}

“War is Not Pretty; We’re Not in the Movie Business”

My experience on the border yesterday really shook me up. I had a hard time falling asleep; the images of the day – the sights, smells and sounds spiraling in my head. I also watched two hours of Sky News before going to bed, which probably did not work in my favor. At around 5 am, I woke to the rumbles of F-16’s. I live in Tel Aviv and I could hear the fighter jets flying low over my apartment. I always remember my friends, who lived here during the first Gulf War, telling me how war is always the scariest at night. I couldn’t help but think what it must feel like in Gaza City or in Sderot.

My insider on the other side, Haled in Gaza City, told me that he finally made it home and spent the night huddled in the dark with his family around one lit candle. They had lost two cousins and an aunt since the fighting began. They attended a funeral and then ate a can of tuna for dinner. Explosions continued to boom throughout the night.

Just 20 km over the border, Sderot residents were experiencing a similar type of fright. The Rosenkrantz family had to call the family doctor over, because their youngest son, Amir was having uncontrollable panic attacks. He ended up strangling the family dog. Amir spent most of today undergoing counseling – in a bomb shelter. His mother begged her husband to pack up the house so that they could go and stay with family in Jerusalem.

For me, today was not spent dodging missiles or running for cover as the Red Dawn Alert emergency siren wailed. Today, I was stationed with the Channel One Arabic team, who told me war stories. Danny, a senior correspondent, reminisced about the multiple wars he had covered over the years. He told me about his time in Gaza City, traveling around the remote villages there. I asked him if he missed being a war reporter. He said, “Leah, every reporter deserves their chance to get in on the action, to be on the frontlines. My time is over for that, it’s your turn to see how dark and dirty this part of the world can truly be.”

My first interview of the day was with Education Minister Yuli Tamir. She was attending an educational conference in Tel Aviv on the provisions being made for those children in the south who will be spending their days in bomb shelters rather than at school.

Most Israeli schoolchildren will return to the classroom tomorrow following the Chanukah vacation, but not some 50,000 kids in communities surrounding Gaza. This, following a decision by Tamir and Defense Minister Ehud Barak to cancel school there even as the holiday break comes to an end. Tamir told me that the cabinet also decided to activate the National Emergency Authority, which places communities in the south in a special situation. This means that the Israel Defense Forces are granted extra authority in dealings with the civilian population. The IDF can issue orders for residents to remain in bomb shelters or not to go to school or work; to allow greater coordination between the army and local authorities; and to provide the civilian population with basic supplies if such a situation arises.

I asked Tamir how difficult it must be for the children of Ashkelon, Sderot, Netivot, as well as other students from the Gaza periphery. She hinted to me that it is even more difficult for the parents. (I thought about Amir and the dead family dog…) “The children just think they have an extended vacation,” she said. But she told me that they are not taking any chances. The Education Ministry has set up special online classrooms where kids can get their homework assignments and learn lesson plans so they do not fall behind. Also, some 300 female students who are performing national service as teachers will help children with their studies inside bomb shelters and protected spaces. Teachers in the area have also begun to locate students in distress, in order to provide them with extra lessons. Some parents are going as far to find families in the center of the country willing to adopt their children until things quiet down.

In my further research to find out how the Gaza periphery younger generation is doing, I stumbled upon a website that is making headlines in the country right now: joinmylife.co.il, a blog written by teens living in Sderot, Ashkelon and other southern Israeli cities. Readers of Hebrew can learn more in this article in Yediot Ahronot.

17-year-old “Andre” writes:

“6 אזעקות, 6 טילים, בסה”×› 120 שניות של פחד וחרדה. נכון, ×–×” לא נראה הרבה רק 120 שניות מתוך 24 שעות שיש ביום, אבל תאמינו לי כל שניה נמשכת כנצח…”,

“6 sirens, 6 missiles in about 120 seconds of fear and anxiety. Right, it doesn’t seem like allot, only 120 seconds amongst 24 hours in a day, but believe me, every second feels like forever.”

In addition, Israel faces a huge PR battle throughout the world. I myself have been receiving several threatening messages from people who are convinced that I am one-sided in my reporting. I am by no means.

Yet reports are undeniable that the Muslim World is working hard to stir up anti- Israel sentiment by staging protests around the world. In London, police arrested ten demonstrators as Muslims tried to march on the Israeli embassy. Riot police were called in after protestors tore down the barriers holding them back from the embassy. Smaller, less violent demonstrations were also held in other European capitals.

The United States was not immune from protests; demonstrations were staged in Chicago, Houston, Phoenix and Los Angeles. And predictably, demonstrators in Muslim countries such as Egypt, Iran and Indonesia took to the streets, burning flags and chanting slogans denouncing Israel and the United States.

