With events in Israel unfolding so swiftly, it is hard for a weekly publication like the Ledger to keep current. At press time, here were a few of the breaking news developments. More news related to the current conflict are included on our “Briefs” page (p. 6). For up-to-the-minute news, visit the Ledger website at www.jewishledger.com.
Hamas fires rockets after Israel accepts Egypt’s cease-fire deal
(JNS.org) Hamas continued rocket attacks after the Israeli cabinet agreed to an Egyptian-proposed cease-fire deal to halt the current conflict. In response, Israel proceeded with Operation Protective Edge in Gaza after Hamas’s rejection of an agreement that had stipulated for both sides to end “hostilities” by 9 a.m. Tuesday. “Following six hours of indiscriminate rocket fire at Israel the IDF has resumed operational activities against Hamas,” Israel Defense Forces Spokesman Peter Lerner tweeted Tuesday afternoon.
Rocket sirens persisted across Israel on Tuesday and were heard as far north as Zichron Yaakov, which is located 22 miles south of the northern city of Haifa, Israel Hayom reported.
“If Hamas rejects the Egyptian proposal, and the rocket fire from Gaza does not cease, and that appears to be the case now, we are prepared to continue and intensify our operation to protect our people,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a meeting with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who was visiting Israel.
Israel workers brave rockets, restore power to Gaza
(JNS.org) After a day without power, electricity was restored to some 70,000 Gazans when the Israeli government gave the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) the green light to repair a high-power line that had been damaged by a rocket on Saturday, Israel Hayom reported. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said that one of the rockets fired by Gaza terrorists Sunday night “hit an electricity infrastructure in Israel that supplied electricity to the Gaza Strip, causing a power outage to some 70,000 Gaza civilians.” IEC employees dispatched to repair the damage were accompanied by IDF soldiers and outfitted with bulletproof vests. They wore special helmets to minimize the threat of shrapnel injuries.
Palestinians refuse Israeli humanitarian aid
(Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JNS.org) Israel’s Magen David Adom (MDA) emergency services organization on Monday offered to transfer blood units and donations to the Gaza Strip, but the humanitarian gesture was rejected by the Palestinian Authority (PA). According to MDA Director Eli Bin, the organization then offered to assist the PA by facilitating blood drives involving Palestinian or Israeli Arab donors, but that offer was also rejected. Bin described Israel’s attempt help Palestinian medical facilities as “a humanitarian gesture.”
“I believe in it — this brings us respect as human beings,” he said.
At the same time, Magen David Adom appealed to the international community to help support it in obtaining emergency supplies and funding amid the continued rocket fire on the Jewish state. The group said that the most critical emergency supplies it needs during the crisis are emergency medical supplies for ambulances and first-responders, supplies for its national blood center, and communications systems.
To make a donation, visit American Friends of Magen David Adom at www.afmda.org.
Jewish federations launch emergency fund
(JNS.org) The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) on Friday, July 11 announced the launch of “Stop the Sirens,” an emergency fundraising campaign “aimed at providing urgent and immediate assistance to Israeli communities under the barrage of rockets attacks from Gaza.” The umbrella organization representing more than 150 Jewish federations said the campaign is a partnership with the Reform and Conservative movements. JFNA’s overseas partners — the Jewish Agency for Israel, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and the Israel Trauma Coalition — are also collaborating on the initiative.
To make a donation, visit www.jfna.org or your local federation website.
The New Normal
A Connecticut mom goes about life in Israel
By Leah Bieler
I’m driving home from dropping the kids off at day camp. The radio is on, playing an old pop tune I recognize but never loved. I consider turning off the radio, then think better of it. I tuned in to drown out my kids on the way there, who were gratingly singing the same two-line song over and over in the backseat. Now, on my way back to the house, the radio is my only company in the silent, empty car.
The music ends and the DJ is talking in that upbeat morning voice that I have never been successful in cultivating. He gives a quick traffic report just as I find myself in a mini-jam a couple of minutes from home, not big enough to make the news. I’m only half listening, watching the dance between the driver a few cars ahead and the man standing at the crosswalk. He stares down the car in a look I find all too familiar because I make it myself daily. It dares the driver not to let you cross even as two feet are planted firmly on the sidewalk, on the off chance the driver takes you up on it.
