by Reesa Cohen Stone.
Since last weekend, over 200 rockets have been fired at various cities and communities in Israel from Gaza. Thankfully serious injuries have been small in number but 1 million Israeli citizens have suffered huge disruption to their daily lives. Here Reesa Cohen Stone, a resident of Beer Sheva talks about life under the rocket threat.
When I was asked to write an article about the ‘situation’ in Southern Israel for this publication, I didn't know where to start. So much has been written lately about the 'situation' in Southern Israel that there is nothing left to note. The BBC's anti-Israeli slant; growing world-wide anti-Semitism; the traumatizing effects of the constant missile fire on children (and adults); the effectiveness of the Iron Dome anti-missile battery and whether it's an advantage to the war effort or adds to complacency of the military and of civilians and hence, in the long run, curtails the effectiveness of the IDF; the steadfastness of the populations of the targeted areas; the heavy-handedness of the IDF; which side started this latest round of aggression and why have all been covered ad naseum.
However, there is one aspect that has not been especially well covered by the mainstream media, neither here in Israel, nor abroad.
In this latest skirmish, since Friday, March 9, more than 200 missiles of all kinds were fired into Israel over four days. Each missile has the potential to kill dozens and do millions of pounds worth of damage. By the evening of Monday, March 12, Magen David Adom reported that 45 people had been injured, one seriously, with the majority being treated for shock and released. Of the 200 missiles, Iron Dome intercepted sixty (a 90% success rate on missiles aimed at large population centers), and most of the others fell in open areas or outside of the cities doing minimal damage. There were hits in Ashdod, and Gedera damaging cars and homes, while in Beer Sheva 15 houses sustained damage along with the outside walls of an (empty) school when grad rockets fell into the middle of a street. A policeman on the scene said that had the rocket fallen a few meters in any other direction, a great deal more damage would have been caused.
Israel's first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion said "In Israel, in order to be a realist you must believe in miracles".
While miracles such as the parting of the Red Sea, or the founding of the State of Israel are well known and perceived as such, events occur regularly here that need to be recognized as miraculous.
We southerners have seen plenty of miracles. A story that made the news during the last bombardment in October told of an Ashdod synagogue – which was really only a room in a school – taking a direct hit. Though it was late Shabbat afternoon and the time for mincha, the synagogue was empty. For the first time in 40 years, the Gabbai had felt ill and did not open the room for prayers. Pictures of the room showed almost complete destruction, the ceiling caved in, chairs and tables overturned, rubble everywhere. The only things that remained standing and whole were the Aron Kodesh, holding the Sefer Torah, and the bookstand holding prayer books and Bibles.
Last year, in Beer Sheva, an early morning missile fell in the middle of a street dotted with synagogues. Though glass shattered in many homes and several of the synagogues where dozens had gathered for morning prayers, the only person injured was a man who watched the missile fall from his third floor window (against the orders of the Home Front Command) and his window shattered right on him.
And now during this most recent bombardment we have witnessed rockets falling in empty areas, missing property by inches; rockets falling on schools and kindergartens, which were empty because school had been cancelled; rockets falling on homes where the owners had just 'stepped out' or were safe in the protected room. And there have been no casualties at all to our soldiers, not the pilots taking out the launch sites, and not to those manning the Iron Dome sites.
This is Israel, and miracles abound. He who watches over Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps.
But we don’t rely on miracles. Heroes also abound. They come in all forms: the usual kind such as policemen, ambulance drivers, firemen, and of course the men and women (boys and girls from my perspective!) of the IDF who are sleeping outside, manning the Iron Dome, shooting down the missiles aimed at us and the pilots flying above us protecting us from harm. There are also those heroes who are not so noticeable, such as the security guard standing outside the supermarket ushering in passersby during a siren so that they can find safety in the store's shelter; the woman I saw rushing over to help a stranger who went into shock during a siren; the friends, acquaintances, and strangers (!) from all over the country who have offered their homes as respite from the sirens to us southerners. There are hundreds of volunteers – mostly students – helping the elderly, babysitting children so their parents can work while schools are closed, manning emergency phones, and guarding damaged houses. There are the shop owners, who get up in the morning and open their businesses so we can buy bread and milk, and nails, and laundry detergent, so life can go on as normally as possible.
What an honor to be able to live within a nation of heroes!
What a privilege to be a witness to so many of G-d's miracles!
It is also very humbling.
There is nothing fun about war. There is nothing exciting or exhilarating about having 15 seconds or 30 seconds or even one full minute to run to a protected area to be safe from falling missiles. There is no glory in knowing that the ‘other side’ is faring much worse. There is fear, and worry, and heartsickness.
But it is incumbent upon us, as Jews, to recognize the good things.
PS. As of this writing, despite the ceasefire, another Grad missile has hit the heart of Netivot, a small town about 10 km from Gaza, where the Baba Sali is buried. The missile hit a parking lot. One man was injured from shrapnel, and 20 others were treated for shock. As quoted from the English language on-line publication YNet: “Rescue forces said it was a miracle there were no serious injuries. Damage was caused to several vehicles and an apartment building.”
This article was written by Reesa Cohen Stone, a resident of Beer Sheva in Southern Israel for 27 years and married to a former member of Kingsbury United Synagogue. They have five children including one who has just been drafted into the IDF. Reesa works for Ben Gurion University in Beer Sheva.