"Why didn't you shut your phone?" my daughter asked after another beep. I couldn't possibly when Elie was on base and I knew that Israel would, at some point, react to the constant rocket fire.
"Maybe it's Elie," said my middle son, making my heart skip a beat.
"Why do you say things like that?" I asked him and though he didn't mean anything and I didn't either, he apologized. The phone quieted down later in the afternoon and I began to think that maybe what I'd heard was a clock alarm that kept sounding, though that didn't make much sense. Finally, after the Sabbath ended, I checked my messages.
The first talked of more incoming missiles; then the announcement that Israeli planes were hitting targets in Gaza; then more announcements of rockets hitting Ashkelon, Sderot, Netivot. A man was killed when his house was hit, others were injured. Claims by the Palestinians of over 195 killed and 300 wounded. Claims, never substantiated, but enough to bring condemnations from many sources - the Italians, the United Nations, the Iranians.
Egypt and the United States have released statements saying that Hamas' endless rocket attacks brought on this reaction from Israel. Egypt wants it to stop, as do others. The Syrians, the people who butchered 30,000 of their own people, have called Israel's retaliatory operation, "barbaric."
Most of this is just static for us now, outside noises that we can't let distract us. I called Elie as soon as I could.
"Have you heard?" Well, that was a dumb question and I knew it before I had even finished asking.
"Where are you?" I asked him. He laughed a bit and told me he's "around." For now, Elie remains where he has been stationed. The Defense Minister says this operation will not be short or easy. So far, it is limited to an air offense; ground troops have not entered (yet). I feel so many emotions now. There is no panic, but there is a dull sensation in the pit of my stomach that I can't quite name. There are so many possibilities for the days ahead, that I couldn't begin to name them.
For now, I can only question those governments that call on Israel to show restraint, and yet failed to call on Hamas in the past weeks and months and years. If London were being bombed, would Tony Blair call for restraint. What utter nonsense that he calls on Israel to show restraint now - where was he last week and the week before?
Italy's foreign minister, Franco Frattini, did condemn the rocket fire, but called on Israel to beware of civilian casualties in Gaza - and again, where was Frattini last week and the week before that when Hamas AIMED at our civilians. We will do what we can to minimize casualties - we always do.
Egypt has said they will open the Sinai border to allow wounded Palestinians to cross into Egypt for medical aid. How about opening the border for Palestinian civilians to get out of the way? During the Second Lebanon War, Israel warned the civilians to move out of certain areas where Hizbollah is active and there too, Palestinians have to know that we mean to do what we must to stop the rocket fire.
For now, the best way for a civilian in Gaza to avoid being injured is very simple. We are using targeted weaponry, unlike the Palestinians' use of the katyusha and kassem rockets. Their weapons of choice cannot be aimed and therefore have no real targets at all.
Their goal has always been first and foremost to terrorize. Last year, Abu Ahmed, Palestinian Islamic Jihad spokesperson said "The rockets have become accurate, they hardly miss, and most important - they manage to disrupt the Israelis' lives...We definitely planned to increase the rocket fire when the school year opened." Of course, he was completely lying when he said the rockets are accurate and yet he was completely honest when he admitted that their goal is t0 disrupt lives. The reality is that these rockets cause terror and harm, mostly because they are so inaccurate. Anything, anyone, can become a target.
By contrast, Israel has already released numerous announcements and pictures showing that we are hitting pre-selected targets. These are military installations, areas used to launch attacks against Israel. If you are in Gaza and don't want to become a casualty, you are lucky. All you have to do is make sure you aren't near a rocket launcher. In fact, you are safer than tens of thousands of Israelis who are sleeping tonight in or near bomb shelters.
No nation can allow its citizens to be bombed regularly. No nation can withstand what we have taken on a daily basis. Whether Israel's leaders can withstand the storm of international protests is yet to be seen; whether it will finally act to defend its own citizens is unknown.
What is known is that Israel's soldiers are ready and want to see this done correctly. They are not celebrating this offensive, as Palestinians have celebrated successful terror attacks in the past. Rather, they are glad that finally, the government has given them the right to do what they have been trained to do. Tonight, Elie sleeps at the base where he has been for the last few months. I do not know where he will be tomorrow or the next day. It could be south to Gaza; it could be north in anticipation of Hizbollah causing trouble on the northern border; or it could be staying where he is while other troops are moved around.
I'm not sure how I'll know, if I'll know, and that is one aspect of what scares me. It's so interesting how quickly the sense of calm can fly away. Tonight, being the mother of an Israeli combat soldier is a very scary thing, but then again, being an Israeli living in Sderot and Ashkelon and Netivot and so many other places has also been unbearably frightening lately and maybe this action will help.
The news just said Israel is moving tanks into the area. Perhaps the ground forces will move in sooner than I'd thought. This was a huge mistake Israel had made in Lebanon, waiting too long to send them in. In the meantime, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said today:
"There is a time for calm and there is a time for fighting, and now is the time for fighting. The operation will expand as necessary. I don't want to mislead anyone. This won't be easy and it won't be short, but we must be determined. The time has come to act. We do not go to this clash gladly, but neither are we afraid of it. We will not let terrorists hurt our citizens or soldiers. We will do what is necessary. For weeks Hamas and its affiliates lobbed Qassams and Grads and mortar shells on the towns and communities of the South. We have no intention of allowing this situation to continue."
There is a time for calm, and there is a time for fighting, said our Defense Minister. As much as I could wish he was wrong, I know that in this, he is right. It is long past the time to have stopped these rockets and missiles and mortar shells, long past the time that diplomacy has failed.
May God bless our air force and our tank division, our navy and our artillery and our ground forces. May each unit be protected, as it seeks to protect. May it accomplish its task and return home safe and whole. May God bless our sons and daughters and keep them safe. The time has come to fight.