The DJ’s tone changes slightly. “Listeners, if you hear a tzeva adom (red alert) and you’re in your car, pull over to the side of the road. If there’s a wall or a building you can get to in time – depending on where you live this is between 15 seconds and a minute and a half – run to it. If there’s no time, lie on the ground behind your car, face down, arms over your head. Be safe, everyone.”
And the first thought that runs through my head is, how do I know what “behind the car” means? Doesn’t that depend on which way the missile falls?
Then the traffic clears and I arrive on my street and my thoughts turn to what I need to buy for Shabbat.
I’ve spent most summers of my life in Jerusalem. My kids go to camp here, where they speak only Hebrew and develop a fleeting interest in the Mondial. They love the freedom they have in Israel, not like in the suburbs where we drive everywhere. There, when the kids try to walk to a friend’s house, or to the store, strangers roll down their windows asking if they’re okay. My younger daughter comes home from camp and asks if we need milk, because she loves going to the store by herself and doing the shopping for me. If we have enough milk, I tell her to get some seltzer. As a result, we have a pantry full of seltzer.
And while the kids are in camp, I walk around the city, planting myself in cafes where I can write for hours over a single cup of coffee, enjoying the breeze and the light bouncing off the Jerusalem stone. But this summer is different.
My two older kids are spending a month at sleepaway camp in the states, so my husband remains in the U.S., waiting for them to come home so they can jump on a plane and join me and their siblings. Oh, and the bombs.
I’ve been here in wartime before. I’ve had the police yell us back into our house so that they could explode a package someone left in front of our gate. I’ve been locked in the supermarket for an hour while they subdued a terrorist outside. And with so many other things connected with the security situation here, I know the drill.
But this is the first time that an air raid siren sent me (and my children) into our double duty laundry room/bomb shelter. I’m not sure what I was expecting. I was very calm and sure that the kids weren’t at all frightened.
But I must have been more flustered than I realized, because when my good friend who lives down the street sweetly called me in the shelter to see if I was alright, I forgot to ask if her son, who a couple of minutes earlier had been babysitting at my house, had made it home in time. (He had not, and ran the second half of the way, sirens blaring.)
And the kids went to bed easily, but the next day, they had a battery of questions. “What if I’m in the shower when the siren sounds?” “How far away is the bomb shelter at camp?” “What are the chances we could get hit?” My daughter jumps every time she hears an ambulance, unable to entirely distinguish the sounds.
But then, they giggle at the top of their lungs in the pool, Or I have a hard time pulling them away from their friends at the end of the camp day, campmates yelling at them in Hebrew as we walk towards the car. And they annoy me from the backseat. And it all feels so normal.
There’s an episode of “The West Wing” where Josh Lyman can’t stand to hear music because in his head the sounds turn to sirens, reminding him of when he was shot, during a foiled assassination attempt by white supremacists. I remember thinking what a clever literary device that was, if a bit unrealistic.
But last night, the kids in bed, the news on low, banners going across the screen every time a missile was fired, the house was eerily quiet. And then I heard a sound, like a wave, with an ebb and flow that I would have sworn was a distant air raid warning. I heard it again. And again. They weren’t mentioning anything on the TV about a warning in Jerusalem, so I opened the door to the balcony to check.
There’s a haredi yeshiva down the street. They exist in a bit of a bubble, barely interacting with the more liberal community that surrounds them. They were having a celebration of some sort, seemingly unaware of the war going on all around. They were singing the same tune over and over, and it washed over me like waves. I went to bed to the sound of those crashing waves, which any other night would have grated on me, as they sang loud and strong, way past midnight. But this week it seemed apropos, a contradiction within a contradiction. I’m sure there were mothers in Gaza at that same moment, silently wishing for a bit of my good fortune. Serenaded, I slept better than I have in weeks.
Leah Bieler is a freelance journalist and teacher of Talmud. She lives in Fairfield County with her husband, Rabbi Ron Fish of Congregation Beth El in Norwalk, and their four children.. Follow her on Twitter at @leahbieler or on her blog radicallyconventional.com.
An Israeli Dreams of Peace
By Raz Newman
I remember when I was a kid, my mom would tell me that by the time I reach 18 we will have peace.
She would stroke my head and tell me that when I finish high school, instead of joining the army, I will enroll myself in the best university in Israel and do whatever in the world I want to do.
When my dad used to put me in bed, I remember my twin brother and I making him tell us stories from the time he was a soldier.
