with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

Still Alive. Can’t Think of Anything Else to Write.

The email was titled “STILL ALIVE” in capital letters. The email consisted of this single message:

Can’t think of anything else to write.

Earlier reports from my best friend in Israel described the two, one 90 and the other almost 80 years old and still active, getting short notice to get out of their buildings when the sirens go off as rockets coming out of the Hamas controlled Gaza Strip and landing in Tel Aviv and Rishion LeZion where they live over 65km away.

We had our morning wake-up call today. It was a rather odd one. The siren went off so we got up and I went out. My husband refused to get our of the bed during all of this, rarely leaving the apartment.

I was joined by our neighbour and we waited to hear the BOOM of the Iron Dome, but none came. We heard something in the distance and waited.

…Suddenly, the siren went again and there was a very nasty BOOM, which had nothing to do with the interceptors, and our neighbours said ‘Oh! That one fell somewhere.’ We heard the sirens in the neighbouring areas going off as well, and then some more booms in the distance, so they got the others that came over–presumably. Would know more if I turned on the TV, but simply cannot do it.

Yesterday was fairly quiet–only two or three sirens. ‘They’ said we were going to get it last night, but we didn’t, apart from one around 9:00pm.

And so it goes.

Word of a ceasefire gave everyone hope, to which she emailed:

Still here.

Don’t trust the bastards.

She was right. That morning, the news reports that Hamas fired 50 rockets into Israel and Israel responded with airstrikes. The rockets reached Gan Yavne, Tel Aviv, and Rishon LeZion.

The Iron Dome she mentioned is a “mobile, all-weather air defense system” designed to intercept and destroy short-range rockets. The range of protection is for rockets fired on short notice and short distances up to 70km (43 miles) away, protecting populated areas.

Short range and short notice sounds good, but not for the citizens as the success rate of the Iron Dome is good, but it isn’t perfect.

We have 15 seconds to get to shelter once siren starts. Husband can hardly walk, so by the time he is ready…

A day later, she was on the bus heading back from a quick trip to the market when the sirens went off. They were all rushed off the bus, except for one elderly disabled man, and told to lie on the boiling hot pavement on their bellies and cover their heads. Explosions were heard in moments over their heads as rockets exploded above. One seemed to get through and hit a building nearby, adding fire to the heat of the day. They laid there for ages on the hot tarmac, gravel cutting into their skin, but she reported the worse part was standing up again. While she gets around, standing up from that position for anyone over 60 can be a challenge.

And the attacks keep coming.

Old News, New Days

Google Maps of the distance between Gaza Strip and Israeli cities.To the world, once again Israel and the Palestinians are fighting. People and countries take sides. I don’t take sides. It’s all stupid and a waste of time and life. Nothing is accomplished but death and destruction. Points are made, won, and lost, all in the same sentence. It has nothing to do with the life on the ground.

The Palestinian Territories are divided by two ruling governments, Hamas in Gaza and the rest in the West Bank. Even Hamas has factions, divisions between pacifism and terrorism as a means to their goals. This is not a united front with which to have a productive conversation.

The facts are that since 2000, rockets launched from Gaza into Israel are a daily occurrence. Official government and news reports put the estimates at more than 8,000 projectiles between 2000 and 2008. If this is an accurate number, that’s a minimum of 3 a day for eight years.

Seriously, it would take one such rocket in the United States to bring down the full weight of the American military on any country. As would many other countries, a statement that many people and governments around the world ignore when they pick sides.

Why escalate things now? What’s different today is now that Hamas has weapon and rocket factories, permitted by a loose border with Egypt that condoned or looked the other way as Iran and other radical and warring factions brought in armament, they can build bigger and better rockets that reach further into the populated areas of Israel.

According to official reports, with the deployment of the Iron Dome in 2011, Israel reported it had intercepted more than 400 rockets by November 2012.

According to a report in the Washington Post:

When Iron Dome works, as it does some 90 percent of the time, the rockets explode overhead, producing a deep boom that Israelis have learned to distinguish from the bang of a direct hit.

The system is widely credited here with allowing Israel to endure more than 1,000 rocket attacks in the past week without a single fatality as of Monday night. It has also allowed residents across the south to carry on with a measure of normality, despite an unrelenting exchange of fire that has claimed more than 185 lives in nearby Gaza.

Some are treating the Iron Dome like a roof in a storm. In reality, it is a glass dome, easily broken in spite of the trust of many citizens of their government and military to protect them. The dome is working but it may give many a false sense of security.

It also causes Hamas to be creative. The same news report told of Hamas commando units invading by sea and the use of drones, finding any crack in the armor.

Tracking the News in Israel

While there is nothing more that my friends can tell me other than the fact that another day goes by and they are still alive, and there isn’t much more they can say, I want to do something. I want to help.

I’m also not alone in that desire.

So what can we do? Unfortunately, nothing but support from afar by listening and sending positive thoughts. If I could go in and rescue all my loved ones from the war, and it is a war, I would do so in a second, but these people want to stay. They chose to stay. They chose to live in a place where their presence is defiance and support on a historical level, not a personal choice. They see the big picture and the picture is that Jews are back in their promised land to stay, cementing a promise they believe was made by God.

It’s hard to change such minds, so what can we do?

Watch and learn, I’ve been told.

Learning is a Google search for the topic of interest, but watching and monitoring the situation can be done at the Live News at i24news in English and Debkafile, also in English.

Israelis tend to take care of themselves, so sending supplies is a waste of time currently. However, if you know someone well there, consider sending them supplies of their favorite things, things that cheer them up and make them feel good about themselves, and active, such as hobby supplies.

Me, I’m heading out to buy some yarn. She’s a knitter. While patience is tested daily, she can at least keep her fingers busy. And I wait for those daily emails that say, “Still alive.”

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