Editor’s note: To our family, Marina is much more than just “a South Carolinian.” She’s one of my youngest daughter’s oldest and best friends. Her family still lives in our neighborhood, just a few houses away. Several years ago, she met an Israeli while she and my daughter and another girl were traveling around Europe together. She later moved to Israel and married him, and they have a little boy named Yahm. This is something she posted on Facebook a couple of days ago. I asked her if I could post it here, and I’m grateful that she agreed. I haven’t edited it at all.
By Marina Druseikis Guttman
Tuesday night the rocket sirens went off as I was putting Yahm to sleep. We entered the stairwell with the other neighbours. We heard explosions, one after the other and uncomfortably close. Someone suggested we move to the basement and we did, where we stayed for at least 30 minutes as the sirens and explosions continued. I didn’t try to count the number of booms, and even though I smiled with the neighbours at Yahm’s cuteness, I had images of worst-case scenarios running through my head. I didn’t sleep well but still managed to go to the lab the next day to get some data for an experiment that I’ve been really looking forward to.
I moved to Tel Aviv in 2013, so I’d already experienced sirens, running to a safe room, rockets and the iron dome from the 2014 conflict. But this time felt different. On Tuesday some 130 rockets went over central Israel in an hour timespan. The iron dome is an amazing technological achievement, but it’s not perfect and with the increase in simultaneous rockets, it’s not possible to intercept all of them. There were direct hits to an apartment in Givatayim and a parked (empty) bus in Holon.
We had almost 2 days of quiet in Tel Aviv.
Then Saturday afternoon there was a siren at exactly the time Matan and Yahm were supposed to be biking home from down the street. Thankfully they hadn’t left yet. I sat in the stairwell with the neighbours and heard the explosions. Again I didn’t try to count the booms, but there were three blasts in particular that really got to me, one right after the other with each one seeming to get louder, closer, and again the worst-case scenarios ran through my head. During this barrage there was another direct hit in Ramat Gan, about 5 km from us, with one man dead as he was disabled and didn’t make it to a protected space in time. We had another barrage that night, shortly after midnight, as Hamas made good on their promise to “bring hell to Tel Aviv at midnight”, or something like that, as retaliation for the IDF taking down the tower housing international news organisations (the IDF say it was targeted because it was also a Hamas headquarter. I’ll just say the optics are terrible either way).
I don’t write this for sympathy or to detract from the Palestinian’s suffering or Israel’s wrongdoing. I choose to live here knowing what comes with it. But civilians – Israeli, Palestinian, Jewish, Arab, and those of us who fit none of those categories – are suffering and nobody wins.
I guess I feel the need to give my firsthand account because the media usually portrays the situation as David vs Goliath (though David wins so really that’s a poor analogy for the point they’re trying to make), and I’ve heard reporters say “it’s Palestinians throwing rocks versus a modern military.” But it’s not rocks. If there was no iron dome, Tel Aviv would be in rubble right now after just Tuesday night, not to mention the four other attacks since then. People who obviously don’t live here claim these are homemade pipe bombs and therefore not a threat (??), but that’s not the reality. I’m writing from the relative safety of Tel Aviv, but people living less than an hour south of here have had non-stop rockets for a week and are living in bomb shelters.
For lack of a better word, I’m impressed by Hamas’ military advancements since 2014. It’s not like Israel played patty cakes then – no, the IDF destroyed many buildings housing weapons, and got a lot of international backlash for it. But in 6 years time Hamas has built and stockpiled thousands of rockets, and apparently missiles as well as drones that can carry explosives.
The events leading up to this were totally avoidable and the government’s actions, led by Bibi, are horrendous and inexcusable. And of course I don’t think Hamas’ retaliation on Israeli civilians can be justified, although I admit I’m biased because they are literally targeting my city. But that’s what it is. And now every little noise sounds like the start of the siren or a bomb exploding in the distance. It’s nerve wracking.
Perhaps the scariest part of all of this is the civil unrest. Jews and Arabs are attacking each other in mixed cities that have lived together peacefully for years (Arabs make up 20% of Israel’s population – these are Israeli citizens, not Palestinians from Gaza or the West Bank). It’s both heartbreaking and disgusting.
It’s important to separate the people from their governing bodies. I learned this many years ago as an American who was horrified by our actions in the Middle East and South and Central America, to name a few. But it’s still hard to read comments online that say anyone defending Israel or even showing sympathy for Israel is a promoter of ethnic cleansing, apartheid, genocide, etc. Hamas is purposefully bombarding civilians with rockets but no one claims the Palestinians are trying to commit ethnic cleansing or genocide – and they shouldn’t make that claim. Because Hamas doesn’t represent all Palestinians, just like Bibi doesn’t represent all Israelis.
Nothing is black and white. Everything is nuanced. I hope and pray for peace and an end to this cyclical violence.
Here’s Yahm and I trying to enjoy the sunshine after a difficult night and some snapshots of what it’s like to live in central Israel right now.