Showing newest posts with label Sderot. Show older posts
Showing newest posts with label Sderot. Show older posts

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Tale of Two Cities: Sderot, music, rockets and you

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...
--A Tale of Two Cities

3/18: 2, 3/19: 1, 3/20: 4, 3/21: 2, 3/22: 2, 3/23: 1, 3/26: 1, 3/27: 2, 4/1: 1, 4/2:1, 4/3:1, 4/5:1, 4/6:6

--number of rockets fired into Israel by day from Gaza in the past two weeks


My town:

It's beautiful, quiet Spring morning in the Northeast. The rivers are receding after the recent Old Testament-style floods. The recent cold snap has ended, the sun is shining and the skies are blue. As I lay in bed with the sun streaming in through the windows and hear the Easter weekend traffic motoring along slowly, it's easy to be almost hypnotized at how peaceful it is. What should I do today? Whatever it is, it has to be outside and on a day like today it seems as though anything is possible...

***********

Your town:

It's beautiful, quiet Spring morning in Sderot. The heavy rains of the winter and desert flooding are fading into distant memory, the sun is shining and the skies are blue. As I lay in bed with the sun streaming in through the windows and hear the Passover weekend traffic motoring along slowly I think to myself how lucky I am to wake up in such a beautiful town. What should I do today? Whatever it is, it has to be outside and on a day like today it seems as though anything is possible...

***********

My town:

...something occurs to me as I get up to pour myself a bowl of cereal, something in the back of my mind...but I push it away...I don't want anything to disturb my quiet haze...what should I do? Walk to the park? Hike along the river? But something keeps nagging me and I can't ignore it...something I forgot...but I really don't want to think about it I'd much rather think about how to spend this beautiful day...

***********

Your town:

...something occurs to me as I get up to go make myself a cup of coffee...something in the back of my mind...no I don't want to think about that...I won't on a day like today...so what SHOULD I do today, anyway? Go to beach? Ugh, with all the holiday travelers it's going to be packed. Was that what was bothering me? No that's not it...and I'm not going to think about it anymore today...I'm not going to let it disturb this beautiful, peaceful day...Still it's nagging me, but in my just-woken-up haze I can barely remember what it is...

***********

My town:

Taxes! TAXES! That's what it was! I forgot to do my taxes and they're due in just a few days! Well no matter I'll just do them later tonight - no way I'm wasting a day like THIS to look at some boring forms! Thank God I remembered though, it could have been a disaster if I had forgotten!

***********

Your town:

CODE RED CODE RED CODE RED CODE RED CODE RED CODE RED CODE RED CODE RED CODE RED CODE RED CODE RED CODE RED CODE RED CODE RED CODE RED CODE RED CODE RED CODE RED CODE RED CODE RED CODE RED CODE RED CODE RED CODE RED AIR RAID SIREN AIR RAID SIREN AIR RAID SIREN AIR RAID SIREN AIR RAID SIREN AIR RAID SIREN AIR RAID SIREN AIR RAID SIREN AIR RAID SIREN AIR RAID SIREN CODE RED CODE RED CODE RED CODE RED CODE RED CODE RED CODE RED CODE RED CODE RED CODE RED CODE RED CODE RED CODE RED CODE RED CODE RED CODE RED CODE RED CODE RED CODE RED CODE RED CODE RED CODE RED CODE RED CODE RED CODE RED CODE RED CODE RED CODE RED AIR RAID SIREN AIR RAID SIREN AIR RAID SIREN AIR RAID SIREN


Oh that's what it was, I almost forgot...I haven't had a quiet, peaceful day like I was imagining in OVER EIGHT YEARS. Why should today be any different? Back into the bomb shelter for another game of "dodge-rocket" with my family.


