Like many of us, I’ve been carefully watching operation “Pillar of Cloud” launched by Israel against the forces of darkness. Israel is the last country on the planet that would attack its neighbors without an enormously just cause. It’s the last country in the world that would launch a massive aerial strike against anyone, unless its very survival was in the balance. I know because I grew up there. My entire family is still there, many of whom are under constant daily missile attacks, attacks which have been haunting them for more than a decade.
With that being said, this article is not an attempt to analyze the war, nor is it an attempt to coin a superficial solution to the almost-eternal battle between good and evil. Rather, I would like to tell a personal story, which just so happens to have involved not just myself, but also 2010 US Senate candidate Joe Miller.
I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel with Joe and his son Jacob all over Israel in October of 2011. Although I was born in Israel and lived there half of my life, Joe and I still managed to tour many sites around the country which I had never been to before. From the Golan Heights in the north, to Masada and the Dead Sea in the south, we tried to cover as much ground as we could during the two weeks we were in country.
One of the places on our tour map was the city of Sderot. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Sderot, it is the closest Israeli city to the Gaza Strip, literally, only a few hundred meters from the border fence. The residents of Sderot have only 10 to 15 seconds to find the nearest bomb shelter when the sirens go off, indicating another missile from Gaza is on its way.
As it turned out, a personal friend of mine who lives in Israel, and who has some connections around the country, managed to arrange for a personal tour of Sderot for us. We were graciously hosted by the Sderot Media Center and its director, Noam Bedein. We toured much of the town and were briefed on the unique issues the city is facing in light of its extremely close proximity to Gaza.
One of the spots we arrived at was a small hill overlooking the Gaza Strip. The hill itself wasn’t more than 20 or 30 yards away from the nearest family homes behind us. Immediately in front of us, near the bottom of the hill, was the borderline fence between Gaza and Sederot.
Looking at the proximity of Gaza, along with the pock-marked walls of many of the nearby buildings, helped us appreciate what the brave residents of Sderot have been dealing with for the past 12 years. But we could only start to imagine what it is like to always worry about being 15 seconds away from the nearest bomb shelter, or what it feels like for Sderot’s children to be shocked awake in the middle of the night by the missile siren, and then try to run for their lives to a bomb shelter. It is truly something that most Americans can’t even begin to comprehend.
While we were standing on that hill, Noam Bedein gave us a very detailed explanation about the surrounding areas, the security issues facing the residents of Sderot, and the unbearable circumstances affecting everyone’s daily routines. He also explained how the Sderot Media Center attempts to inform the outside world about what is going on in Sderot.
So why this anecdote of our trip to Sderot? In part because the current Gaza war is being waged just 5 minutes outside of Sderot and many Hamas missiles are raining down on its people.
But what really spurred me to write this article is the following fact: the exact spot where Joe, his son Jacob, I and Noam were standing while looking at Gaza and listening to Noam’s overview suffered a direct missile hit less than 24 hours ago. [The picture above is Joe standing at that spot, overlooking Gaza]
It is one thing to hear about the missile strikes on Sderot, not knowing the terrain, but it’s a totally different experience when you know and understand that if the missile would have hit just another 20 yards behind where we had been standing, it likely would have wiped out an entire family.
This is the life the people of Sderot have to live, while the world watches, yawns, and goes about its way. The world only wakes up when Israel retaliates and drops bombs on the missile launchers, trying to prevent the indiscriminate missile strikes against its civilians.
It is my hope and prayer that one day, Joe, I, or anyone else who feels like it, can stand on top of that small hill in Sderot – or anywhere else in Israel, for that matter – in peace and safety.
But the answer is not pacifism.
Golda Meir, one of Israel’s Prime Ministers once said, “If the Arabs laid down their arms today, there will be peace tomorrow. If Israel laid down her arms today, there will be no Israel tomorrow.”
Truer words have never been spoken.