I WIPE the sleep out of my eyes as I write this, sitting on the bed in the bomb shelter. I am careful not to wake my younger cousins, one of whom has special needs, not wanting to scare him. Yet I hear the confronting wail of the siren, followed by the cymbal crash-like boom of the Kassam rocket being destroyed by the Iron Dome, which protects us from the rain of rockets at 3am.
This is not normal to me. I’m an 18-year-old Jewish Australian, on a gap year program in Israel. I graduated from Moriah College last year and I have been brought up in a protective Sydney eastern suburbs environment. The very thought of having 10 seconds to run to a bomb shelter with the whole family in the middle of the night is almost something you’d expect to hear in World War II. This is 2021 for God’s sake.
In the Australian mainstream media, we hear about the plight of the poor Palestinian people, cruelly oppressed by the tyrannical Israelis. Yesterday’s headline read: “Over 30 people dead as Netanyahu vows to intensify Gaza attacks”. What the headline doesn’t read is that more than 1000 rockets were fired into Israel in a 40-hour period. What the headline doesn’t read is that over 15 of these people were Hamas militants and that a third of the rockets fired from Gaza fell short of their target and caused Palestinian casualties. What the headline doesn’t read is that before retaliating, Israel sent warning letters to the civilians in the area, who decided to stay.
I honestly feel sorry for the ordinary Palestinian citizens. I really do. They have done nothing to deserve their life of extreme poverty, constant border checks and fear. However, it is their bad leadership which is their downfall, abusing their situation to radicalise these starved individuals. They are human shields who are told that Israel is the reason they are in the situation they’re in. Yet Israel is the country that offers them medical services and financial aid.
It’s frightening to hear the siren. The first time I heard it was yesterday afternoon, while dancing through the streets on Jerusalem Day. Everyone’s faces were lined with smiles and their bodies were dripping with sweat as they peacefully danced to Israeli music in the square outside the great synagogue of Jerusalem on the hot spring afternoon. However, this bliss was not to be as at 6.02pm, the eerie cry of the siren could be heard throughout the city. Everyone went into panic and I quickly dropped to the ground with my hands shielding my head. Much to my relief I heard the thunderous boom of the rocket being intercepted by the Iron Dome missile interception device.
Tonight, as I was eating my dessert at a restaurant, I heard my second alarm, quickly abandoning my Belgian waffle to the safety of the bomb shelter behind the kitchen. As I sit here in the bomb shelter at 3am, writing this article, having just heard my third siren in two days I realise that soon I might not be able to remember each time I’ve been to the shelter. I’m afraid that this may be the new normal for me.
I’m not writing this article to disregard the plight of the Palestinian people. They’ve dealt with many hardships and there are a number of instances where the Israelis are very clearly in the wrong. However, most of the trouble for them is caused by their own government and the hatred that they promote. I’m instead writing this article to educate about the less told side of the story, the Israeli side. While 80 people are killed in an explosion in Afghanistan and the Uyghur people are brutally murdered, the news that makes it to mainstream media is how bad Israel is. It really isn’t.
You as a reader need to read more than just the headlines presented to you, as that is where the true information lies. The fact that 700 rockets were shot towards Israeli civilian areas in just one day. The fact is that those 700 rockets stop an entire country; Jews, Muslims and Christians alike all had a sleepless night as they repeatedly had to run to bomb shelters; it means that schools were closed not because of COVID, which Israel has eradicated, but because it is too dangerous for children to attend.
The fact that babies are being born in hospital bomb shelters. The fact that bus and trains are thrown into chaos and the economy grinds to a halt. The fact that rocks are being thrown at Israeli drivers, and Israeli citizens narrowly avoid getting lynched. The fact that before Israel sends in a retaliation airstrike to kill senior Hamas terrorists, they send down flyers advising the Palestinian people to leave their homes so that they will survive. The fact is that Israel is fighting an ethical war and they are being met with backlash. Yet the people they fight against shoot hundreds of deadly rockets a day, build tunnels to infiltrate into Israel and injure as many people as possible and send over Molotov cocktails on kites to destroy Israeli crops. It is 3am and I’m sitting in the bomb shelter. These are the facts.
Ariel Eisner is a Moriah 2020 graduate. He is currently on the Bnei Akiva Limmud program.