Update from JCC Israel Center

Operation Protective Edge — Day 28

Israeli_heartYesterday Israel buried four of her best sons, courageous soldiers, our heroes. They were killed in the Rafah battle on Friday. Among them is 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin, who was declared dead on Saturday after Hamas had claimed to have kidnapped him. Hadar’s death brings the total of Israeli soldiers killed in battle to 64.

Yesterday, Israel declared a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in an attempt to deescalate the conflict. While Israeli troops retreated from the strip, Hamas continued its attacks and fired 119 rockets and mortar rounds at Israeli cities. Israel also announced that in return for assistance in rehabilitating and rebuilding Gaza, that the area be completely demilitarized.

Israel again announced a unilateral humanitarian cease-fire for seven hours today. Yet Hamas continues to launch rockets toward us, even as I write. Since Operation Protective Edge began, the militants have fired at least 3,000 rockets and mortar shells at us.

A short while ago, Hamas declared a cease-fire. Israel has acknowledged it and says it will abide by it as long as Hamas does.
Along with the fighting down south and the rockets fired toward Israeli towns, Arab Israelis have been demonstrating and protesting throughout this operation, as an act of solidarity with the residents of Gaza. Yesterday Arab youths threw stones and fireworks at police forces by the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem. This is in addition to other riots that have taken place around Israel. Some have been violent, and as a result prevent Israelis from driving in these areas. For example, I have had to change my daily route driving into Jerusalem to get to the office.

Earlier today terror returned to Jerusalem near Mea Shearim in Jerusalem, when a tractor stolen and driven by ann Arab man from Jerusalem hit some vehicles in an attempted terror attack. A pedestrian was killed and six other people were wounded. Police shot and killed the terrorist. Less than three hours later, a second terror attack occurred when a terrorist riding on a motorcycle near the Mt. Scopus tunnel, shot an Israel Defense Force (IDF) soldier in the stomach, severely injuring him.

These are days of war and the atmosphere in Israel is heavy with it. Incoming tourism is suffering. Trips have been canceled and postponed. Local Israeli tourism and other summer activities have been damaged, as well, because soldiers have been drafted — Who wants to go out or travel when a family member is fighting? — or just because nobody is really in the mood for vacationing and entertainment right now.

The war atmosphere is pervasive, from street signs showing support and solidarity, to Israel’s blue and white flags waving from cars and public buildings, to official highway signs alerting drivers to the presence of tanks movers or explaining what to do in case of sirens that go off while driving. Television and radio commercials and other advertisements are all related to the war. Banners run at the bottom of the TV screen advertising organizations that offer mental and physical aid, to Holocaust survivors, children with special needs, people with post traumatic stress, single moms, etc. All radio and TV channels announce live each and every one of the sirens that go off in any part of the country. Most regular TV and radio programming has  been canceled, replaced with special war-related shows being broadcast around the clock, and causing  tremendous financial loss to these media. Radio and TV jingles send messages of support and solidarity to our troops and residents of Israel’s south. New songs about the war have been published. Major concerts, summer happenings and festivals have been canceled because there is a prohibition about congregating in large numbers.

You can sense it everywhere. This is how people feel; it’s the collective body language, the national mood. You can see it written on people’s faces, despite so many uplifting solidarity events and an overwhelming sense of unity.

We are glued to the news at all times. We talk about what’s going on constantly and practically live the war 24/7. Yes, life goes on, people go to work daily, I’m siting now at my desk in our lovely JCC Israel Center office in Jerusalem, but in between emails and meetings, it’s all about what’s really going on: the war, the worries, the hope and the pain. Most of us know soldiers who were killed or injured, most of us have been to either funerals or shiva visits, and all of us cry with every new bereaved family.
War routine is the worst routine. No one, not we Israelis and not our neighbors in Gaza should be asked to get used to living under threat. Israelis who live within 25 miles from Gaza have been under this constant threat from rockets for 14 years now, and it is outrageous.

War routine is a terrible one. It is an oxymoron. The two words contradict and we mustn’t ever allow ourselves to reach that point. Israelis, like every other nation around the world deserve to live in peace; but until we fulfill that dream, we must live instead with a great abiding love for our county, always at risk. Yet we must never lose our hope, or our spirit.

Leah Garber
Vice President
JCC Israel Center