Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Letter from Netanya: Sharing the Nightmare

I just received this e-mail from Jan Gaines, a Beth El member who lives for half the year in Netanya, Israel. Jan has often corresponded with us during hard times over there, and few times have been more difficult than today. We feel the same pain that she feels, a mixture of the sadness for the loss of innocent life, along with anger at those who treat human life with such disdain that they would deliberately put children in the line of fire, using them as shields so that they might deliberately shoot rockets intended to kill other innocent people.

Here are Jan's words.

Dear Friends,

I can't sleep vcry well at night anymore. Gone is that bucolic bliss I felt my first two weeks back here. It's been replaced by the stress and tension the whole country feels now in this 13th day of the Gaza war.

The other day I had a phone repair guy here, fixing my lines. In the middle of his work, he got a call on his cell phone and when he hung up he quickly put everything back. He said simply, "I've been called up." The message is simple: "Come NOW.

He tells me that in his reserve duty he's a medic, right there on the front lines. I want to hold him in my arms and pray that he'll be alright. I offer him tea or coffee and he just wants water. I ask him how old he is. Twenty eight he says. Married? I ask. In May he replies.

And then he quickly leaves. I hardly know his name. But I fear for him as if he were my own son. And in a way he is.

And that is how Israelis see their citizen army. Each one is their child or grandchild. And I have to sit down and calm myself before I can handle the rest of the day.

We don't ask for "fair" because when it comes to Israel it is never fair. But to see the whole world erupting in anti-Israel and anti-Jewish venom, to see the UN Sec Genl crying over dead Gazans when he never said a word these last years over the barrage of rockets into civilian targets in Israel; when the latest mistaken bombing of a UN school prompts outrage worldwide without mentioning that Hamas was shooting from the school, that is enough to wonder when will we ever be allowed to just LIVE.

Never mind that there were kids in that school.Why? How could they let them go to a school in the middle of a battle scene. Why does Israel close all of its schools within a 50 KM radius in order to protect the kids, and its a good thing because so far 4 schools have been hit in 4 places in the south. Why can't the world cut us a little slack and believe us when we say we don't want to target civilians?

We sent leaflets out of planes before the invasion, warning Gazans to take cover. The IDF even made PHONE CALLS to Gaza residents, especially in Gaza city, asking them to get out of the way. And Hamas just keeps sending rockets hoping to kill, kill, kill. Nothing in the press about that!!!

Yes, I know that TV is cynically manipulated by Hamas. They have Al Jazeera in several languages, they have the BBC and the French TV and even CNN sometimes (the European CNN) And none of these channels has anything but one sided coverage. Designed to inflame Muslims and Arabs around the world, and succeeding very well. Masterfully well. Remember that heartbreaking TV shot of a child cowering in his father's arms that travelled the world blaming Israel for child murder??? That has now been discovered to have been STAGED by French TV for dramatic effect. And the same is happening today. No mention of the 3 year old Gaza child recovering from heart surgery in an Israeli hospital, or the few Gazans who can get through being treated in Ashkelon or Beersheva hospitals for free. Or the several hundred tons of relief supplies sent in daily by truck to Gaza.

Why? No one wants to find out what happens to these supplies once they are in Gaza. Is it true that Hamas takes most of it for their own fighters? That they have opened their own separate hospital just for their fighters, siphoning off needed supplies coming in to the other hospitals treating civilians and fighters both.

And can you picture the warrens of undulating tunnels where the vipers of Hamas strike our soldiers and then escape into adjoining tunnels, all leading into neighboring houses? How does an ethical army fight that kind of fight without injuring civilians in the process?

And so this is why I'm not sleeping well at night. And you really have to be here in person to feel it and understand it.

"Share the Dream" used to be a UJA slogan. Now I'm wondering if American Jews can share a little of the nightmare as well.

Jan Gaines

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