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August 23, 2014 Day 47 of War with Hamas

by Marc Schulman

Today was day 47. This is now one of longest wars in Israel’s history. Only the War of Attrition in 1968-69 and the War of Independence were as long (and though deadly to the soldiers who fought and their families, the War of Attrition took place hundreds of miles from Israel's major cities.) Over 4,000 missiles and mortar shells have fallen inside Israel. This morning, for the first time while the war was going on, I decided to take my favorite Saturday morning walk along a mostly empty beach in Northern Tel Aviv. I had been avoiding this relaxing exercise excursion since there is no where to get any cover along that stretch of beach –in case of attack. However, this morning I decided that my mental and physical health were more important than the slight risks involved. The early morning walk was relatively uneventful, disturbed only by an occasional news flash on my iPhone of an attack close to Gaza. Once again, during most of the day it was the citizens living close to Gaza who were attacked repeatedly. This evening – as has been their pattern – Hamas launched a number of missiles at the center of the country. Tonight was another case when the missiles were not going to strike Tel Aviv, so the sirens did not go off here. While in many ways that creates less fear, it was certainly disconcerting to be walking with my son back from his favorite Pizzeria, with Pizza in hand, and suddenly – without warning – hear a very loud explosion in the air.

There is no question that the attention of most Israeli's was focused today on the Kibbutzim around Gaza. The death of the 4 year old Daniel Tragerman from a mortar shell yesterday underscored the price the people in those settlements have been paying for years. In this recent war the level of fire on the settlement has increased exponentially, and especially in this newest stage. After the ceasefire that failed, an ever higher percentage of fire has been aimed at those targets that are in short range of Gaza. Since there is no more than a 15-second warning before an attack on those locations, there is little the residents can do.

10 days ago I had the chance to meet a large humber of residents from the South. I wrote a story about them coming to Tel Aviv to demonstrate and demand a permanent solution. I cannot help but reflect on those brave people, who all they want – after all these years of shelling – is for it to end. The words of the eulogy Moshe Dayan (then the Defense Minister) gave in April 1956 for Roi Rotenberg the security coordinator of Nachal Oz who was killed by terrorist, the same Kibbutz where Daniel Tregerman was killed yesterday, are stuck in my head. “We have no choice but to fight, declared Dayan. "This is our life choice," he said, "to be prepared and armed, strong and determined, lest the sword be stricken from our fist and our lives cut down.” Dayan went on to say "We are a generation that settles the land, and without the steel helmet and the cannon's fire we will not be able to plant a tree and build a home, Let us not be deterred from seeing the loathing that is inflaming and filling the lives of the hundreds of thousands of Arabs who live around us. Let us not avert our eyes lest our arms weaken.” Dayan also added in the memorable eulogy: "Let us not cast the blame on the murderers today. Why should we deplore their burning hatred for us? For eight years they have been sitting in the refugee camps in Gaza, and before their eyes we have been transforming the lands and the villages, where they and their fathers dwelt, into our estate,”. It had now been not eight years, but 66 years and the hatred has no doubt grown stronger and not weakened.

Tonight Egypt invited the sides to permanent ceasefire talks in Cairo. In Israel the sense is that Hamas is not ready to change its position, and thus, will not enter into any permanent ceasefire arrangement at this moment (of course that could change.) Tonight Israel destroyed a 14-story apartment building in downtown Gaza. Military sources claimed parts of the building were being used by Hamas for command and control. Until now, that part of Gaza has been largely untouched by Israeli aircraft. It would seem that now Israel is increasing the pressure. There is a growing sense – with school scheduled to start for most Israeli school children on September 1st – that if Hamas does not change its positions this week, Israel will use ground troops, once again, to try to put additional pressure on Hamas. Is that a mere threat or is it real? Time will tell. Tonight, at around 10:30 pm, missile alerts went off in Northern Israel, far from Gaza. It seems that Palestinians in Lebanon fired a Katyusha rocket at Israel.

Finally, tonight on the news they devoted an entire segment to covering the psychological effects on a country at war – e.g. the large number of premature births, the 66% increase in the use of tranquilizers, and a variety of the other consequential side effects. In reality, how much has this war effected the average Israeli? This is much less traumatic than the events of the second Intifadah, when buses and and cafes were being blown up. Thankfully, our casualties have been very light – except for those who live around the Gaza Strip, we all have sufficient warning if a rocket is headed our way to take precautions, and beyond that, we an anti-missile system that works. What has been hurt however, is our sense that we have become a normal country. There was that sense in the last few year of normalcy, That Tel Aviv was an extension of Silocon Valley just with a nice beach. We still have a nice beach and still have more App developers per square mile then anywhere else but silicon Valley, but one thing we all realize once again this is not a normal country, this is a country that for whatever reason has some neighbors who would like us all dead.

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