At 6:10 this morning the first mortar shell fell on Neve Dekalim. I and several others ran out of shul — amazing how some people will use any excuse to get out of shul — but, though the explosion had been very loud, there was nothing to be seen. Not a minute passed before a second explosion, somewhat more distant, was heard. Still no clue as to the site. Thirty seconds later, while we stared at each other in perplexity, the third and loudest explosion occured. Still no smoke, flying debris, any sign that it wasn’t more than sound effects. For a moment I remembered a “Lights Out!” radio play from my youth in which a record of a train is played to scare an elderly couple living near abandoned railroad tracks. Could our hot-for-peace-partners be doing that to us?
I ran home to find La Passionara, [ed: wife, Rachel] standing in front of the house. “Are those doors slamming, dear?” she said in her most sarcastic tones. This was to put me in my place for trying to convince her on earlier occasions that the loud noises she took for explosions were merely doors being slammed.
A moment or two later a security jeep came by. The driver said one shell had fallen in Kfar Yam, a kilometer away, and two shells had fallen in the outsized petting zoo we have at the entrance to our settlement. I had barely begun making ill-considered jokes about ‘Mourning for Mongoose’ and ‘Sitting Shiva for Sheep’ when another vehicle pulled up. The driver said he had just come from the sites of the explosions. I asked about the animals. “What animals?” he said. “One shell fell on the basketball court in the schoolyard. The second hit the bus stop outside the school. The third landed across the road from the guardpost at the entrance to the settlement.” He drove off with a cheery “Now we can hold our heads up. We’ve been hit, too!” [As of this writing, 10 a.m., I have no idea where the shells landed. Maybe they were a fignewton of our imagination?]
At 7, fully forty-five minutes after the third and last bomb, the loudspeakers came on telling everyone to remain under cover. At 7:20 the loudspeakers came on again telling us to return to normal. But what is ‘normal’ for us?
The shelling of Neve Dekalim was the fourth item on this morning’s news. The third was that three mortar shells were fired at IDF checkpoints from the area of Beit Hanun the IDF evacuated last night, the same area from which shells had been fired on Sderot. [The first two items concerned shooting in Israel (im)proper.]
It is clear, at least to me, that today’s shelling is the response to Israel’s craven capitulation to American pressure. The spinmeisters may pretend that the decision to withdraw was made before American criticism. This is clearly nonsense. It is difficult to exaggerate the psychological damage done to us by this withdrawal. I had spent the better part of the afternoon arguing that our entry into Beit Hanun was a sign that Sharon was on the right track. The withdrawal showed that if, indeed, Sharon was on the right track, then he has been derailed.
More than ever it is clear that in the view of the government, and of many of our fellow citizens, we are a legitimate target for terrorist attacks. We can expect little in the way of protection, and less in the way of deterrence of our attackers.
It wouldn’t upset me if I came back as a duck in some future life. I just hadn’t expected to be a [sitting] duck in this one.
The writer is an IDF veteran, handicapped from the Yom Kippur War in 1973 and is a Resident of Neve Dekalim, Katif, South of Gaza