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Monday, July 21, 2014

Life Under Fire And A War We Never Wanted

Given the nature of my last blog which discussed the terrible tragedy of our 3 murdered boys, things in Israel have taken a downward spiral. I hoped my next blog would have been about moving to Ra'anana and beginning the next chapter of my life before my army draft - although the current situation cannot pass by without mention. I haven't written thus far about the situation as it has taken a while for me to grasp the gravity of what is occurring in Israel and around the world and so needed time to process my thoughts and feelings, which are all over the place at the moment.

I will start back on the first day when rockets were first fired by Hamas into Tel Aviv - July 8th. Whilst this date was the day that Israel launched Operation Protective Edge against Hamas following increased rocket attacks from Gaza it was also my 23rd birthday - and one that will not be forgotten in a hurry! Whilst sitting on Rothschild Boulevard with a friend, our conversation was interrupted by the wale of air raid sirens. At first I thought it was just an ambulance passing by on the street but quickly noticed people running to find the nearest shelter and followed suit. This was my first day as a 23 year old, the first day I experienced an air raid siren and the first time I had to run for my life. It was a strange moment where actually I felt more Israeli than ever. I experienced what life is like when Israel is under threat - I was no longer an English university student standing up for Israel back in Leeds, I was no longer an advocate on twitter using #StopTheRockets from the safety of my university room, I had now experienced what it felt to hear the siren, acknowledge you have a set amount of time (around 40 seconds) until those rocket land or thankfully get intercepted and to experience and hear the sounds of panicked people all around me. It might seem weird to some of you that I consider this a point where I felt most Israeli, but I guess you have to understand that this is a common occurrence in most Israelis life, especially those living in Sderot or other southern Cities. Until you've been here and experienced it for yourself, I don't think you can ever understand it. In true testament to Israeli's within a few minutes the fiasco was over, I returned to drink my milkshake and it was as if nothing had ever happened.

The next few days my alarm clock became the air raid siren as Hamas targeted heavily populated areas during rush hour, around 8am in the morning. Along with numerous other war crimes and strategies employed by Hamas ... this in itself should be a sure giveaway about Hamas' tactics to target civilians. On one of these days I didn't manage to get out of bed in time and get to my shelter. Before I had woken up enough to realise I  had arisen to the sound of the siren, I heard and witnessed the interceptions from my bedroom. They were right overhead and my building shook. Within a few minutes people were telling me that one of the intercepted rockets landed at the end of my street. During periods like this in Israel I become guilty of living on my phone and tweeting everything I can about the situation. I walked up the road and sure enough there was a large fragment from a blown out rocket which had been fired minutes earlier by terrorists in Gaza. Had it not of been for the iron dome my building could well have suffered a direct hit. Perhaps something even more shocking and I honestly believe is nothing short of a miracle is that the fragmented rocket landed in a gas station and hit just below the fuel tanks, would it have been only a few inches higher it could have caused a massive explosion. The sad reality which I have come to realise is that at least in places like Tel Aviv where the iron dome has longer to calculate and make successful interceptions, thank God we are fairly 'safe'. Yes we have to run to shelters, yes the stress of running and thinking twice before venturing outside, and once being outside thinking about where the nearest shelter is should a siren occur is stressful, and by no means the way anyone should have to live, but thanks to Israel and their desire to protect its civilians, I feel safe here. Yet, it is this safety which in my opinion actually fails us when it comes to world opinion. If Israel did not invest in the Iron Dome system and didn't invest in bunkers for us to run to I dread to think how many deaths there would be within Israel. And please remember given the nature of Hamas' indiscriminate firing it wouldn't just be Jewish Israeli's who would die, it would be Christians, Palestinians, Israeli-Arabs, tourists, left wing peace activists and right wing supporters, and every other denomination who would suffer casualties and deaths. At least then we would have a reply to the ever questioned 'proportionality' which the world constantly bombards Israel with.

Below are a number of photos I took showing the interceptions above my apartment block on a number of different days... There is more of the blog after so continue reading.

I think in general world media is somewhat more in our favor than it has been in the past but the world itself has taken an ugly turn towards Israel. The amount of Pro-Palestinian and Anti-Israel (and in many cases purely anti-Semitic) rallies that are taking place around the world is a very scary and very real prospect. Videos from France, Germany, Turkey and yes even England make the reality of the war we are fighting far more real. These rallies which are supposedly calling for peace are full of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric. I find it very interesting how violent many of these protests have been whilst supposedly advocating peace in the Middle-East. It seems the Free Gaza notion is merely a cover up to call for the destruction of the Jewish state and an end to Judaism in general. These protests cannot be ignored in fact Jews all around the world need to pay very close attention to the situation around them and rally even more for the State of Israel - the ONLY place in the world where Jews can turn to. With swastikas being daubed on houses in Jewish areas in London, with a pro-Israel supporter being beaten up at the rally in London and with numerous other violent attacks including the burning of Jewish shops and synagogues in France, only reiterates the necessity for the Jewish state, the only state that defends Jews openly and in any way it deems necessary.

A lot of people have been asking me how I feel about joining the army given that the IDF currently finds itself fighting a war. The honest answer is I wish I was already there. I wish I was stood next to my friends who are currently there, side by side, brothers in arms. Knowing I have already made the decision to be a fighter in the IDF makes everything that is about to come a mere formality, the truth is I already want to be on the ground and making a difference, protecting my friends and them doing the same for me. Whilst this is probably hard for my family to read it is the 100% truth. Having around 9 friends currently fighting in Gaza, putting their lives on the line for me to sit safely in my room in Tel Aviv makes me feel helpless. Knowing that my best friend is fighting an enemy who wish him dead is a scary thought and my mind is constantly thinking about him, others that I know and every other soldier who is doing the same.Going to bed I fear the news I might read in the morning, waking up and reading a headline which speaks of clashes and gunfights in which deaths and injuries have occurred and all I can do is sit and wait for names to be released hoping that it is not someone I know is a terrible feeling and something which almost every Israeli now faces everyday. The death toll on both sides is terrible ... any deaths are terrible, but unfortunately it is an expected and tragic outcome of war. The type of war Hamas likes to fight involves the use of human shields, using civilians to protect their weapons and launch sites. In my opinion Hamas knows they cant win a war against Israel in terms of fighting them off, winning the war for them means utilizing human shields effectively so Israel accidentally kills as many Gazan's as possible, thus turning the world even further against us. Hamas are masters at PR manipulation, even when their leaders are openly talking about how effective human shields are the world still seems to focus on other things which portray Israel in an evil way.

My desire to join the army and fight for what I believe in is stronger than ever. Am I scared? Yes... I would be a fool not to be, 25 soldiers have lost their lives since the start of Operation Pillar of Defense. A devastating figure for Israel. But am I sure that this is something I need to do? Absolutely, of course, 100% yes. Israel needs its ambassadors overseas but it also needs some of them to come here, to put words into action and to help defend the land you fight for back home. This threat wont go away, it will continue, and I don't see the situation getting better any time soon. I hope the loss of lives ceases on both sides but at the same time I hope that the IDF don't stop until Hamas are dismantled,  maybe then Israelis and Gazan's can live peacefully without opression from such a disgusting, hateful, terrorist organisation.

Tonight I will go to sleep with a heavy heart and saying another prayer for the soldiers of the State of Israel, I hope you do the same. They need all the help they can get.

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