“Tell us about the time, when you saw a drop of dew floating in the thick air, and how you stopped the tanks — to later find out that the dew was tangled on a string that was connected to a land mine. Tell us about how they took a picture of you and put it in the paper,” we would beg him every time.
“Soldiers are heroes, mom. I want to be a hero too!” I would answer her after she wished for peace.
Sadly, my wish came true. I joined the army, and got to have my fair share of stories. My little brother used to beg me to tell him those stories. He looked up to me, like I looked up to my dad. And I, just like my mom, would stroke his little head, wishing he would only get to hear our stories, and not relive them.
Now, he is about to join the army, and I am holding my breath.
Are we doomed that way? Will my kids have to go through the same wicked dance? Listening to their father’s stories about how it was back then; knowing that, in a few years from now, they will be next in line?
There is something really twisted about growing up that way – a way in which you know that when you become 18 you will join the army. Instead of getting ready for a big interview for your dream college, you run up and down the hills, carrying a bag of sand, preparing yourself for the ‘sorting week’ in which you select and/or are chosen for your ideal unit.
“Time is sacred,” my commander used to say. “Time is everything in life. Time and timing.” So, he would make us run like crazy. “If Usain Bolt ran 200 meters in 19:19 seconds, and he is an Olympic athlete, you guys should make it in 20. He ran for the gold — you’re running for your life.” And so, we wouldn’t stop running, until our commander became satisfied. “Don’t worry, soldiers, we will get there. We have three years for that, and then reserve duty,” he would tell us.
It took Usain Bolt — probably the fastest runner in the world — 14.35 seconds to run 150 meters. Once the siren sounds, most Israelis have 15 seconds to stop wherever they are and whatever they are doing and run for shelter.
Imagine taking a shower. The warm water dripping down your body. You can almost fall asleep. So calm. Your new shampoo smells so good. It’s late now, almost 9 p.m. and you are exhausted after a long day at work. Then, suddenly, a loud and high voice shouts, “code red, code red” — and you have exactly 15 second to wash the soap out of your eyes, don’t mind the fact that you’re naked, and run down the stairs, to the building’s shelter. Imagine a little girl, falling asleep in her bed, cuddled with her doll, waking up to a living nightmare.
That’s the reality in Israel right now.
Young boys dream of becoming soldiers in order to protect their families and friends; To make sure they will never have to worry about beating Bolt’s achievements; to make sure that their sisters and brothers and daughters and sons will be able to sleep through the whole night, and not worry about whether or not to use soap now because a siren might go off.
Since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge on July 8, and since this writing on July 14, Hamas has fired about a 1,000 rockets and missiles at Israel. Within six days, 1,000 alarms have gone off.
That is the reality in Israel.
What would you do if rockets were launched at your homes? Your children’s school? Your major cities?
Would you inform the other side before you strike them? Because that’s what Israel does. The Israel Air Force (IAF) informs the inhabitants of the targeted buildings that they are about to get hit, giving them up to an hour to evacuate the parameter, and, at the same time, allowing Hamas terrorists to escape.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is doing everything in its power to protect civilians in Gaza, while Hamas uses the Palestinians in Gaza as a human shield, to defend them and their ammunition from getting hurt. That is the difference between them and us.
A lot of my friends have been called back up by the IDF, and are now back on duty. My family living in the south have moved up to my parents house, so they could be safer. Instead of running to the shelter every five minutes, they now have an hour of quiet.
Now there are talks about a ceasefire. I don’t know what that means. Give Hamas enough time to get more rockets? To find new hospitals and schools in which to hide their ammunition?
I’m thinking about my unborn child, and a tear runs down my face. I dream of a time when instead of wearing green olive uniforms and learning to master the M16,
my kids will wear white and practice their dancing skills. I dream of a time when we can visit the beautiful beaches of Gaza, and say “as-salām ‘alaykum” — “hello” in Arabic — to the people living there, instead of searching them at the check-points.
Israel must protect itself. Israel will protect itself. Just like any other country.
Peace will come once a Palestinian mother will stroke her son’s head — and wish for the same.
Raz Newman was appointed director of Israel programs at the Mandell Jewish Community Center in West Hartford in the fall of 2013. Originally from Rishon LeTzion, 15 minutes south of Tel Aviv, Newman served in the IDF’s Oketz elite combat unit. As part of Israel’s Young Shaliach program, he will serve in Greater Hartford for a three-year term.