Sunday, November 18, 2012

Shabbat shalom?

Thank God our sleepy little town stayed sleepy over Shabbat.

With the increase in rocket range in recent days we considered it prudent to leave the radion on over Shabbat. In times like these Israeli radio operates a "silent frequency" especially for observant Jews who ordinary would not listen to the radio on the Sabbath. You leave your radio tuned to this station and it will only broadcast in the event of an emergency, in this case an announcement came on each time there was an alert for incoming missiles.

The "silent frequency" is for the whole country so every time there was a siren anywhere in Israel the radio came on with a "Code Red" announcement. Unbelievable how many times Ashkelon, Ashdod, Beer Sheva and the various rural southern regions had sirens over Shabbat, plus also once in Tel Aviv and once in Jerusalem. Thank God for Iron Dome which has successfully intercepted so many of the rockets on a trajectory for built up areas.

Over and over again we heard "Code Red, Code Red for Ashkelon" "Code Red for Beer Sheva" "Code Red for the Eshkol Region" and so on, with the names of so many rural areas, towns and cities, sometimes with alerts following rights on the heels of the previous one, as a barrage of rockets rained down. It truly brought home to us more than anything just how horrific the situation in the south is.

Our guests this week were from Tel Aviv and they were only partly joking when they said they had come to us for respite from the rockets. They had already been through 3 sirens in 2 days, one as they were driving to us on Friday. They described the chaos as cars frantically stopped on the highway and drivers scrambled for cover by roadside barriers and verges. My husband had a similar experience travelling home from work on Thursday.

This evening after I put the baby to bed I happened upon a regional news programme broadcasting from the Tel Aviv area just as they were announcing a siren in that part of the country.

I realised that as they were reporting the booms of the Iron Dome interceptions I was hearing them here in my home with almost no time delay. Woke the baby. Confirmed that we'd been hearing Iron Dome booms the day before too. They were incredibly loud. Amazing how far the sound carries from so far away. God Bless Iron Dome.

Today I had the windows open which meant that I could also hear my neighbour's son asking his mother if they could go up to a nearby hill and see if they could see the "action" over the coast. Her hysterical response - absolutely not!

As the rocket range seems to be getting closer to us people in my area have been readying their shelters - just in case. Many parents are concerned that a number of kindergartens are operating out of temporary caravan trailers which offer no protection in the event of a rocket attack and certainly don't have the shelters required by law in public buildings. A friend called to confer with me as to whether she should send her son to preschool tomorrow - wouldn't it be irresponsible of her to send him just in case our area was targetted?

Meanwhile people all over the country, including many family and friends, are getting a Tzav 8 - call-ups for reserve duty. One friend recounted how someone she works with got his papers in the middle of a meeting and just upped and left right there and then. It's particularly hard in areas under fire where suddenly mothers are home alone with kids who are already traumatised by the stress of constant rockets barrages and sirens.

I'm just a stay at home Mum, so of course I don't have any real insight into whether there will actually be a ground offensive or whether this is just a precaution. A ground campaign is always risky, with the chance of it becoming bogged down in an open ended operation or going horribly wrong in other ways. Going in on the ground is unlikely to completely prevent Hamas firing rockets at Israel. On the other hand maybe it is necessary if there are clear attainable goals. I do think though that the current air strikes against Hamas are effective. Israel seems to have good intelligence about the men behind the rockets and has succeeded in taking them out. Whether that's enough to end the rocket onslaught I don't know, but it is certainly sending Hamas a clear message that Israel is well aware who is responsible for the attacks on Israeli civilians and will hold them accountable.

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