Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Winter by the Mediterranean (within rocket range)

Just thinking of more peaceful, happier times in this part of the world. Before anyone gets antsy, I took these photos last winter at a favourite spot which at the time wasn't within rocket range (though I guess close to it) and today is firmly within range.

Just thinking of me and my kid looking for shells and crabs, watching the fishermen, and the families with kids playing on the beach, the oblivious lovers. All just enjoying the serenity, the crash of the waves almost drowning out the faint bubble of children's laughter reaching us from down the beach, eyes fixed on the stunning beauty of a Mediterranean sunset.

Well they aren't there now, and it isn't because of the weather, it's because there is no where to take cover out in the open here, save for a wooden lifeguard's hut and a few thatched parasol thingies. And it is so damn sad, because life shouldn't be like this, shouldn't be thinking of rockets falling from the skies instead of watching them for migrating birds or kingfishers.

And maybe that sounds selfish, to be thinking of this while people are dying and getting hurt, and living in terror, but I don't think so. I want those kids to once again be running along that beach and building sand castles.

These thoughts were running though my mind as I caught odd snippets of tv today, a few minutes here and there while folding laundry or sorting out some cupboards, really samples of programming throughout the day I guess.

Israel Channel 1 and Israel Education TV were having a special "open studio" children's programming (sorry, can't think of the exact English translation) because of the "situation" - all over the south-west schools are closed for the safety of the children, as large gatherings of people make for more casualties in the event of a rocket strike. That and many schools lack adequate shelters. (In theory perhaps all the kids and teachers could squeeze in to their school shelters, but only if nobody breathes...)

So there sat Hanni Nahmias, legendery Israeli children's tv host, and in between cartoon clips and chatting with some youngsters talking about fun with do it yourself science projects, she was talking to children living in communities currently under fire, trying to give them an outlet for their fears and concerns.

Later I caught yet another children's programme, also speaking to a young girl from a kibbutz over the border from Gaza, a young girl calmly and matter of factly talking about things which shouldn't be in any child's vocabulary.

About rockets, and what they do when and if the alert sounds and how they've lived with this situation for so many years.

About fear, and seeking shelter, and huddling with older siblings at night for comfort.

About differentiating between the sounds of incoming rockets from Gaza and IDF return fire.

About how they sympathised with the children in Gaza caught up in the fighting, about how they were sure that just like them, the children of Gaza dreamed of peace and coexistence. About how they were sure that the kids in Gaza were innocents just like them, and they knew that it was Hamas, not the ordinary Gazans, who were to blame. They spoke of sorrow at knowing that kids were getting hurt there too.

Earlier that morning there were psychologists given advice on some breakfast show, telling worried parents how to explain the situation to their children, how to deal with their fears and uncertainty. Try to stay calm. Don't try to pretty up the situation by saying the booms are thunder, not rockets, because children can tell when their parents are covering up. If Heaven forbid someone you know is hurt or killed, don't lie to your kids, tell them what happened if they ask, maintain their trust by being as honest as you can, but don't volunteer the information if they don't ask right away. And so on and so on, advice from parents up north who suffered through Hizballah's rockets during the 2006 Lebanon War and advice from child psychologists sadly expert with child trauma in wartime.

And then at some point I happened upon an interview with a young woman from a kibbutz near Sderot talking about her life, but what really got me was her nephew, a boy of about 3, same age as my child, a little boy whose entire life has been lived in the shadow of rockets and sirens - it's all he's ever known.

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