We are sitting now in front of our TV watching live reports on two Grad rockets that fell on Be’er Sheva tonight. The rockets, launched from Gaza, hit a house and a car. Hamas took responsibility for this attack. One victim just died a few moments ago. Another is in critical condition in surgery. Four more are lightly wounded including a 9 year old and a four month old baby. This attack, as were the ones on Thursday, were all aimed primarily at Israeli civilians.
On Friday afternoon we returned to our home at Kibbutz Hannaton from three days in Jerusalem. On Thursday, while at Yad VaShem, we first heard of the attacks in Eilat, from a friend with a daughter in the IDF.
Soon thereafter, our daughter, an IDF medic, called us. She was in Tel Aviv, and was clearly upset: an army friend was on the first bus that was attacked. On top of that, many of her friends are stationed in the far south, on the Egyptian border. Soldiers ride Egged free of charge as long as they are in uniform, and every Thursday and Friday buses throughout Israel are transporting soldiers heading home. Hence, the bus that was attacked had many soldiers among the civilians.
Now, I may use the word “soldiers” but what I really mean is “kids.” Kids like my daughter.
My daughter’s friend was stationed near Eilat. When the bus was attacked, he was in the back and a bullet missed him by just a few inches. He related how the terrorists tried to stop the bus by firing four shots at the driver. Fortunately they missed. The driver then floored the accelerator, the terrorists fired a broadside at the bus shooting out the windows and wounding many passengers.
Later, we saw on TV pictures of the bus after the attack, and sure enough there was one bullet hole under the right back window. Others on the bus were not so lucky, and were moderately wounded. The terrorists next attacked another bus that was empty. They murdered the driver and burned the bus. Nearby was a private car containing two sisters and their husbands returning from a vacation in Eilat. The terrorists fired an anti-tank missile at the car and opened fire with automatic weapons killing the two couples.
Meanwhile, my daughter could not get in touch with her friends for hours, and did not know their location or condition. Eventually, thankfully, she reached them and all were okay.
One soldier I know, the daughter of my best friend here, is in a combat unit in the south. I can’t say which unit nor what she does, suffice it to say however she is putting her life on the line for my family’s safety (yes, it is that personal) and as such she has earned my highest respect. These last several nights, she and her unit were in the field hunting the terrorists. My friend is, as he put it, “uptight.”
And so, here is the Israeli experience “in your face.” As a new Israeli with a child in the army, I am personally aware for the first time, really, of what it means to be an Israeli. What are my feelings? Personally, deep concern for my daughter’s safety of course, including her emotional well-being. Until now, it’s all been training and “playing” army. Yesterday, that all changed. It is now the real thing.
What else do I feel? I have found a deep reservoir of anger against the terrorists. What kind of people do this sort of thing? What kind of careful and evil (yes, post-modernists, there is evil in this world) indoctrination must be devised to get people to do what these terrorists did? What can one say about people who stand by the side of the road and deliberately fire anti-tank missiles at private cars and civilian buses?
I also now feel in my bones the clear difference of being a Diaspora Jew viewing events in Israel from afar, which I did my whole life until aliyah, and what it means to be living here. I know from my interaction with Diaspora Jews of every political persuasion how passionate they are about Israel, even if that passion is expressed through criticism. Also, I understand the Diaspora Jew whose love for Israel is so strong and deep that they feel they must support Israel no matter what its policies may be. I deeply appreciate this passion regardless of where it is coming from. But, to both of these passionate Jewish Diaspora archetypes my message is simple: if you care so much about this place, why are you still in San Francisco, Palo Alto, Berkeley, Oakland or San Jose? Please, join us here. Join Gush Shalom or Gush Emunim. Become active with Peace Now or join Likud. As an Israeli citizen you are free to choose, and if your program is selected by the electorate, your fate will be with the rest of us. Peace or war. Life or death. But, at least the choice was made by you for yourself.
Even if you stay in Diaspora, as I know most will, then all I ask from you is a little more humility. Whether you are “Israel is always right” or “Israel is wrong more often than right” please just remember one thing: the lives of my family may very well be in your hands. Be humble, and work with each other for we here don’t need a divided Diaspora. Respect your differences, but somehow put them aside and find the real common ground that really does exist between you. Recognize that the passion you feel for this place is deeply rooted in mutual concern for Israel. Please don’t let that concern crowd out of the picture the reality here at this hour: my daughter in the army, her friend on that bus, the family of the two soldiers killed, the survivors of the two couples murdered by the terrorist who fired an anti-tank missile at their private car.
One final thing I must say, and it is not positive. I don’t understand the Diaspora Jew who joins with our enemies, who makes common cause with those who are no doubt today cheering the terrorists who deliberately killed Israeli civilians. Any Jew who “Jew-washes” the likes of Al Awda, AROC, Students for Justice in Palestine, American Muslims for Palestine, Sabeel, etc. is, in light of the Jewish blood spilled yesterday, a deeply tragic figure who deserves pity, but not ire. I find it difficult to be angry with them; I pity them, for they are truly tragic figures. Yet, for all their internal torment that takes them to a place of support for such groups, they do in fact endanger me as they give succor to those who would gladly kill me and my family. Yes, I pity them, but they must be opposed in the political and social arenas in which they choose to operate.
Despite all this what I want you the reader to do is say a prayer for peace, for both us Israelis and our neighbors who need peace as much as we do.