***********





Welcome to Sderot, Israel, population approximately 20,000. The scene you just read is one that has been repeated basically on a daily basis since March, 2002. Not-so-surprisingly, up to 94% of the children who live in Sderot suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). But in addition to holding the dubious title of "most bombed city on earth", Sderot has been an incredible musical and cultural center for all of Israel. An incredible amount of singers and songwriters hails from this hard-scrabble town, including Kobi Oz of the band Teapacks. You may have heard of them during the "Push the Button" controversy at the 2007 Eurovision contest.



But Sderot isn't just a thumbtack on a google map showing the latest rocket strike in the perpetual hell of Middle East reality. It's a real city with real people that I had the privilege of visiting this past January. Palestinians fired four mortars at us while I was there. Luckily their aim was off and the mortars all landed in their own territory - no code red for me.

The tension while walking in the street however, was palpable and I couldn't help subconsciously looking around for somewhere within 15 seconds to take shelter if the alarm did go off. Most of the bus stops in the area have been converted into bomb shelters and many buildings have them built-in but there were several stretches when it was clear I would not be able to get anywhere indoors within 15 seconds.

Knowing that thousands upon thousands of rockets and mortars have crashed into the very streets I was now walking made me think about the people who stood on the same ground I was now on. Someone, probably several people, had been standing where I was now during a Code Red and had to hope to God or whatever higher power they believed in that they would be spared. This was a sobering thought indeed.

Eventually I arrived at the Sderot Media Center where I met several residents of the town and spoke to them about life in the shadow of Gaza. Without realizing it, the tension I felt when I was in the street left me the whole time I was in their presence. Despite the unbelievable living conditions these people are forced to endure, I was mesmerized by the charm and overall quiet of the city.

The people I spoke to, while obviously upset about the situation, didn't act like they were jumpy or nervous or miserable...the whole place just seemed so NORMAL. Being there reminded me of the sleepy New Jersey town I grew up in...which made it all the more frustrating to know that this quiet calm had just been shattered the day before by a rocket attack and unbeknownst to me at the time had almost been shattered four times while I was there.

If you follow Israeli news you read a lot about traumatized residents of Sderot with PTSD or children that have developed panic attacks as a result of incessant Code Red alerts...but in a way, seeing how relatable the people were, affected me more than reading about victims of attacks. These people aren't superheroes, they're just regular human beings like you and me who want nothing more complicated than to be able to get out of bed in the morning WITHOUT BEING SHOT AT BY A BUNCH OF IRANIAN-FUNDED, OVERSIZED BAZOOKAS.

They have jobs, they drink tea, they send their children to school, they go out drinking (a local pub was selected by Haaretz as serving the "best cocktail" in Israel), they even produce the Bissli snacks - popular with so many American Jews - at the Osem plant right outside town. In short, this could be quiet rural town in South Jersey or Pennsylvania or Michigan or Kansas or Oklahoma or wherever. You could have had the luck of being born here instead of wherever you grew up.



The only difference is that if you had been born here, this what would be falling on your head on a nearly daily basis for the past eight straight years. This is what would have been raining down on you 20, 30, 50, A HUNDRED times per DAY before your government finally decided to act against the perpetrators. This is what the rest of the world would expect you to endure falling on you as you drove to work or waited with your child for the bus or lay in bed considering what to do with your holiday weekend.

By the way, these rockets don't just fall from the sky, they EXPLODE on impact and send shrapnel (in addition to ball bearings, nails, screws and other potential projectiles that our Palestinian friends pack into these explosives) flying in every direction. These rockets, "crude" as they may be described in Palestinian mythology, are specifically designed to injure or end as many human lives as possible. That they don't kill more people is a testament to the preparedness of the townspeople to react to these attacks.

For example, take this playground that I saw while I was there...




This is the "Heritage Legacy Park of Good Wishes" - built with money that was donated by Americans. It sure looks like a fun place for kids to play, with colorful caterpillars and castles and everything else an imaginative child could want. In the setting sun it all seemed so peaceful...so normal...until it was pointed out to me by my friend that these caterpillars and castles were actually built as BOMB shelters. This project was part of a $9 million campaign to create bomb-proof places for children to play. Park of "good wishes" indeed...

