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Running for cover in Ashkelon


For some reason, I was the only one in the apartment who didn’t hear the first wail of the siren – the civil defense mechanism which gives Israelis living within bomb radius of Gaza up to a full 20 seconds to take cover or move to a safer area. In the case of the flat in Ashkelon where we were staying – the home of my wife’s aunt and uncle – which is near the top floor, they are instructed to descend two levels and take cover in the section opposite where a direct hit would land. The likely trajectory of a potential missile would make their home especially vulnerable.

It took me a couple of seconds to understand why everyone – Chana, her aunt, uncle, cousins, and friends – was running towards the door, but the second siren, which I heard simultaneously with the words “bomb”, “we must” “take cover”, uttered by someone, or everyone, finally confirmed the meaning of their worried expressions and the rapid urgency of their gate.

We descended down two flights where the other neighbors had gathered – the safe spot. We learned later that it wasn’t a false alarm, as is sometimes the case. Thankfully, the rocket landed harmlessly in an open field a mile or so from our location.

Since Israel’s unilateral withdraw from in 2005, there has been over 7,000 such missile attacks (rockets and mortars) from Gaza into Southern Israel – with a stark increase in such attacks after Hamas gained power in 2006. While such attacks slowed dramatically after Operation Cast Lead in January 2009, there have still been over 300 in the lat year. Indeed, a few hours before our incident in Ashkelon, a Qassam rocket hit Netiv Ha’asara in the western Negev, its shrapnel taking the life of a Thai worker employed in a moshav greenhouse.

Chana and I had married less than 48 hours before the attack, had both been in Israel less than a year, and I couldn’t help but see what happened as a minor, but genuine, initiation into Israeli life. My wife was a bit shaken by the experience and it occurred to me that, despite the seeming normality of everyday life in Israel, being an Israeli is no normal existence.

Being a citizen of Israel requires a toughness and resilience beyond what is typically expected in other democratic and relatively affluent nations. Being an Israeli requires a sober understanding that, despite our remarkable economic achievements and our dynamic cultural, social and political life, we are still surrounded by enemies determined to destroy us – a determination impervious to the political and moral reasoning that most take for granted. In the zero-sum game of Islamic extremism, as embodied by movements such as Hamas, it is not Israeli policies, but our mere existence which is an offense.

Chana and I made Aliyah separately, but neither of us were under any illusions prior to our decisions that living here would be easy. We also had an understanding of what Zionism meant in the context of Jewish history, and neither of us have ever questioned whether our move was worth the considerable risks.

In pondering the unimaginable courage and fortitude displayed by those who came before us to create and protect the modern Jewish state – sacrifies which most in our relatively safe and affluent generation simply can not relate to – my only hope is that I live my life in a manner worthy of their example.

11 replies »

  1. In the short time I’ve come to know you Adam, I can safely say that I am honored and privileged to count you as a friend..Not any kind of friend, but one who truly embodies the spirit, mettle and burden of what it takes to be a proud and worthy Jew.

  2. While in the mean time, the government can’t find money to install the Iron Dome missile defense system around Gaza, but it can find billions to:
    – subsidize tens of thousands of ultra-orthodox seminary students.
    – set up caravans for extremists in the West Bank, supply them with utilities and protect them.

    “despite the seeming normality of everyday life in Israel, being an Israeli is no normal existence”. It is not a ‘normal existence’ because the government chooses to ignore the welfare and aspirations of you and millions of other law-abiding and productive citizens who believe in the country and its future.

  3. I live in north Israel and was not under fire during Cast Lead, but i was during the Lebanon war.
    You really can’t understand the mental anguish of hearing the siren a few times a day gather your family and start running towards what is supposed to be your safe area and then having to wait until you hear the rockets explosions around you to know if you made it out alive or not. After that you start calling everybody you know to see if they are also ok. Since just about the whole city is doing the same the mobile phone lines crash alot.
    During the first Gulf war we were all cramped into what was supposed to be the safe room with plastic bags taped over the windows to protect from chemical attacks. we were all wearing gas masks when a scud missile missile landed not too far from our home and all the windows broke the door blew open and cracked.

  4. Our dog was so terrified she pooped in the room and we were all looking at her to see if she makes it out alive or not to know if this was a chemical missile or not since she didn’t have any protection.

  5. MTC,

    It’s as straight forward as you make it seems.

    i wasn’t aware the government sponsored any caravans being placed in the WB recently.

  6. “set up caravans for extremists in the West Bank, supply them with utilities and protect them.”

    These “extremists,” as you call them (and why? Because they believe Judea and Samaria too are part of the Land of Israel, which belongs to the Jews?), ensure by their presence that the predicament of Sderot and Ashkelon does not befall Tel-Aviv. It was the uprooting of the “extremists” from Gaza that made it possible for the Arab imperialists to set up their rocket-making infrastructure a stone’s throw away from Sderot and Ashkelon.

    Every time I think those “pragmatists” and “voices of reason” can’t get more infuriating, someone like you has to prove me wrong.

    “…to install the Iron Dome missile defense system around Gaza…”

    The idea that Jews should live on their own land as they did in the Diaspora, defended from the Jew-haters by walls and domes, is deeply disturbing to anyone who retains a smattering of belief in Zionism. Israel’s great tragedy is to see how Post-Zionist lunatics have taken over the Jews’ asylum and only home.

  7. ziontruth:

    “Israel’s great tragedy is to see how Post-Zionist lunatics have taken over the Jews’ asylum and only home.”

    How do you propose to deal with them ?

  8. “How do you propose to deal with them?”

    Drive all the Arab settlers out, then repopulate the areas with indigenous Palestinians, meaning Jews.

    (And kindly don’t harp on about how “morally reprehensible” ethnic cleansing is. It’s, after all, what a great many people propose be done with the Jews of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, and even further if you count the Helen Thomas Left. My disagreement with anti-Zionists isn’t about the morality of mass expulsion, it’s about who is the indigenous and who the settler-colonist invader.)

  9. MindTheCrap

    “despite the seeming normality of everyday life in Israel, being an Israeli is no normal existence”. It is not a ‘normal existence’ because the government chooses to ignore the welfare and aspirations of you and millions of other law-abiding and productive citizens who believe in the country and its future.

    Seems to be a sickness of democracy. The previous British government swore it was being careful about immigration of ‘undesirables’ yet somehow, they were still flooding in.

    Or the present British government talking about a level ground for education while increasing the University fees so that the children of rich parents will be in a preferred position.

    I too find it deplorable financing people to produce more children who will also need state benefits when they marry and grow up. And left wing governments did this too.