On Wednesday at 3:07 AM I awoke to the sound of sirens. My father (87 next month) was sleeping in the next room and did not seem to care. "Aba, there's a rocket attack and we should head to the safe room," I urged. "C’mon," he said, "that's far south of here." To which I responded, "Can you please come to the balcony and have another look?" He lives on the 26th floor and on a clear night you can almost see as far as Gaza. The center of Tel Aviv is very well protected by Iron Dome. When he saw a rocket intercepted not too far from us, he acquiesced and joined me behind the locked metal door and window,
This story has since been on repeat several times a day. To write this Bulletin I “escaped” for a few hours to the Afula-Gilboa region that is out of rocket range and where I have many friends thanks to the work of our New England federations over many years. There will (most likely) not be rocket fire here tonight, but make no mistake: the majority of Israel’s population will continue to experience a 3:07 AM moment several times a day. In the areas around Gaza it is literally nonstop for a fifth straight day.
Unlike most weeks I will not link to articles of commentary because I found none I wanted to share. I am not going to share briefs from Jewish Federations of North America, or articles from various sides of the political spectrum. I will instead share what I see or think I see:
1. Hamas was looking for a reason to launch rockets and start a war. Their desire to do so was only kept in check by a global pandemic and just as it seems like the pandemic is no longer a threat, Hamas - orchestrated and directed by their puppet masters in Iran - went on the offense. Last year's peace accords between Israel and Arab countries may have led some to feel that the Palestinian cause comes second to doing business with Israel. For Hamas that provided reason and opportunity to step in and claim the cause as their own. Thousands of rockets accumulated during the pandemic using financial support designed to help Gaza’s population certainly changed the narrative this week.
2. True, there were tensions building during Ramadan in Jerusalem and elsewhere and Israel’s security forces could probably have been a little more sensitive to demonstrations in Israel, but it's clear to me that Hamas wanted war. This war will last for a while and a ground operation is entirely possible - I think even likely.
3. Hamas has little to lose because they run a welfare state in Gaza and use all resources to build a militarily arsenal. As a result, particularly after a pandemic year, concern for lives and people’s futures is very low on their list.
4. Israel was on the verge of a first government not led by Netanyahu with, very likely, a minister from its Arab population. The timing of this campaign will most likely play into Netanyahu’s hands. To use Robin Williams’s line in Good Will Hunting, "that’s ironical."
5. Riots throughout Israel have become part and parcel of this recent conflict. Inside Israel, Arab Israelis have destroyed properties including a synagogue that was burned to the ground. At the same time Israelis have destroyed properties and businesses owned by Arabs, in many cases by extreme mobs recruited for the occasion and brought from other towns.
I spent the morning today with my friend Yonish who founded Marching Together For a Shared Future. Some of you may remember him from a visit to New Bedford exactly four years ago this week as part of a delegation of Jewish and Arabs from the region. We are in agreement that an Iranian-controlled terrorist regime in Gaza might have set this region back at a time when a coalition with both left, right and center Jews and Arabs nearly had a chance to start bringing change. At this point Israel has no choice but to defend herself from this most recent brutality, but the ripple effects and senseless loss of lives on both sides will continue for at least another chapter and who knows when we might be back in this position. Like me, with the airport closed and a flight back that will likely not leave as planned next week, we are stuck and the toll in human lives keep rising.