Thursday, July 31, I flew back home. It was hard to leave.
When I landed, I learned that a ceasefire will start Friday at 8am, but by the time I sit down to sum up my “adventures” this past week, a suicide bomber blew himself up in a tunnel creating a diversion and one Israeli soldier was kidnapped and two soldiers died. All that ended the ceasefire which lasted maybe one hour.
Last Saturday another ceasefire was declared. Early morning while waiting for my friend to go for a walk it felt calm….
The streets are empty of cars, you can hear the birds. At 8am you can spot some people going to shul with their talitot on and some walk in their running shoes. It’s the 19th day since operation “Protective Edge” or in hebrew “Tzuk Eitan” started, and as a ceasefire was declared since 8am the optimist in me is looking forward to a quiet day, a true Shabbath.
My friend chose the route. We walked through Rothchild blvd to Neve Tzedek then the beach promenade. Usually by 9am the promenade would have been packed, but not this morning. We did see some surfers in the water and bike riders. We finished the loop through Dizengoff Street and Nordau Blvd. I decided to visit my cousin who just moved from the Arava (Negev Desert) to Michmoret, a yishuv by the sea. His son is in a special unit operating in Gaza. They haven’t seen him for six weeks. To the excitement of new home there is a layer of anxiety. We all hope for a safe return for all the soldiers.
The day is quiet, no rockets, who knows maybe this time the cease fire would hold..
In the afternoon I met a young man who spent the last 12 days in Israel as part of Taglit (Birthright). He was not fazed by the situation. He felt safe and traveling to Masada, the Western Wall and the Golan Heights gave him a sense of the country. He said that he was confident with his Jewish identity but now after the trip he connects to the country and plans to come back. That brought a ray of sunshine to know that the magic is here no matter how scary it might seem when reading the paper.
I heard that there was going to be a demonstration in Kikar Rabin this evening. The “Left ” were going to demand a ceasefire. I don’t believe we are ready for unconditional ceasefire, all the humanitarians ceasefires were kept by Israel and were broken by the Hamas who kept sending rockets towards Israel.
Arriving to Kikar Rabin we saw people holding signs that said Jews and Arabs don’t want to be enemies. But mostly people were talking to each other, you could hardly hear the speakers and no one around me knew who they were.
The municipality building was lit with the Star of David
There were police guarding the demonstration and on the other side of the Kikar the people on the “Right” were holding Israeli flags and contesting the left. The whole demonstration lasted 2 hours and it was over. On the news they said that there were clashes but I did not see any.
All week I felt the unity; unity in the government, unity among the people, no matter what one’s political orientation. It felt that the whole country is united against the evil Hamas. There is one mission we stand for and it is to make sure that the threat of the tunnels will be obliterated.
Shabbath is over, a rocket was shot towards Ashkelon. Officially there is a ceasefire but again it was broken.
I planned to take my mom on a retreat, away from constantly watching TV. There is a new hotel spa only 35 minutes from Tel Aviv so although rockets continue falling and fighting goes on in the south , life must go on.
Two days of pampering worked, my mom was able to relax.
Monday night at 2:30am there was an alert siren in Tel Aviv, at least we escaped that.
Wednesday morning I spend with Justin who works for JDC visiting an elderly center in Bat Yam. I was impressed at the activities . Bat Yam has a mostly elderly population and these days it’s important to make them feel safe.
Wednesday evening my friend invited me to a play by an Israeli playwright who is known for his macabre humor. The play’s name is “We all want to live”. Before the play started to a full theatre the main actor came out and gave us instructions of where to go if there will be a siren. A sobering reminder that although we are attending a cultural event we cannot forget what’s happening outside the theatre hall.
I am taking the 4pm El-AL flight back to the States. It was not easy to leave. I did not want to leave my family, and friends. I did not want to leave my country . Life goes on but you can sense the anxiety, you can sense the uncertainty. Reading the newspapers I felt like many other Israelis …. isolated. I felt that the world does not get it. The world does not understand.
I know that I am rambling. I know I am emotional.
I pray for Peace. I Pray for the end of the conflict. I pray that all the soldiers will be back.
Some statistics are in order, Operation Protective Edge is on it ‘s 26th day.
2,874 rockets shot towards Israel, Hamas claims to have 20,000 rockets.
It is not entirely clear how many tunnels there are but Israel estimates around 50
63 Israeli soldiers died since the beginning of the operation.
For more info check : mfa.gov.il , Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Orna, your impressions of your trip to Israel have been very touching. I understand how divided you feel, and I also understand your desire to be of help at a time when we all feel so flummoxed by the American and European media’s constant condemnation of Israel’s necessary actions in Gaza. If we can’t hope for peace, let’s at least hope for safety for Israel, it’s soldiers and citizens. Shabat shalom. Xo Mirian
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Miss ya Ox
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Beautiful writing Orna
Beautiful pics of you and your mom.
Praying for peace.