I knew or feared war was coming on two fronts - as an Israeli and as a mother. As an Israeli, I knew we were headed to war - where else can a nation go when rockets are being fired daily at cities and you know it won't stop until we go in? Hamas was asking for it...begging for it. Normal people would tell you that the leadership of a country would not want its people to come under fire - but normal governments don't hide themselves in bunkers and taunt other nations to kill their people. We would, I was sure, enter any day, First by air, then by ground. Where artillery would come into it, I did not yet know.
As a mother, at the beginning I was so sure that Elie would not be involved. With the perfect hindsight only living through something can give you, I can almost laugh at myself...almost. Elie was very close to the end of his shift in the center of the country at a check point. They were going to be moving his unit north for training and patrolling. Once north, he would face whatever came at us from Lebanon. From Lebanon, not Gaza. I knew...I knew...I knew nothing, not even that I didn't know.
In those early days, I watched Gaza as an Israeli; I watched Hezbollah as a mother. Elie was going north and rockets were found in Lebanon aimed at Israel. A few days later, doubt began to enter my mind. Elie was still in the center of the country and he started hinting that they may be moving him south. North...south...where was he going? Even on the day they moved him and his unit, I had to ask, "Are you south of where you were...or north?"
Today, I am active on Twitter. Already Gazans are posting about the start of the war. It's true - the war had started by December 25th - our air force was already bombing key targets from which we expected trouble or from which they were firing rockets. Already, Gaza propaganda was at work claiming victims that never existed, claiming attacks that never happened. Like today, the world believed them and ignored the rocket fire - the ones that happened three years ago in December, 2008; and the ones that happened yesterday.
But on December 25th, 2008, Elie was still in the center - the war had started for the air force, but ground forces and artillery were not yet in position. A few days later, On Defense Minister Ehud Barak was unusually eloquent as he spoke for all Israelis:
"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."After hearing his words, this was my post for December 27, 2008:
Going to War
My phone beeped no less than 10 times over the Sabbath. As observant Jews, we do not answer the phone; do not read the messages coming through. It was agony hearing the beeps, knowing something was happening, knowing somewhere...probably Gaza...something was starting. At one point, there were several beeps in one hour. A man in uniform was seen driving quickly out of our neighborhood this morning. This is not a regular occurrence in this area, where cars rarely travel on the Sabbath. All in all, it meant something was happening.
"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.
I lost it - control slipped. "Why do you say things like that?" I asked him with more anger than I should have shown. He didn't mean anything and I didn't either. He apologized; I wanted to cry. 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, and 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, still in the center. 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 to 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, Ashkelon, 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 has correctly said there is a time for calm, and there is a time for fighting. 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.The words of Ehud Barak were true three years ago; they are true 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."