Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Tally

As of last Tuesday (not including military casualties):

849(!) rockets fired from Gaza
4 killed
8 seriously wounded
9 moderately wounded
51 lightly wounded
295 cases of shock

Friday, January 23, 2009

What If?

Just before George Bush left office last week, he phoned Israeli President Shimon Peres, who made this statement to the outgoing American leader:

"If the world had acted against Hitler the way you acted against Saddam Hussein, the lives of millions would have been saved."

Did You Know...?

Contrary to what you see in the news, not all Arabs hate Jews and Israel - especially those Arabs who live in Israel. In fact, many Israeli Arabs recognize that this is the only place in the Middle East where they can have true freedom and liberty. Here, for example, Arab Christians are free to be Christians without any fear of governmental interference or harassment (harassment by Muslims, though, is another story touched on here). Even Arab Muslims are free to be the type of Muslim they wish without fear of reprisal from the government (reprisal from their own community is another story all together). In short, despite Israel being a Jewish state, the relative freedom for the Arab community is unparalleled in this part of the world.

Many Israeli Arabs do not like or agree with Israeli policy or politics. But that too is the beauty of the democracy here: the freedom and right of minorities to openly disagree with the ruling government without fear of suppression. No matter one's personal politics, there are a lot of Jews and Arabs in Israel who understand the need and benefit of living together in peace. Most understand that life is too short to hate, and that underneath people's different opinions are human beings just like themselves who want to make the best of a difficult situation and live life as best as they can.

One such article from two weeks ago, right in the middle of the Gaza fighting, was a rally of Jews and Arabs for peace and coexistence.

Hundreds of Jews and Arabs from the north and center of Israel gathered near Kfar Kara'a on Highway 65 Saturday in a rally for peace. The only sign present at the demonstration read "Hand in hand – neighbors for peace".
Those present stressed that they were not for or against the military operation in Gaza. They wore white and held hands to create a human chain along the road for one hour, without disrupting traffic. The demonstration was declared a success and organizers said they would hold a similar one next Saturday.

"The political views remain on the sidelines," Guy explained. "We the people want to continue to live side by side in friendship and harmony and not to open up another front inside Israel."
Even a few days before, an Arab leader spoke out against Israeli Arabs who protested Israel's operation in Gaza.
Arab protesters who demonstrate against Israel are traitors, Arab-Israeli community leader Ali Jarushi said in a special interview with Yedioth Ayalon and Mynet, Ynet's local authority website.

The Ramle resident, who serves as a local leader and mediator in the Arab community, characterizes himself as a "peace-loving and humanity loving man." He says that Arab protests against the Gaza operation across the country anger him and contradict his worldview – namely, he believes that Arab-Israelis should respect the State and even send their children to serve in the army.
That's right, Arabs should even serve in the Israeli army. Though Arabs do serve in the army if they wish, it is strictly voluntary and, unfortunately, not many from the Arab community end up serving. There are more Bedouin and Druze that serve regularly in the Israeli army and Israel has even enlisted some to help explain and defend Israel's positions to the world.
A Druze ambassador and a Bedouin deputy consul general have positioned themselves at the forefront of Israel's PR battle in the US.

Reda Mansour, Israel's consul general to the southeast US, and Ismail Khaldi, San Francisco's deputy consul general, have made round-the-clock appearances on television and radio interviews, published articles, and stood before Muslim protesters who accused them of traitorous behavior.
Deputy Consul General Ismail Khaldi was somewhat less satisfied with the atmosphere in San Francisco, where numerous anti-IDF protests were taking place. ... Khaldi explained that these opinions make his job nearly impossible. "Even the most educated don't know the history of Israel," he said. "They feed off of press that is biased against Israel. Yes there was destruction in Gaza, but they don't understand the reason, and we are always on the defensive."
That's the beauty of Israel. As a minority one can be pro-Palestinian, pro-Israel, or whatever and be free and unafraid to say it. Try that anywhere else in the Middle East and see what disasters befall you.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Just a Simple Sample

I'm not sure if this video is 100% authentic, but it feels 100% like the real thing (video duration: 1 minute 29 seconds).

