Many countries’ responses and reactions to the current fighting of the Arab-Israeli conflict are more or less to condemn Israel’s military actions inside the Gaza Strip. These responses paint the picture that the only damage being done is from Israel’s unjustified sporadic attack on the Palestinian people, ignoring the very principle of the Arab-Israeli conflict that is normally used to promote the Palestinian plight in political discussion. This is a two-sided conflict.
We have seen over and over scenes of destruction in the Gaza Strip but does any news media source dare to report on the destruction of synagogues, kindergartens, and homes in Israeli cities in range of Hamas’ terror? Does any news media source dare to report on the effect on humans that years of being given 15 seconds to run into a bomb shelter has upon Israeli citizens?
Last week German police barged into a couple’s apartment and tore down Israeli flags hanging from their balcony and window while over 10,000 pro-Hamas supporters marched through the streets of Duisburg. As the flags were their target for rock throwing, the crowd marching in favor of terror roared as the police removed the flags. The continual suffering of Israeli citizens is not being reported and even the slightest sign of solidarity with them is not allowed.
Last week in Turkey the Israeli basketball team Bnei Hasharon was awarded a loss because it could not safely remain on the court. The crowd began rioting, throwing various objects and chanting mantras such as “Kill the Jews!” The officials could not get the crowd under control so they had to hurry the players from the Israeli team off the court, thus marking the game down as a forfeit because the Israeli team was not present to compete. In a completely apolitical setting the Israeli side is not even able to express itself through pick-n-rolls, alley-oops, or three-point shots. These two examples of course are accompanied by attacks on synagogues and Jewish centers across the globe, as well as the official condemnation of Israel from many governments.
In the Israeli city of Sderot rockets have been raining down for the past seven years. The public seems not to comprehend statistics such as over 6,000 rockets total or over 4,000 rockets since the 2005 Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip. Maybe the public will understand and relate to the human side of what this constant terror inflicts upon people’s lives.
Everyone hates having to make stops at the grocery store, the pharmacy, and the dry cleaners on their way home from a long day at work. Going anywhere in Sderot can mean multiple unannounced stops just on your way down the street. The city has had to build shelters along the roads, sidewalks, at bus stops and shopping plazas just so people have a destination to run to when the red alert of a rocket attack is sounded. When the red alert is sounded it is not as if you can finish the email you are writing and then be bothered to stroll to a shelter, it is not as if teenagers can give the popular response to a request from their parents “In a minute!” When sounded, the alarm gives a maximum of 15 seconds warning of the imminent attack. A woman was killed by a qassam rocket in the parking lot leaving the market when the red alert siren failed to go off.
Can you imagine not being able to take showers with the bathroom door closed and having someone else pull you out of the shower to run naked to shelter? Can you imagine having your children play on a playground where steps away from the plastic slide is a cement hut for them to panic and run to? Can you imagine having your wedding interrupted by the building trembling and objects crashing to the floor as they fall off the walls? This is how the people of Sderot live and have been living for years.
The largest part of the destruction that these rocket attacks have caused are not the homes they obliterated in seconds, or the businesses they have strangled, or the four and two year-old cousins they murdered in their front yard. It is the mind and souls of the people. Everyone in the city has been afflicted with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or other psychological disorders, so much so that they had to open a new mental health clinic in the past couple years. Ask yourself, is that normal for a city? A group of young theater students from Sderot were lucky enough to attend a summer camp in Boston two summers ago. As the children are not used to rain storms living in the Negev desert region, the frequent loud crashing and banging of summer thunderstorms would send the children into panic and shock that was unmanageable for the summer camp staff. These rocket attacks define and exhibit terrorism as they instill fear in all the everyday citizens.
So here’s the challenge. Visit Sderot. Talk to people in Sderot. Walk down the street in Sderot. Eat a falafel in Sderot. Play on a playground in Sderot. Go shopping in Sderot. Go to the bathroom in Sderot. Take a shower in Sderot. Try and fall asleep in Sderot. As the general public, the media, the UN, governments around the world condemn the Israeli Defense Forces for its defensive military actions being “disproportionate,” remember to attempt my Sderot Challenge and you’ll see what “disproportionate” really means.