And this is really a perfect illustration of what's wrong with the attitudes of pretty much everyone who doesn't actually live in Sderot. Everyone I talked to was (understandably) at the point of infuriation that even well-meaning people who are trying to help are actually perpetuating the problem.

After all, rockets rain down on an innocent civilian population and the answer is...to build prettier bomb shelters? Better early warning systems? Teaching people how to manage their lives more effectively as they live under bombardment?? This isn't an earthquake or hurricane zone or an area that's somehow prone to regularly occurring meteor showers! This isn't some natural disaster that people need to learn how to live with better! Just STOP THE ROCKETS.

Imagine if your home was repeatedly the target of armed robberies. You call the police to tell them that your home is being invaded on a daily basis and instead of them coming to arrest the perpetrators they tell you get a stronger safe to keep your jewelry in, so as to discourage the bandits from coming back. Would you tolerate that? Of course not! It's INSANE to expect people to live like this.

No more bomb shelters. No more early warning systems. No more Code Reds. No more fake condemnations by the outside world. No more SILENCE from the Obama administration.

And the announcement of the settlements the very day that the vice president was there was insulting.
--Hillary Clinton


Oh my mistake, maybe we're better off when you don't say anything. Do you know what's really insulting though? All this controversy from the entire world that is directed at Israel over...building an apartment building...but while Biden and Hillary were STILL in the process of scolding the Israelis over their evil real estate plans there was yet another rocket attack into non-settlement, Israel-proper.

But hey, no one got killed so no harm, no foul right? ISRAEL on the other hand...how DARE they exercise their sovereignty over territory that they annexed over 40 years ago. And as world leaders raced each other to condemn Israeli architecture in ever more flowery and grandiose language, poor Manee Singmueangphon had the misfortune of working in a greenhouse that a random Qassam crashed into, killing him and injuring dozens other Thai workers.


Singmueangphon had children back in Thailand that he was working in Israel to support


Really though, what other country in the world is expected to endure daily attacks on its own citizens...yet a new housing project becomes an INTERNATIONAL incident? Oh and God forbid if Israel actually eliminates a terrorist mastermind...nevermind rocket attacks, the Mossad stands accused of the high crime of PASSPORT FORGERY. What a joke!

In other news, over 300 people were slaughtered in the Congo over a span of 3 days in December and you didn't even know about it. Oh and 700 children died there today (and yesterday and the day before that...) of starvation due to the fighting. But ISRAEL is on the front pages of every newspaper because they stopped a murderer from killing more people and built an apartment building in their capital! It's complete insanity and yet we all are complicit in it by our silence.

Thankfully the residents of Sderot are imaginative, creative and resourceful enough to take care of themselves. My friends at the Sderot Media Center told me about the innovative programs they have to help the Sderot residents who suffer from PTSD. There are theater, movie, music and poetry programs that encourage children and adults to express their feelings through art. It's not much of a surprise that a city with such a rich musical and cultural history would produce such beautiful art about a decidedly un-beautiful situation. There's also a documentary called Sderot: Rock in the Red Zone about how the Sderot youth are finding ways to express their pain and suffering to the rest of the world.



But why should this be? Why do we need awareness concerts and social media therapy and playground bomb shelters? Why does this situation even need to exist? How can we abandon these human beings...these mothers, fathers, sons, daughters...and allow them to be victimized like this?

We, all of us, need to stand up and make it clear that we will not play by the rules our "friends" try to impose on us as long as these people are subjected to this daily hell. What are we arguing about here, honestly? Apartment complexes? Passport forgeries? These people have been subjected to a DAILY state of terror for over EIGHT YEARS. This is ridiculous already!

You want Israel to sit down at the table and talk with murderers like Hamas? Get them to stop the rockets. You want less restrictions on Palestinian movement in the West Bank? Stop the rockets. You want settlement freezes and "confidence-building" measures? STOP THE ROCKETS. Oh and how about releasing Gilad Shalit (after his 4th Passover in captivity) too?

