Of elections, rock­ets and se­cu­rity

‘Tel Avi­vians don’t ap­pre­ci­ate the trauma we are con­sis­tently ex­pe­ri­enc­ing – and yet Tel Aviv is only 55 min­utes away from our home’

The Jerusalem Post - The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - OBSERVATIO­NS - BRENDA KATTEN The writer is pub­lic re­la­tions chair­woman of ESRA, which promotes in­te­gra­tion into Is­raeli so­ci­ety.

he elec­tion is be­hind us, and in many coun­tries it would be the time to com­mence as­sess­ing how the pre-elec­tion “prom­ises” marry with the post-elec­tion realities.

This is not likely to hap­pen here, where Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu and Benny Gantz, the lead­ers of the two ma­jor con­tes­tant par­ties, the Likud and Blue and White, barely ad­dressed the con­cerns fac­ing the Is­raeli cit­i­zen, whether this be a fail­ing ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem; a health ser­vice de­prived of suf­fi­cient doctors and nurses; the fact that too many young fam­i­lies can never see a time when they will be able to buy a home of their own; the car­tel of su­per­mar­ket own­ers that keeps food prices ex­ceed­ingly high; and a ma­jor ques­tion as to how se­cure we feel in re­la­tion to our sur­round­ing en­e­mies.

Yes, we did hear from Ne­tanyahu that he had no in­ten­tion of re­mov­ing even one set­tler from Judea and Sa­maria, which leads us to won­der how this de­ci­sion will marry with US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s “deal of the cen­tury.”

In the weeks lead­ing up to the elec­tion, Is­rael’s se­cu­rity was tested. Rock­ets con­tin­ued to be fired on the res­i­dents liv­ing in the Eshkol/Gaza bor­der area, Sderot and Ashkelon. Rush­ing to a shel­ter in the mid­dle of the night or any other time has be­come the “norm,” how­ever hor­rific and un­re­lent­ing it is for these res­i­dents; at­tacks have re­sulted in an in­creas­ing num­ber of chil­dren suf­fer­ing trauma.

Aside from the rock­ets, the South has had to endure kites and bal­loons car­ry­ing ex­plo­sive de­vices to­gether with in­creas­ing num­bers of men­ac­ing Gazans ap­proach­ing the bor­der, hurl­ing rocks and in­cen­di­ary mech­a­nisms at the IDF based on the Is­raeli side.

The “Great March of Re­turn” grew with each suc­ces­sive Fri­day, reach­ing a cli­max on March 30, its first an­niver­sary, coin­cid­ing with Land Day.

THE MAG­A­ZINE spoke with Lu­cille Eilon, who lives on Moshav Ne­tiv Ha’asara – right on the bor­der with Gaza – close to the Erez cross­ing, the cen­tral point of en­try and exit for pedes­tri­ans from Gaza. The moshav is home to 850 Is­raelis, in­clud­ing 250 chil­dren.

Eilon made aliyah from South Africa in 1978 with her hus­band and two young sons. Their third son was born in Is­rael. Their el­dest son, at age 22, was killed while serv­ing in the IDF. The fam­ily made its ini­tial home in the Yamit re­gion, in Si­nai. Is­raelis were evac­u­ated from this area as part of the Egyp­tian-Is­raeli peace agree­ment in 1982 and re­lo­cated in the then newly con­structed Moshav Ne­tiv Ha’asara. Their son, his wife and their three daugh­ters also live on the moshav. Their house suf­fered a di­rect hit, from a Gazan rocket, six years ago.

Eilon shares the re­al­ity of liv­ing in an area of com­bat that in­ten­si­fied 14 years ago with prime min­is­ter Ariel Sharon’s de­ci­sion to evac­u­ate Is­raelis from Gaza in 2005. The hope was that re­mov­ing Is­raelis from Gaza would bring quiet, but the op­po­site proved to be the ac­tu­al­ity.

Some chil­dren are afraid to sleep alone, pre­fer­ring to sleep in the safe room, or with their par­ents or other sib­lings. The ba­bies’ and tod­dlers’ kinder­garten has a lim­ited, small play area be­cause there is a need to gather the chil­dren to­gether quickly, as there are only 15 sec­onds to reach the safe room.

There is the on­go­ing trauma of not know­ing what will hap­pen from one day to the next. Will the schools be open or not? Is to­day a one-day war, or will it con­tinue – but for how long? The con­stant un­cer­tainty re­sults in an­guish for both par­ents and chil­dren.

Eilon won­ders whether there is com­pre­hen­sion of what the cit­i­zens in the South are fac­ing on a daily ba­sis. This thought in­ten­si­fied when she re­cently at­tended a per­for­mance at Tel Aviv’s Opera House. Dur­ing the in­ter­val, it be­came known that a rocket, fired from Gaza, had ex­ploded some­where in the cen­ter of the coun­try. Vir­tu­ally all the mem­bers of the au­di­ence were on their phones anx­ious about their fam­i­lies’ safety.

“This is how we, in the South, live each and ev­ery day,” says Eilon. “Tel Avi­vians don’t ap­pre­ci­ate the trauma we are con­sis­tently ex­pe­ri­enc­ing, and yet Tel Aviv is only 55 min­utes away from our home.”

The Eilons were at the Opera House on the day a pow­er­ful rocket ex­ploded in Moshav Mish­meret, near Kfar Saba, to­tally de­stroy­ing the home of the Wolf fam­ily who, mirac­u­lously, man­aged to reach their shel­ter just prior to the ex­plo­sion, al­though mem­bers of the fam­ily suf­fered shrap­nel wounds.

It was in­ter­est­ing to note the im­me­di­ate strong gov­ern­ment re­sponse to the at­tack in Mish­meret. Re­servists were called up and tanks amassed on the bor­der with Gaza. Watch­ing the IDF buildup, one could be skep­ti­cal at the strong re­ac­tion when a rocket hits the cen­ter of the coun­try. Rock­ets be­ing hurled against the res­i­dents in the South, vir­tu­ally on a daily ba­sis, ap­pear to be “ac­cept­able” in the eyes of our gov­ern­ment.

BACK TO the post-elec­tion pe­riod in which we find our­selves. As Ne­tanyahu gath­ers to­gether his coali­tion part­ners, we can but won­der where the new gov­ern­ment will place its pri­or­i­ties. Will it ad­dress the so­cioe­co­nomic chal­lenges? Will it be able to close the in­creas­ing gap be­tween the haves and have-nots? Is it able to find a so­lu­tion to the con­stant suf­fer­ing of the cit­i­zens in the South?

Much as I would wish to be­lieve there are pos­i­tive an­swers to these ques­tions, my fear is that the sta­tus quo will endure. We live with an elec­toral sys­tem where a gov­ern­ment is able to survive only if it ad­heres to the mi­nor­ity, whose aims are fre­quently far re­moved from that of the ma­jor­ity.

How­ever, in the words of David Ben-Gu­rion, Is­rael’s first prime min­is­ter: “In Is­rael, in or­der to be a real­ist, you must be­lieve in mir­a­cles.” For sure, we have en­joyed many mir­a­cles in this re­mark­able land. Let’s hope my fear – and all of our fears – will be un­jus­ti­fied!

Hag same’ah.

(Marc Is­rael Sellem)

‘THIS IS not a child’s game’ reads a sign at a protest this past Novem­ber against the in­cen­di­ary kites and rock­ets be­ing launched from Gaza.

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