My house keeps shaking, not from rockets from Gaza, but from artillery or whatever we are shooting into Gaza.
I have been with three friends in the last two days who are having difficulty coping, given the fear, rockets, constant planes, helicopters and our firing into Gaza with the resultant noise, and the not knowing what will be tomorrow and next month and next year. One clearly needs some counseling so he calms down so he can better deal with himself and the person he lives with. All kinds of hotlines are advertised constantly on TV and the radio.
Also we have trained people working in a walk-in center in a high school for those who can't cope. Another is feeling the tension in his body and has all kinds of aches and pains. A third has sharp pains from all the tensions with her family situation that was brought about by all this.
The rockets continue to fall in Israel. Thus far today, Ashkelon has been quiet, except when I was writing this earlier, but I didn't hear a boom. Yesterday there were three. Since the beginning of this war over 90 rockets have hit Ashkelon. Each time we hear a siren we go to our safe place. We have between 15-30 seconds to get there. As I have said over and over, Israelis have places to flee to. Many of us have miklatim-bomb shelters/ fortified rooms. Our home command has good guidelines, that if you are able to follow them, you should be protected.
But 60% of the citizens of Ashkelon have no safe place. It is especially difficult for older folks, people with disabilities, and families with young children. There are over 40 bomb shelters here in Ashkelon, where residents are living 24/7. A friend of mine is in charge of them. Davka the towns and cities are extremely well organized. We have learned from the recent war in Lebanon. Also many people are staying with friends, relatives and even strangers in other parts of the country. Schools and kindergartens have been closed since the beginning. Only some 12th graders have gone back to school here in order to prepare for their matriculation exams, but they are studying in bomb shelters or fortified rooms. Most small businesses are in horrid shape, even if they are open.
Yesterday I joined the group of the Conservative rabbis and congregants who had come to Israel on a brief mission of support when they visited our masorti shul. Rabbi Lenny Gordon was among them and had let me know he was coming. It was great to say that I had been a member of Lenny's shul for 5 years when I was at RRC. I also joined them at our local hospital. I knew it but it was interesting and remarkable to hear from the hospital's spokeswoman that the hospital has been just about emptied of local people to be ready for possible mass causalities; we are the hospital closest to Gaza. In addition local civilians wounded by rockets, soldiers and Palestinians wounded in Gaza are all being treated side by side.
A while ago, when building was about to start on a new wing of the hospital that would provide space for 250 beds, operating rooms etc., underground and/or in fortified spaces, graves were discovered. The high rabbinical authorities ruled that they were Jewish graves and thus could not be disturbed or moved. And as things go in this country, the building of the new fortified wing could not continue. Meanwhile most of the hospital is open to attack.
Can you imagine such.......!!!!!!! These bones were more important that human life. Jewish values? What about pikuah nefesh (the injunction that saving a life trumps other Jewish laws)? Finally today I heard word that these highest rabbinical authorities finally agreed to move the graves/bones so the hospital wing could be built.
But I have been talking about our side. Gazans have no where to turn to, nowhere to flee. We may have dropped leaflets and called people saying that we were going to bomb them, but where could they go to? At least 80,000 people are now homeless since we bombed their homes and neighborhoods or threatened to. Half of these are kids.
The war continues and continues in Gaza. It seems like we may have hit one of the hospitals in Gaza today. Several days ago we hit an UNWRA school where many refugees had sought shelter. The death toll keeps mounting, as do the wounded and obviously shell shocked people on both sides of the border.
The Israeli authorities and human rights groups disagree about the exact numbers, but between two thirds and a fourth of the Gazans killed have been civilians and of those perhaps a third have been children.
Even months ago, if people had wanted to flee Gaza, they couldn't because we sealed the borders, that is the border crossings, by sea and by air. The only thing Israel couldn't control were the tunnels that were dug into Egypt.
The humanitarian situation there is horrendous. For a few hours a day, we have been allowing humanitarian aid to get through. But we hadn't been allowing fuel to cross, which effects the supply of electricity, which disrupts the flow of clean water, proper maintenance of the sewage system, and... and we haven't allowed many of their wounded to be evacuated.
Most Israelis are only concerned with the Israeli side of the conflict. But thank goodness, there are those who are sympathetic to the crisis facing the civilians in Gaza. But few do anything. Who is listening to the cries of the children in Gaza?
Israel has not let foreign journalists into Gaza. One of the few English TV reporting that comes out of Gaza, is Al Jezera English. (By the way, Al Jezera English can not be viewed on US TV. But some can be seen on the internet.) The result being is that Israelis only see what our government wants them to see. This is sad in a democracy. Let me qualify this. Israelis can get international news from CNN, BBC, FOx, Sky, etc.
You may disagree with me, you may not want to hear what I am saying, but you can't accuse me of not supporting Israel. This is my home. I may be in the opposition, but as Rabbis for Human Rights says: We want Israel to live up to its ideals. We want Israel to be a light unto the nations.
In a personal email I sent out I concluded with "pray for peace.' The person wrote back "I don't pray but I pray for peace, safety, freedom and justice." In a further email the person wrote "Things are so depressing that even I might pray."
Pray for Peace.