In the video the noise you hear is not the missile (it is only an airplane), and I've never known the siren to stop before the rocket hits. But that was Ashdod, maybe they do things differently there.

Friday, January 16, 2009

It's All Coming Back to Me Now

As this war continues with little hope of concluding any time soon, I can't help but to empathize with the hundreds of thousands who are just beginning to experience what we lived through for two long years. Without sounding like a drama queen (which is the the tendency in this part of the world) I find it helpful to read others who have verbalized their feelings because, for one of the few times in my life, words failed me in understanding what I was experiencing.

War in Israel is a different phenomenon than most other places in the world. Everyone wants to avoid armed conflict because the price for doing so is personally dear. Everyone here has a parent, child, relative, or friend who goes out on the front line to fight, sometimes hand-to-hand, against an enemy driven by hate. And this is why it is, in a way, surprising that 94% of Jewish Israelis support this conflict as righteously just one that leaves no choice but to fight.

Here are a few observations of what it is like to live in a place where the rockets are falling that describe better what it's better than I have done.

In this report a young boy describes how simply living life can be terrifying:

After relaying that "11,000 rocket and mortars" have landed in Israel in the last eight years, Roth recounted the words of an Israeli boy who complained of having to hide in response to sirens. Roth: "They've landed as far as 25 miles beyond the Gaza border, killed 15 civilians and put as many as a million people in range and in fear. ‘You wash your face and brush your teeth,’ a boy named Moishe told Israeli TV, ‘and then the siren sounds.’ He'd no sooner said that when it did."
I've been in that same sort of situation, like being in the shower with soap in my hair and suddenly hearing a noise that sounds similar to a siren (it's amazing how under attack EVERY noise begins to sound like a siren). In about a second you freeze and strain to hear if it is indeed a siren or not while your mind races about whether to stop and put the towel around your naked body (which will cost precious seconds) when you get out or just grab it on the fly and not worry about your dignity. Fortunately in those several times when it happened, it turned out to be nothing. Then, at that very moment you feel relieved that it was nothing, but immediately start feeling guilty for making a big deal out of (what turned out to be) a non-event.

In this JPost article we have the account of a Beersheva journalist who has often visited Sderot next to Gaza where the vast majority of rockets have fallen. She describes the difference between merely visiting a place under attack and having the attacks hit close to her own home:
"I know a little too much about rockets and what they can do. Over the last couple of years I've spent several days in Sderot, interviewing, taking pictures and reporting on the scene. With one exception, every day I was there, there was at least one Color Red Kassam warning, the alarm that signals a rocket is on the way.
But still, in Sderot, when the rockets hit, I was appropriately nervous, but not nearly as terrorized as I am here, in my own home. I'm not sure why, but maybe it's because in Sderot, I was visiting. I knew that at the end of the day, I was leaving. Here, when the rockets hit and I'm in my own house, it's intensely personal. I'm not visiting here - they got me where I live.
At least as far as I'm concerned, the terrorists have already achieved their goal. I'm terrorized. I'm shaking like the proverbial leaf, although now that Beersheba is in its third day of being bombed, by the time a half hour has passed, I've pretty much stopped shaking.
Terror happens because I don't know when or where the next missile will hit - that's what's scary. It's living moment by moment, in a state of anxious expectation overlaid with dread.

When outside in the pathway in front of my house, a neighbor drops something - maybe a garden tool or a metal pan of some kind - and there's a "clang!" I jump so high you almost have to scrape me off the ceiling. When a jet overhead - our guys, thank God - breaks the sound barrier, I'm ready to dive under the bed. A car horn in the street makes me run for the kitchen, until I realize it was only one single bleat and can't possibly be the warning siren.