Israel’s Ambassador to Italy, Gideon Meir, admitted that the Hamas PR effort in Europe is causing problems for Israel’s ability to explain the reasons for starting “Operation Cast Lead.” According to Meir, Hamas presents Israel as a country which is starving Gaza residents and taking away their human rights.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has appointed former UN Ambassador Danny Gilelrman to head Israel’s PR efforts for the Gaza operation in the foreign media.

Leah Stern with Former UN Ambassador Dan Gillerman

Leah Stern with Former UN Ambassador Dan Gillerman

Former UN Ambassador Dan Gillerman had just concluded an interview with FOX News when he spoke to IBA News about the two wars Israel is currently fighting: The battle against Hamas and the battle against negative world public opinion.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni echoed Gillerman’s comments today, noting, “Our values are different. When we kill civilians we feel bad about it, but we are trying to target Hamas, who hide amongst civilians and don’t care who is murdered in the process.”

Defense Minister Barak said, “We have nothing against the people of Gaza, but this is a war to the bitter end. Israel’s military campaign will go on and possibly intensify.”

On Fox News, Benyamin Netanyahu said, “If New York City had 7,000 rockets falling on its head what would you ask your government to do?”

So, what will happen tonight? That’s the scariest part. None of us know. All we can do is watch and wait. Will Haled and Amir sleep through the night? Probably not. Will the world hate Israel a little bit more tomorrow? Very likely.

But as Ambassador Gillerman put it, “War is not pretty. We’re not in the movie business. We’re here to make our children and our people safe. Hamas could have made Gaza pretty. Instead they turned it into a terror base.”

Cross posted at ROI120.

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14 Comments

  1. Monica

    12/29/2008 at 5:27 pm

    I am in awe and envy of how you are able to put your life at risk to share these stories – and then write it as if this were a fiction. Unfortunate that it is not.

    Thank you for sharing with the world.

  2. froylein

    12/29/2008 at 5:40 pm

    Please stay safe.

  3. Jorge

    12/29/2008 at 6:47 pm

    In Latin American many Jews are struggling against the bad-press. The world is very ignorant.

  4. themiddle

    12/29/2008 at 7:28 pm

    Very fine writing, Leah. Thanks for the update!!

  5. Yoni C.

    12/29/2008 at 9:19 pm

    Excellent post Leah.

    I really couldn’t imagine what it would be like living in Gaza right now, at least the people around Gaza have some sort of infrastructure setup to protect them against the Kassams/Katyushas (albeit weak in many areas) with the ability to leave to a different area of Israel.

    Gazans can go nowhere, I just don’t get why they keep on allowing themselves to be manipulated by Hamas who obviously doesn’t care at all about their well being.

  6. Darnell Clayton

    12/29/2008 at 9:25 pm

    If you want to call me biased, feel free, but I hardly see the logic in demonizing a nation who has been shelled at during the “cease fire” and decided to finally defend their citizens.

  7. michael w

    12/29/2008 at 9:51 pm

    Did anyone listen to ‘All Things Considered’ on NPR today? They had a Hamas official speak. Here is what he said, “This has nothing to do with rockets because there are no rockets fired.” He later goes on to say that it is collaborators asked by Israel to fire rockets from Gaza.

    Here is the link and judge for yourself.
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=98593877

  8. michael w

    12/29/2008 at 9:55 pm

  9. Lia

    12/29/2008 at 11:36 pm

    Thanks for the link Michael! I love this guy. We now have two contradictory theses: (1) Hamas does an excellent job of controlling the borders, so it’s not possible that Palestinians are firing rockets, (2) Israeli collaborators are firing rockets from within Gaza, apparently unstoppable by the excellent Hamas police.

    He also says that (1) Israeli strikes are indiscriminate, targeting schools, mosques, and residential neighborhoods, and (2) Israeli strikes have mostly killed police officers because they target the Hamas security stations. Whoa, now…indiscriminate…but targeted…i’m getting a headache.

  10. Ephraim

    12/30/2008 at 1:16 am

    Up is down, Lia.

    Don’t you know that by now?

    Once you figure that out, the pain will go away.

    😉

  11. Barry

    12/30/2008 at 8:21 am

    From that first group you left out: (3) Israel won’t honour its agreements, closes the borders, and nothing can get in or out, and yet (4) Israeli collaborators are finding ways to bring rockets into Gaza and are firing them. Those sneaky Israelis!

  12. J.Miller

    12/31/2008 at 4:28 pm

    Let me hear a Hell Ya If you would like to see David Rolde shipped to GAZA!!!!

  13. J.Miller

    12/31/2008 at 4:52 pm

    For those of you that dont know who David Rolde.Either google it or ask any boston area jew.

  14. Beulah Newstrom

    3/2/2019 at 12:37 pm

    Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though you relied on the video to make your point. You definitely know what youre talking about, why throw away your intelligence on just posting videos to your site when you could be giving us something informative to read?

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