(See new article posted 30 Novemeber 2012 on Miriam's Topical Topics)..---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
This letter was written before the truce arrived finally. But it is still relevant as in that part of the world, nothing is permanenet nor can it be taken for granted. Michele is an English-born member of our extended family and a teacher living in the Southern part of Israel within range of Hamas' Gazan rockets.
I feel that I must do my bit and explain how I, a simple citizen and known to you, see the current situation. I must admit that this time many foreign media reports and governments have actually been talking about Israel's right to defend itself and have been satisfied with the army's successes at " surgical bombing" i.e damaging Hamas infrastructure with care taken to avoid harming its civilian population. However, the pictures of civilians and wounded children, even children who are not theirs, are coming through, and that changes the whole picture as seen by outsiders.
The Gaza Strip has been a subject of controversy for so many years. For the last 12 years or so the Palestinians have been sending missiles (some home-made, many from Iran) into Israeli settlements both in the Strip itself (before the disengagement and evacuation) and outside it, the population in these settlements and towns living a life of sirens and shelters and exploding bombs. Not normal. Seven years ago Israel took a unilateral step and evacuated thousands of its citizens from The Strip , people who had made their permanent homes there for 25 years after the land had been taken in a previous defensive war, building homes, working the land , creating small industries and building everything a social and economic infrastructure requires. This step caused a lot of bitter controversy in Israel (I was in favour of the step - anything that might and should bring peace) and there were demonstrations and heart-breaking pictures of residents being torn from their homes and lives - but all this was supposed to be for the good of both sides. The Palestinians came onto the land and did nothing to try to make use of it - instead they set up military camps there and continued bombarding Israel from an even better vantage point than before. Why? There's no reason - really - except if you count their desire to destroy Israel. Why didn't they cultivate the land, build houses and infrastructures and show the world that they want to live a peaceful life? Instead they continued aggression and the Hamas, an extreme terrorist organization, took control and became their legal governing rule. When they became more "adventurous" firing into towns further afield (Ashdod is a 15 minute drive away from us), there was no choice but to defend our country and this desire to defend ourselves led to Operation Cast Lead four years ago. Many think the government should have done this even when one settlement was attacked - but who wants war? Much of the Hamas infrastructure was wiped out and there were bitter hand to hand battles in the streets of Gaza resulting in much damage and heart-breaking loss of life on both sides. The bombing was massive and, of course, not without victims - both innocent and not. And we are all sad to see innocent people being hurt. But have you ever heard of an army who does its utmost not to harm innocent people? We targeted then and are targeting now government buildings, military installations, tunnels through which arms are brought in (the Egyptians must be turning a blind eye, because the only way to get arms in is through the Egyptian border, which is actually closed to the Gazans) and infrastructure. Do you know the Israeli fighter pilots call the residents of the houses to tell them to evacuate, they throw down fliers telling residents to stay clear of the targetted areas.Where they see the minaret of a mosque they try not to cause damage. The Hamas uses mosques, schools and residential buildings to store and produce their weapons putting innocent people, who are probably too scared to oppose, at risk, using them as human shields. They don't place value on human life. (Most countries keep their weapons well away from civilian populations)
If there is a "humanitarian" problem in Gaza, why aren't medicines and food brought in the same way as weapons are? Because they are obviously interested in sustaining their image of a sorry population., the underdog. When Israel needs funds for things, money is often raised in Jewish populations around the world. Why don't the wealthy Arabs help their own? Why don't Turkey or Iran send in food, medicines and fuel instead of arms or ships on "peaceful support missions" (more arms and aggression).The incredible thing is that it is Israel who sends humanitarian aid into Gaza! Just today I read the following report
Despite continued rocket fire over Israel, the Kerem Shalom crossing was reopened on Sunday, November 18, to allow the transfer of humanitarian aid. 124 trucks of goods entered the Gaza Strip carrying medical supplies, food, milk, and gas.
The irony of it. Indeed, many of the sick requiring specialist treatment are treated in Israeli hospitals.
Israel provides Gaza with electricity (and could just easily cut it off, but don't of course for humanitarian reasons.) Some of this electricity is channelled from the Ashkelon power station, the very place that is being bombarded non-stop. Why don't Turkey or Iran help build power stations, modernize hospitals etc. enabling independence instead of prolonging aggression and enhancing its infrastructure? Why don't they want peace?
Israel has no reason to go on the offensive other than to protect its civilian population. It's certainly not to conquer Gaza. The problem is that no one seems to want Gaza not even the Arab countries. The Palestinian Authority had decided to recognise Israel as a sovereign state but the Hamas are terrorists.
I realise that all this sounds pretty militant but, on the contrary, I am a "leftie", if anything. This does not stop me from understanding that this is a fight for survival. Those of you who have been here or have read about Israel know that it is a modern, democratic, thriving, dynamic society with the same problems and challenges as any other country - social, economic etc. Can you imagine that it still has to fight literally for existence? Can you imagine having missiles thrown at you from over the Scottish border for no reason? Would the government have waited years to respond? There should be no mistake this recurring warfare takes its toll on the moral fibre of our youth.
On a personal note. We live within the 40 kilometer radius from Gaza (within missile reach), hear sirens occasionally, go into our shelters. There's no going to school within this radius, no events with large numbers of people. We have strict instructions to get to a safe area the second we hear the sirens (here we have a minute to do so, in other areas it's seconds) or to lie down on the ground and cover our head with our hands. Adi has been called up into the reserves and has had to leave his wife and two small daughters. We are left to hope and pray for his safety and a reasonable end to all this.
Another irony. Seven years ago, during the Second Lebanon War, we hosted a family of four, not known to us previously, who had fled their homes and the bombardments in the north. Last week on hearing that we were in the "war zone", they phoned us up offering their hospitality!!!!
Looking forward to quieter, peaceful, normal times.Michele