Knowledge doesn't help in these situations, it makes it tougher. Today, before the sirens went bonkers, I washed a tub of clothes. Now I'm ready to go hang them to dry on the clothesline in my yard - but as I put my hand on the doorknob, I stop and think. Just last week, 58-year-old Beber Vaknin of Netivot was killed when he stepped outside his house. The first rocket hit and Vaknin went outside to see if there'd been damage. At that moment a second rocket hit, and the shrapnel pierced Vaknin's heart, killing him. Do I really want to go outside and hang clothes?

That's what terror is. It's making the 800,000 of us - Jews and Arabs alike, by the way - who live within the terrorists' newly-expanded missile range in Israel's South be fearful every day, every hour, every minute. It's making us change our lives, it forces us to keep our children inside, to worry about family members who do nothing more dangerous than go to work.

I finally go through an "Oh, for crying out loud" moment, grit my teeth, open the door and hang the laundry on the line. Nothing happens, of course.
So far, all is well. But no matter what happens next, we know one thing: The terrorists are very good at what they do. They've packed every day with dread, fear and anxiety. Terror works. It surely does."
I don't care who you are, no one can live like that. For better or worse we as human beings are created with an undeniable sense of self-preservation and, especially as parents, you stop caring about yourself (not exactly a good thing itself) and feeling the responsibility for their well-being.

War is horrible, but what does one do when there is no other choice? Too bad that it has to get so bad before something will be done. May it end soon.

Friday, January 9, 2009

A Time for War

Having put myself under a self-imposed TV news blackout (a source of undue stress), I don't know what all is being shown on the news here OR in other countries. I am more than confident that the suffering on both sides is being examined with a fine tooth microscope (if I may mix my metaphors). With the political situation in Gaza being much too complicated to unravel here, one thing can be said with complete certainty: Hamas is pure evil. Civilian deaths is the goal, both Israeli and Palestinian.

Having endured being a target myself from the Jihadists' rockets, my aforementioned narrow perspective might tend to slant my opinions about this current war. Regardless, I want it to be over immediately. I'm not a flag-waving anything here, yet for the sake of everyone, both Israeli and Palestinian, I can only hope that Hamas is crushed.

Civilian deaths in wartime are sadly unavoidable, but Israel goes to every length possible to avoid at best, minimize at worst, enemy civilian casualties. The qualitative difference is the well known fact that Hamas targets civilians, and even prefers to target Israeli children (stop and let that notion sink in: they "target children", and they "prefer" to target them), and if that's not bad enough, they are more than eager to cause and promote the deaths of their own civilians.Not only is it interesting that they are willing "to fight to the very last drop of their population's blood", but also that "[t]here is a tacit understanding amongst Hamas officials that the organization is not a shield for the Palestinian population, but there to protect their own associates only." This bears out in reports that the Hamas fighters are avoiding fighting man-to-man, soldier-to soldier, but prefer shielding themselves behind civilians:

And tucked safely away from the fighting they (Hamas) caused, at every opportunity they (Hamas) reject out-of-hand any offer of a cease-fire.

Why, why, why not agree to stopping the fighting? That would be, in their own words, absurd.

Say what you want about the war, or any war. War is absolutely horrible and, unfortunately, in war the most terrible things always happen. However, when one fights a war against vile enemies such as Hamas and other terrorists, one must remember who the enemy is and what they want more than anything in this world: to kill me AND you. But don't take the word of little ol' me, take it straight from the horses' mouths:

Friday, January 2, 2009

Not the best timing, eh?

Here's an interesting report [pdf file] by the Intelligence & Terrorism Information Center that gives an overview of rocket/mortar fire from Gaza (interestingly the increase corresponds with the time Hamas took power there). If you like charts and graphs, this is for you. Here's a chart that I personalized:

Looks like we arrived just when the big fun began. Oh well, live and learn I say.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Old Money

Another interesting find in Jerusalem from almost 2,000 years ago.

Two ancient coins, one used to pay the Temple tax and another minted by the Greek leader the Jews fought in the story of Hanukka, have been uncovered amid debris from Jerusalem's Temple Mount, an Israeli archeologist said Thursday.

