumstances. Some were with their laptops; one was holding his dog while wearing a bathrobe. I was even asked where I had been during the previous sirens, as if I had missed out on a great social gathering. And so we were, about 10 of us, sitting on the stairs, talking about everything but the rockets. Just neighbors becoming friends.

A few days earlier, I got an email from an acquaintance who lives in the U.S., who I know through a mutual friend and once met when she visited Jerusalem.  She said she had been thinking about me a lot in light of the situation and wanted to know how my family and I were doing. Though she’s never lived here, she is Palestinian on her father’s side, and she reached out to me to ask how I was coping. It was very heart-warming to see how even such a basic friendship can transcend both geography and nationality. As I was replying to her, the first siren in Jerusalem went off, leading me to the stairwell for the first time, where friendships were being formed between neighbors who barely have anything to do with each other on a regular day.

 

Rachel Kedar, Director of Educational Programs

“Emergency Routine” is a term used recently in Israel as missiles continue to land here. This very unusual term has for many years been part of everyday life of Israeli towns near the Gaza border.  Now it applies to all Israelis, as we are all in missiles range, though some more than others.

“Emergency Routine” - what a strange combination of words. How does one conduct everyday life, when missile are flying in the air? It seems almost surreal that while all this is going on, we still have to go to work, do our shopping, take the children to summer camp and celebrate weddings and bar mitzvahs. This is the routine part. Yet, the emergency part is that so many of the fathers and brothers have been called up for reserves, military convoys drive slowly, creating traffic jams in different parts of Israel, and non-stop media coverage of the events surrounding the latest attacks on Israel.  One almost feels guilty sitting in coffee shops and going to a movie while in other parts of the country, like Ashdod, missiles keep on striking, sometimes dozens a day.

It seems like our leadership encourages cautious routine, noting the  resilience of the home front, and how our following their guidelines not only saves life, but lets the IDF takes the necessary steps in a calmer and calculated manner.

Hamas terrorists commit a double war crime: hitting Israeli civilians while hiding behind Palestinian civilian population. That’s the nature of Terror: the deliberate wish to create havoc and fear in a civilian population. This has not come about in Israel thanks to “Iron Dome,” so instead of destruction and chaos we have “Emergency Routine.”  True, it is hard to get used to such a reality. We all want our routine back. But we are told “it may take time.” In the meantime, “Emergency Routine” turned into the current temporary routine in the last week. Hopefully, we’ll get our real routine back soon.

 

Debbie Leinwald, Office Manager

When Bruce and I were first married, we were members of a kibbutz on the Lebanese border. I worked in the kindergarten, and it was a weekly activity to take the children around the area and collect pieces of shrapnel to make handicrafts with. We also used to count the amounts of holes in the walls of the buildings to see if the amount had grown since the week before. When I found myself expecting our second child, I turned to Bruce and informed him that I would not bring up another child in bomb shelters.  Two months later we left and moved to a village half way between Tel Aviv and the magical city of Jerusalem. It didn’t take long for us to realize that it doesn’t help to run away from trouble, because wherever you are there is always something to upset the flow of an otherwise routine day.  And in Israel that means dealing with events which threaten the very existence of a nation. We have neighbors who hate us and have no hesitation in expressing or showing just how they feel.   Every opportunity is justification for another Grad or Katyusha rocket to be sporadically launched at our civilian population. And then if we retaliate, the world accuses us of “committing genocide”!

So we are asked how our daily lives are affected by the present conflict.  Our daughter was married 2 weeks ago in Jerusalem. Her husband’s parents and extended family are from Be’er Sheva, Ashdod and Ashkelon. If it was this week or last week, then we would have had to postpone the celebration because most of his guests would have been too scared to leave the bomb shelters to attend that wonderful event.

But more than that, knowing that our men are being called up to military service, leaving behind girlfriends and wives and children of their own, that millions of shekels of the national budget are being spent in order to protect Israel’s citizens, knowing that our children are spending their summer camps in bomb shelters instead of out in the sunlight and on the beach, and that they are drawing pictures of black colored bombs with plumes of smoke coming out of the ends like dogs tails instead of houses with trees and flowers in the gardens, and most of all, knowing that when this conflict ends, it’s only a matter of time before the next one begins.

There is no simple way to describe how we, the citizens of Israel, are affected on a day to day basis. It just the way it is.

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