Sunday, January 04, 2009

Gaza musings

So this evening, following reports of a rocket salvo, oh, say about half an hour's drive from my home, I went out to a concert with my visiting British tourist, and when I arrived home I found out that just over an hour's drive from my home Israeli soldiers were going in to Gaza.

And I and a few hundred other folks were experiencing a couple of hours of escapism in a cosy modern concert hall, seemingly a world away from the war raging in commuting distance from us.

During a brief break in the performance my tourist turned to me and whispered, shocked realisation on his face, "we're enjoying ourselves while people are dying so close by." Welcome to my world.

Well, what else to do? Half an hour's drive away they've cancelled schools, turned on the air raid siren and Home Front Command is giving people instructions on where to seek shelter, but here life goes on as usual, except for the folks who've had emergency call up papers and the many many people who've opened their hearts and their homes to offer respite to families under attack in the south.

No reason however not to take a couple of hours out to go to the theatre which after all is only around the corner from me and I did promise my guest that I would take him to a classical concert during his visit, and he is leaving this week so I figured it was about time I followed through. DH babysat (Junior, bless her actually fell asleep at a normal hour) and off I went, all 5 minutes walk up the hill to the theatre.

Israel kibbutz Camaretta is OK, pleasant enough, but what made the evening really worth while was Keren Hadar, and up and coming soprano with a vibrant stage presence and versatile voice. She sang a mixture of popular arias from assorted operas, using a number from Carmen Jones (not, note, Carmen itself) as a transition to the second half which consisted of classical arrangements for Israeli folk songs and oldies. I thought she held these disparate segments together beautifully and she certainly will have me coming back for more I think. What can I say, my mother brought me up going to musicals, opera and singing a ton of Israeli folk and pop at home, and this apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

Left the apartment to news that the IDF was shelling northern Gaza, arrived home to discover that our forces have gone in on the ground and there is a massive call up of even more reserve soldiers. Zapped through all the Israeli news broadcasts (Channels 1, 2 and 10), then Fox and Sky, along with Egypt and Morocco for good measure, not that my Arabic is so hot, but I could get the bare gist of their reporting. (We have the cheap basic cable package, so not much more in the way of English language news networks, no more BBC or CNN for us).

I believe it needs to be done, Israel needs to defeat Hamas here, has to stand up to all the years of rocket terror once and for all. I believe its the only way we're going to have any kind of peace, but , as the cliche goes, war is hell, and I'm pretty sure that Hamas will fight, and this is going to be a tough fight for us I think. Hamas have had years to build defences, hunker down and make an IDF incursion as difficult as possible, try to draw our soldiers into built up areas where Hamas feels it has the upper hand, and I remember enough of what I've heard from soldiers who were in Lebanon and in Jenin and similar battles.

I'm sad for the innocents in Gaza, the folks who have suffered all these years under Hamas and the various gangs and militias there, and are now suffering from being caught in the middle of Hamas' war and Israel's response. In the days before the Oslo War, before Yasser Arafat reneged on peace negotiations in September 2000 and all hell broke loose, well, there were decent relations between the ordinary people of Gaza and their Israeli neighbours, people did work together, especially in agriculture, in factories, as truck drivers, as doctors and nurses in Israeli hospitals and more, so it isn't as if the people of Gaza are an unknown "other" - plenty of Israelis, especially among those in the line of fire, know civilians on the Gaza side of the border, worry about people they know, or more likely, knew there, as since the Israeli pullout and Hamas take over there has been far less contact. The other day one of the Israeli news stations interviewed a guy from Jebaliya in Gaza, and he told of how upset he was at the rocket fire, how he wanted to go back to the way things were in the good old days, how he hoped for peace with his Israeli neighbours.

That's the part that breaks my heart, I believe we have no option other than military action to fight Hamas, but the fact that there is no way of fighting this thing without harming civilians because Hamas cynically bases its operations in the midst of its own people, knowing that the only way Israel can protect Israeli civilians is to endanger Palestinian civilians, that is chilling, and Hamas knows that, and has been using it against us for years. Does that make us weak? I don't think so, but it has on many occasions endangered both our soldiers and civilians, because Hamas knows that we will think twice, and three times and more, before mounting a defensive operation that puts Palestinian civilians in harms way.

I have my Tehillim (Psalms) book to hand and have made liberal use of it this evening. God keep our guys safe and grant them success.

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