Now That's Not Very Neighborly

In the Gaza Strip this holiday season, Hamas seems to be getting into the festive mood in the only way that Hamas knows how.

Both Iran and its Hamas proxy in Gaza have been busy this Christmas week showing Christendom just what they think of it. But no one seems to have noticed.

On Tuesday, Hamas legislators marked the Christmas season by passing a Shari'a criminal code for the Palestinian Authority. Among other things, it legalizes crucifixion.

Hamas's endorsement of nailing enemies of Islam to crosses came at the same time it renewed its jihad.
And you thought those guys only treated Jews bad.


The disclaimer: I'm not a journalist. You may be shocked, shocked to hear that but my goal in my posts is to be as honest as I can be about the way I see things here, not to report the news. I am not promoting an agenda or trying to give a balanced account of every subject. I have my opinions and preferences about things and simply try to express those opinions carefully and accurately. I avoid political issues because,frankly,the last thing this world needs is another political voice.

Why do I write? Imagine that you are in my shoes for a moment. You come to Israel with your Arab Christian spouse and kids to the Jewish state to live. Immediately you are stereotyped (and let's be honest, we all do that to some degree), usually incorrectly, but that's fine because you can usually find amusement seeing people's reaction when they discover their stereotype was way wrong. Regardless, you are essentially an outsider.

While minding your own business trying to make a life in your new environment, the next thing you know you are under attack by rockets shot in order to kill, maim, and terrify you and everyone around you (actually, they really are aiming to kill everyone around you, but would celebrate just the same if they got you or your family). And to top it all off, those rocket shooters are of the same ethnicity as your spouse (hence the stereotype spoken about above). Good times.

Then, after waiting way too long and enduring several attacks too many, you have to suddenly uproot (while under fire) and relocate in the middle of the school year. Just like that, you start over. Maybe it's just me, but I think anyone going through something like that will form some sorts of opinions about matters whether one once cared about them previously or not. In this country you can try to remain neutral and "stay above the fray", but sooner or later events will grab you. That's a fact, that's the reality.

Although thankfully we have no part or stake in this conflict, I still love Arabs and Jews alike. Many times I feel I live in the best of both worlds here, enjoying living life in one culture and having family and friends in the other. Not fully belonging to either but also inseparable from both. We are on the fringe and at the same time caught in the middle of everything.

As a result, we experience the great, the good, the bad, and the ugly of both peoples. And while both have their serious problems, even fatal flaws, they are each wonderful peoples in their own right. And because of/in spite of these things, I have formed certain opinions about things. Not all are in concrete, mind you, but my opinions are based on the unique situation through which we have had to navigate and maneuver.

Take everything written here with a grain of salt. It is only one view of life here from my outsider/insider perspective. There are other aspects to this country and other sides to the stories about which I write, so if you are interested in those you can find droves of information to the contrary. The information is available and, as I always say, read and decide for yourself.

War Anyone? Anyone?

A little more on the war. First, video of a rocket nearly missing a pedestrian in Ashkelon. Notice the force of the explosion:

Next is the damage caused by a rocket. Notice the building behind and the bullet-like shrapnel holes left:When you hear about "shrapnel wounds" from the rockets, think of this shrapnel.

A side note: There are those who say that these rockets are really not all that dangerous. You might want to lower your opinion of whomever says such nonsense.

Here's a chart of the current rocket range (courtesy of on my experience, I would have sworn that Ashkelon had only 3-7 seconds time to reach cover. Maybe in an ideal world, they're talking about.

Here's an article about rockets now reaching Be'er Sheva. Interesting quote:

Efrat, an Omer resident, was at home with her two small daughters and was terrified to hear the siren. "As a lecturer at the Sapir College (in Sderot [where rockets fall almost daily for the past 4 years]), but with my children at home it was terrible," she told Ynet.
In other words, rockets are terrifying, but when children are involved there are no words to describe what it's like.

Pray that all this will stop.