No progress should be made, no concessions offered, no goodwill gestures, nothing done until they STOP THE ROCKETS. No one should be able to guilt-trip you into feeling bad for the (self-imposed) terrible situation the Palestinians are living under in Gaza either. Even the frequently Israel-bashing Human Rights Watch places the blame for the rockets SQUARELY on Hamas "leadership's" shoulders. I'm sorry that innocent Palestinians suffer in Gaza on a daily basis but you know what? It's not my problem. THEIR government which THEY elected and therefore represents THEM allows this situation to continue.

But if they just STOPPED THE ROCKETS - none of this would happen. Action/reaction, cause/effect, behavior/consequence. Enough with the complaining, the apologies, the demands and the excuses...just STOP

THE

ROCKETS.

And to the people of Sderot...keep making your movies and your music and know that even though we're very far away, WE DO HEAR YOU.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The sanction of the victim and the guiltiest man in the room, Part II: SANCTION

This post is the second part of a multi-part series on the stubborn habit of Jews to perpetuate situations where they are the victims of their own actions. If you haven't read the introduction yet, I encourage you to check out Part I before continuing. If you're pressed for time, while highly recommended, it isn't required to go back in order to understand what we're talking about in this post.

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They are willing to bear nothing. You are willing to bear anything. They keep evading responsibility. You keep assuming it.
--Francisco D'Anconia

If it is now believed that my fellow men may sacrifice me in any manner they please for the sake of whatever they deem to be their own good, if they believe that they may seize my property simply because they need it—well, so does any burglar. There is only this difference: the burglar does not ask me to sanction his act.
--Hank Rearden

We will return to Jaffa, to Acre, to Tel Aviv, to Jerusalem, to Ramle. We'll play soccer, Saraa. I'll be happy when we go back there.
--Hamas puppet "Nassour" to young girl host of children’s program

Until victory, always.
--Ernesto 'Che' Guevara


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PART TWO: SANCTION


Picking up where we left off last time with that ridiculous picture that encompasses much of what is wrong with the state of the American Jewish community...for a long time I thought that simple ignorance of reality was what drove these people to embrace the paradox of their own demise, but it goes much deeper than that.

Because you see, the Jewish lesbian who supports Hamas (who if they had their way would execute her, which eliminates her support for them - hence the paradox) in all her absurd irony, answers the immortal question posed by Francisco D'Anconia to Hank Rearden about midway through Ayn Rand's epic, Atlas Shrugged:

If the things I said are true, who is the guiltiest man in this room tonight?

While it is hard to boil down a 1,000+ page book into a single sentence - for the purpose of this post - the Francisco/Hank exchanges say it all. If you haven't read the book yet, go now and read it. I'll wait right here, patiently until you return.

While Atlas Shrugged is host to many themes, messages and subplots, the storyline that I always most identified with was that of Henry "Hank" Rearden. Rearden, a self-made, multi-multi-millionaire is a ruthlessly confident businessman and consummate professional with only one major weakness...he (like the entirety of the American society presented in the book) has been taught his entire life that it is his responsibility to support everyone who does not support themselves. His wife, family and the general public deride him as a greedy, selfish bully whose only concern is the bottom line - all the while living off the fruits of his labor even as they abuse him at every opportunity. Rearden's personal life is a truly miserable one as he is bound by a morality whereby he feels that by suffering at the hands of his tormentors and appeasing them, he is somehow a more virtuous person.

Even as society and the economy is decaying around him as the "looters" and "moochers" seize more and more of his wealth, property and freedom, Rearden continues to suffer and work harder because he loves his work and is driven by a desire to produce and progress - even though by the end he is producing almost exclusively for the thieves and murderers that make up the government in the book. The irony of course is that the people condemning him as being greedy and selfish NEED him to continue to produce because THEY themselves are incapable of it and without him they would be lost. Since everyone around Hank lives off of his production, if he refuses to produce, refuses to be "greedy" and behaves in the way his enemies pretend to want him to behave, they would ALL starve to death.

