Monday, July 14, 2014

War Report: Operation Protective Shield

Yom shlishi, 17 Tamuz, Erev Tzom Tamuz.

What's really protecting Israel, with all due respect to the IDF and the Iron Dome
While he is supposed to be tucked away in his reinforced bomb shelter, my friend Marc Gottlieb instead makes a photo of his version of the true Iron Dome. It goes viral, with comments that indicate that there are a lot of hopeful believers out there.

A woman's gotta know her limitations. To paraphrase Dirty Harry.
It's a weird, weird world. We talk to our children at war. (My mother certainly never chatted routinely with me, back in my army days. Fifteen minutes a week on the mess hall phone, if we were lucky.) My son calls me from the front periodically with instructions for wedding preparations, and laughs at my wedding outfit woes. "Young, tanned people look really good in seafoam. Older, pasty-faced Irish ladies should not wear sea-foam, at least not around their faces. I'm sticking with the navy part of my navy-and-seafoam ensemble as far as the hat is concerned." It's so damn good to hear him laugh.

Another of our sons says to his father, "You and Ema really should go to a shelter when there's a siren."

"We go to the hallway," his father answers.

The wise young soldier smirks. "Oh, yeah. Like that's safe."

"Look -- I'm with my best friend. And if the landlord's mamad gets hit and the landlord's family rains down on us through the ceiling, we'll know we're in trouble." We amuse ourselves with the image of raining balebatim. It's hard to explain the idioms to the landlord's family, because "raining humans" doesn't really translate into Hebrew. But they laugh anyway, because Americans perplex and amuse them.

My army sends warnings via cell phone and dropped leaflets in Arabic to the civilians among the enemy, warning them of an attack. The IDF gives the civilians time to leave the area. Then, they send a "knock-knock" bomb to tap on the roof of a building they plan to bomb (because it is pinpointed as a source of rocket fire). Only after these warnings do they actually bomb buildings. WHO IN THE WORLD DOES THAT???

Meanwhile, my husband and son plan the coming football season, recruiting from among the new olim -- because Jews are still making aliyah, even during war. Another son plans to travel to Israel for his brother's wedding, wishing he could be here sooner, to "do his part" in uniform, rather than standing on the sidelines, feeling ineffectual. We understand him. Many of our friends abroad express the need to be here with us in this time of crisis, rather than being safely far away. Yet another son writes passionate pleas for peace, between Israel and her enemies, between Jews and Jews.

My chavruta, a long-ago immigrant from Morocco, laughs with me about perspective. "Everything is so crazy right now," she says, showing off her grasp of American slang. I ask what she means. She stares at me, incredulous. "We're at war," she says, as if that explains it.

"Esther, I've lived here for nearly seven years. In that time, three of my sons have been called to the front in three different wars. This to me is normal."

But, of course, she is right. At three in the morning, when I cannot ignore it any more, I think and pray about how much I need each of my guys to live to be really old. I ask myself if I am crazy to be living here. And then I get out of bed (because fighting to sleep doesn't bring sleep) and read the world news, and hear about another random school shooting or mall shooting in the US, or the terrifying siege of a French synagogue, wherein the trapped congregants were praying for the safety of the Jews in Israel; or I read about the entire Middle East on fire around us -- and I realize that crazy is the new normal everywhere in the world. Might as well be in the Holy Land, where I at least know that every step we take and every sacrifice we make is for our own land and for our own people.

Someone tells the poignant story of getting off a bus with a bunch of Tel Avivians and tourists when a siren sounds. They look at each other, and realize that there is no bomb shelter in sight. So they make a group decision to huddle together and try to protect each other with their bodies. An elderly lady cannot get down on the ground, so a couple of people forget about their own safety and stand with her to cover her with their arms. The girl telling the story relates that she is brought to crying and terror by the elderly lady's screams. She begins to cry, lying on the ground. A girl in pants and a short top takes her head in her lap, and recites Tehillim over her, forgetting about protecting herself. What a remarkable people is this nation Yisrael!

Lucy Aharish of i24 News asks a 16-year-old girl in Ashkelon, who has lived under rocket attacks for eight years, what she would say to her 16-year-old girl counterpart in Gaza: "I would tell her to stay strong, to stay safe, and maybe one day we can live side by side in peace."

Please share with me the quote of one young person on the other side that is as full of humanity. Please. I need to hear it.

Bottom line: life is not easy anywhere just now. Proof we need Mashiach, RIGHT NOW. But there is nowhere I'd rather be, no people I'd rather be with, than in this land of Israel, with this people Yisrael.

The Nation Israel Lives

Have an easy and productive fast. May this be the last of the sad fast days. May it finally be enough.

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