Thursday, July 10, 2014

Not the summer of love

J came home from today and reported that all the activities of the very outdoorsy summer camp tookplace indoors today. They were supposed to be going on a hike in a local nature reserve but that's been cancelled after consultation with Home Front Command. Tomorrow they'll be doing more indoor activities due to concerns about being caught out in the open during an air raid. Until further notice it looks like the sleepaway camping trip is cancelled too. One very disappointed little girl. 

I know it's a trifle compared with what people are going through in other parts of Israel, but for a little kid this is a very big deal. On the small personal level it's heartbreaking to have to sit down with a young child and explain to them that much looked forward to summer plans have been cancelled because there are people who are shooting at our country and trying their best to hurt us.

The military have good reason to issue such directives. Earlier this week a Scouts sleepaway camp in the region Ashdod and Bet Shemesh was evacuated after the area came under rocket fire. 

At least she still has her indoor activities, close to the shelter, to enjoy. In many parts of the country summer camps have been cancelled altogether, either because the places they are being held lack large enough shelters, or have no shelters at all, or because of concers about the safety of transportation in heavily targeted areas. The military has banned large public gatherings in regions closest to Gaza.

To be on the safe side public events have been cancelled or postponed, including Jerusalem's annual Woodstock Revival music festival and many special summer programmes aimed at keeping teens amused and busy during the long summer break. 

Elsewhere in the country the Hamas onslaught is causing much more serious problems. At Beer Sheva's Soroka hospital the NICU ward had to be moved to a reenforced secure section of the hospital for fear that it's regular location might make it vulnerable to rocket attack. Imagine having to move an entire ward of preemie babies and other newborns with serious medical conditions, some on life support.

Kaplan hospital in Rehovot has also found itself in a similar position, moving its entire ICU and cardiac wards to bomb shelters after the city was repeatedly targeted by rockets. It is sad that our hospitals have to be built with sheltered secure sections for times such as these, and no, it isn't straighforward or practical to just build the entire hospital as one big shelter, but Israeli hospitals usually have several underground or reenforced levels so that in cases of emergency such as these they can still function.

At a local farmers' market today some sellers from the south couldn't make it to the centre of the country due to the risk of being caught out by rocket strikes while driving. Another had run the gauntlet of countless air raids to harvest his fields under fire. He explained that he had no choice, all his fields are within range of regular attacks, but this is is his liveliehood, he can't afford to let his crops rot in the field. 

The Iron Dome anti-rocket system has successfully intercepted most rockets en route to heavily populated areas, but some have still managed to score direct hits on homes and workplaces, fortunately residents were protected by their shelters and so escaped injury, or at least severe physcial injury.

As yet no one is sure that Israeli forces will launch a ground assault on Gaza. The Israeli Air Force has struck at Hamas commanders, rocket launchers and similar targets. Day after day Israeli reservists have been called up for emergency duty, husbands and fathers leaving behind pregnant wives, young children and already stressed working mothers, some themselves already living on the front lines.

Meanwhile Israel continues to supply Gaza with free electricity on humanitarian grounds. The Palestinian leadership and more recently the Hamas government in Gaza have unsurpringly enough refused to pay Gaza's electric bills for years.  Electricity the Gaza munitions factories use to continue manufacturing rockets to fire at Israel, including last night at Hadera, apparently in an attempt to hit that city's power station.

And in war humour today, many Israelis have been distressed that Hamas has been targetting Beer Tuvia, home of Israel's Ben and Jerry's ice-cream factory. One friend went so far as to draft a spoof petition demanding that it get its own Iron Dome battery to protect this vital national asset, an important comfort mechanism in these stressful times. Operation Toffee Crunch anyone? 

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