His willing subscription to their morality, his tolerance of their evil, his continuing to play their game with their rules is the only way they can destroy him. His enemies cannot succeed without the sanction of their victim. And it is thus the same with our enemies.

Since the first halutzim (pioneers) began working the fields and improving living conditions in what would become the modern state of Israel, Arabs against the Jewish state have demanded they vacate the land and "return" it to them.



Really? Where were these claims when Israel was a barren, backwater desert administered by the Ottomans for half a millennium? All of the sudden the Jews bring irrigation, highways and Tel Aviv to Israel and Arab residents who for 1500 years of foreign Muslim domination never even knew how to spell "nationalism" become the world's greatest political refugee problem. You don't think the Jewish presence in Ottoman and British Palestine significantly improved conditions for the native Arab population? How else would you explain 64,790 Arab immigrants to areas that became part of 1948 Israel? From that link:

The Arab Palestinian populations within those sub-districts that eventually became Israel increased from 321,866 in 1922 to 463,288 in 1931 or by 141,422. Applying the 2.5 per annum natural rate of population growth to the 1922 Arab Palestinian population generates an expected population size for 1931 of 398,498 or 64,790 less than the actual population recorded in the British census. By imputation, this unaccounted population increase must have been either illegal immigration not accounted for in the British census...

That means that 14% of the ENTIRE ARAB POPULATION of British Mandate Palestine was made up of IMMIGRANTS from just the nine years between 1922-1931! If the Zionists were so bad for the natives, why move to be CLOSER to them? End the occupation? And do what? Turn the entirety of the West Bank into Gaza City? Or into the pre-Israel swamp and desert that the Gallilee and Negev were, respectively?

And lest you think that these migration patterns ceased in the 20's and 30's...every single day anywhere between 68,000 to 115,000 Palestinians cross either legally or illegally into Israel for work or work for the very West Bank settlers who they claim to seek to displace. Apparently Zionist occupiers and Jewish settlers pay much better than Arab "freedom fighters". Just to put this into perspective, that works out to approximately 10% to 20% of the ENTIRE West Bank labor force is employed by Jews or Israelis.

What happens when Palestinians work in Israel or for Israelis/Jews? They pay taxes on that income to the Israeli government...which then hands the money right back to the Palestinian government. When the 2nd Intifada broke out and when Hamas came to power Israel caused an international uproar by withholding the estimated $50-$60 million a month that they transfer to Fatah and Hamas. For those mathematicians not named Hugo Chavez, that works out to between $600 and $720 million per year.

If you clicked the link that had to do with the Palestinian labor force, you would have read on the CIA Factbook that the ENTIRE PALESTINIAN REVENUE COLLECTION for 2006 was $1.63 billion. That means that nearly HALF of the TOTAL Palestinian intake (which is then used to purchase guns, print schoolbooks that talk about eliminating Israel and fund TV programs that brainwash children into thinking that they should throw rocks at Israeli tanks) is funded by the VERY PEOPLE they seek to destroy. And oh, by the way, in 2009 an additional $900 million was pledged to them by the US and A State Department.

How about the case of route 443, a road that links central Israel to Jerusalem? Or any of the "Jewish-only" roads that I'm sure you've heard the people crying crocodile tears about for that matter. Since the 2nd Intifada, several roads through the West Bank have been closed to Palestinian traffic due to DAILY shooting attacks on Israeli civilian vehicles left many innocent civilians dead or injured. My own cousin's car was firebombed while he was driving home from Jerusalem with his wife and baby girl.

Since the closure, this has for the most part ceased to be an issue. Now the Palestinians are demanding that this road be open to their traffic and in fact, the Israeli Supreme Court has ruled in their favor. In a few months, the new rule will go into effect and many Israelis will be avoiding this road out of fear that their families will be targets again. The road (like the rest of the infrastructure in Israel) by the way, was built by Israelis.

