Eye on the Middle East Nov/Dec 2015

Seventy percent of all the children living in the southern Israeli city of Sderot suffer from at least one symptom of post-traumatic stress, and 50 percent continue to relive rocket trauma, according to a study by Dr. Rony Berger, a clinical psychologist at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

A blogger in Sderot described watching her daughter’s kindergarten class run out of the school and into bomb shelters, saying, “It made me cry.”

Although no outright war broke out last summer, all is not quiet on the Gaza front. Hamas has launched multiple rocket attacks into Israel, and though UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned them, the rest of the world remained silent, prompting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to lash out. “I didn’t hear anybody in the international community condemn the fire,” he declared. “I’m interested if the silence will continue even when we exercise with our full strength our right to defend ourselves.”

Netanyahu is angry because these attacks violate the truce agreed on by Israel and the Arab militants. In April, when Israelis were celebrating Independence Day, Gaza fired a rocket that exploded in an empty field near Sderot.

Other unprovoked attacks followed in May, June, July, and August. Each attack set off Israeli air raid sirens, giving citizens about 15 seconds to run to shelters. Each attack also activated Iron Dome, Israel’s sophisticated, mobile, all-weather air defense system able to analyze the enemy rocket’s projected landing and, if needed, intercept and destroy it in the sky.

Fortunately, Iron Dome (which is extremely expensive to deploy) was not needed, which could be why the international community was silent.

Or perhaps it was silent because none of the rockets, or, for that matter, the more than 11,000 rockets Gaza has launched into Israel since 2005, were directed at any country but Israel, even though every attack has been formulated to inflict as much damage to Israeli property and kill as many Israelis as possible.

According to the official blog of the Israel Defense Forces, “Over 5 million Israelis are currently living under threat of rocket attacks. More than half a million Israelis have less than 60 seconds to find shelter after a rocket is launched from Gaza into Israel. Most rockets launched from Gaza into Israel are capable of reaching Israel’s biggest cities, including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.”

Israel takes the threat of rocket attacks seriously and understands that the first rule for any nation is to protect its citizens.

In keeping with that rule, in 2007, after Hezbollah had launched more than 4,000 rockets from Lebanon against its northern border in 2006, Israel implemented a yearly dress rehearsal for disaster called Turning Point. It is a huge, countrywide civil defense exercise that tests Israel’s ability to cope with a massive attack. It involves medical emergency services, such as Magen David Adom, fire and rescue services, and border police.

Local authorities and government ministries participate, and air raid sirens are sounded. For many Israelis, the blare of the sirens provided a brief flashback to last summer’s 50-day war with Hamas, when thousands of rockets hit Israel. So traumatizing was that war that, in Sderot, the sirens were ordered not to sound.

Sadly, dealing with rocket fire is the norm in the Jewish state. And though other nations believe Israel should just bear it, no North American or European nation would ever tolerate such attacks without retaliating. That is why Prime Minister Netanyahu is outraged and why it’s about time the international community stood with him.

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