Want more? Because we have it. Along with the "end the occupation!" refrain which we seem to have had since time immemorial, the newer, hipper catchphrase of the late 00's was the "end the seige!" mantra - referring of course to Israel's closure of Gaza in response to daily rocket attacks against Israeli civilians. From the Sderot Media Center:

Most English dictionaries define siege as an “act or process of surrounding and attacking a fortified place in such a way as to isolate it from help and supplies...”

Indeed, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website has reported that in the year 2009 alone, Israel allowed for 703, 224 tons of humanitarian aid and 105,600,128 liters of fuel to be delivered into the Gaza Strip following Operation Cast Lead.

“The IDF invested major resources to enable the flow of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip” stated Col. Moshe Levi, the head of the IDF’s Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration, in November 2009. According to Levi, humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip increased by 900 percent compared to the previous year. Over 22, 893 humanitarian aid trucks entered into Gaza throughout 2009.



Aid trucks ready to enter the Gaza Strip in the background. (Photo: Jacob Shrybman/Sderot Media Center)


Blockading the Truth: Getting the facts straight on the ‘Gaza Siege’

Let's for now grant that "humanitarian aid" is just that (ignoring the propensity of Hamas to seize medical supplies in order to sell them and use the money for guns and rockets that kill civilians) and just think about those 100+ million liters of fuel.

What basic thing do all militaries need in order to succeed? The ability to move. What enables a military unit to move quickly, set up a rocket and then flee the scene before the return fire lays waste to it? An automotive of some kind, be it a car, truck, van, motorcycle, rocket sled whatever. What do all of these things need to operate? FUEL. Who gets first dibs on all the fuel that comes into Gaza (as well as everything else)? HAMAS. What does Hamas do with their fuel? KILL ISRAELIS. Who provides Hamas with fuel? ISRAELIS. Who provides the vast majority of electricity and water for the population that put Hamas into power? ISRAELIS. What do 68% of Palestinians think is a legitimate way to defend Islam? SUICIDE BOMBINGS AGAINST CIVILIANS. What people do 77% of Palestinians have an unfavorable rating of? AMERICANS. Who are the loudest supporters of Palestinians? AMERICAN COLLEGE STUDENTS.

Who suffers for all of this? Israelis. Americans. Jews. Who allows it to happen? Israelis. Americans. Jews. Who, often FUNDS and ENCOURAGES their own suffering? Israelis. Americans. Jews.



Sanction of the victim.

Is it starting to click yet? In the end, it's not about Palestinian radicalism, Palestinian corruption, or ineffective Palestinian "leadership". The guiltiest man in the room isn't Hasan Nasrallah, Ismail Haniyeh, Mahmoud Abbas or even Mahmoud Ahmedinejad.

It's you. It's me. Like Hank Rearden WE are the ones that perpetuate this situation. WE are the ones that allow it to happen. And it is our fault because we should KNOW BETTER. And it isn't even that Barack Obama or Hilary Clinton's or Ehud Olmert's misguided policies allow the other side to succeed. Who put these in power? WE DID.

And by we I mean Jews who overwhelmingly swept Obama into power by giving him 77% of their vote and continue to defend their decision STILL TODAY, even as Iran continues to move towards nuclear weaponization and Israel's future hangs in the balance. This isn't to say of course that everyone who voted for Obama doesn't like Israel, but it's hard to claim you are a pro-Israel activist if you don't do the most basic thing you can do in a democracy if you care about something.

That is to VOTE for the people who will support it as opposed to people who will throw it under a bus.

This should be so obvious to us and yet still we pretend that it somehow makes us more virtuous to work (or at least vote) against our own best interests even as our actions directly or indirectly aid our would-be murderers.

This HAS to change. The clock is ticking.

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In the next installment: PERPETUATION, we will explore the roots of this desire to suffer and learn why this phenomenon is found in both the left and right wings of the international Jewish community.