Many people living in Israel are debating whether they should leave after more than 600 rockets have been fired into the country from Gaza. They feel it’s up to Hamas to lay down the weapons and promote peace.
“If money were not an obstacle, we would have left already,” said 29-year-old Sarah Grossman, who has grown increasingly afraid in the last month.
As a young Jewish woman from New York, she moved to Israel six years ago to become an Israeli citizen. “I was living in the Golan Heights, it wasn’t the safest feeling at the time, but I confess I had a sense of early Zionist patriotism,” she said.
Now that she’s married an Israeli, has a six-year-old daughter and is due to give birth to another child in the coming weeks, she said her views have shifted, and while an Orthodox Jew when she first arrived in Israel, she said she is now secular.
“After having my daughter and now being pregnant with another one on the way you really start to ask yourself if this sense of Zionism is worth turning your children into martyrs for,” she said.
“If I was young and single, then it’s just me that’s standing up and defending a Jewish homeland, but now it’s me putting my kids in bomb shelters,” Grossman said, adding that she is unable to reassure her daughter that her father, a reservist in the Israeli Defense Forces, will come home.
“I feel totally unsafe now because when I see my daughter’s face when I take her to the bomb shelter – no one should ever see their child like that,” she said.
Tal Pichovich, a single mother with six-month-old twins, left the southern Israeli town Sderot and now lives in the Dorot kibbutz in southern Israel.
“We have rockets landing here all the time and it’s not just in the past month, it has been for years.
“As a single mother with twins, I had to ask myself which baby I would grab in the case of a rocket hitting if I was in public – what mother has to think this,” she said.
Alarm sirens have sent thousands of Israelis looking for cover in shelters
Asked about her views on the over 160 Palestinians in Gaza dying and increased Israeli airstrikes, she said, “I acknowledge that the lives of mothers in Gaza is much harder.”
‘Do no be complacent’
The United Nations Security Council called on Saturday for a cease-fire in the region and for all parties to the conflict to respect civilians’ human rights. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas requested the UN place the region under “international protection,” the PLO said on Sunday.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement today congratulating residents in Israel for “showing maturing and responsibility” but he urged people not to be complacent.
“I think you are impressing the entire world,” he said, imploring people to remain in protected areas and to listen to instructions from home defense command rather than venture out to witness the air attacks first hand. “Someone rightly said that one needs not only an Iron Dome, but iron discipline as well.”
Prior to 30 rockets being fired into Israel, the Al Qassam brigade issued warning online, including on Twitter, which sent many in Israel into panic. Only five of the rockets were intercepted by Israeli’s missile defense system but no injuries were reported.
Of the 660 rockets fired into Israel in the past six days, the country’s “Iron Dome” has intercepted 173.
1,320 targets across Gaza
Rebecca Fuhrman from the One Family Fund, which works with “victims of terror” in Israel said 300 families in the south of Israel had been evacuated due to physical and psychological trauma.
One of the children the organization supports lost 75 percent of his brain function after shrapnel pierced it his skull.
“He was with his mother going to the store, when they heard a siren and she pulled him out of the car and covered him with her body,” Fuhrman said. “She was unscathed and he had shrapnel enter his brain when the rocket landed just meters away.”
“We work with another mother who lost her leg and her three-year-old was killed,” said Fuhrman. “Not all families are comfortable leaving their bomb shelters.”
The Israeli ‘Iron Dome’ has intercepted some 173 rockets from Gaza
Israeli military figures released on Sunday morning showed it had struck 1,320 targets across Gaza, including 735 rocket launchers, 64 training bases and military compounds and 32 Hamas leadership facilities.
More than 160 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza.
Refusing to leave
Ronnie Arad, 30, a student who moved to Jerusalem from Los Angeles five years ago, said his views on Israel had shifted.
“In the beginning I was more naive about the Israeli government, now I am more critical of it – I think the government is super corrupt and only cares about its own interests,” he said.
Arad, however, added that he approves of the Israeli military operations in Gaza
“I think it’s great and the IDF needs to step it up, I think they need to go in and destroy the bad there,” he said.
In Gaza, 800 residents with citizenship in the United States, Britain, Australia, Canada, Germany and Sweden were evacuated through Erez border crossing and into Israel and the Allenby border crossing, which leads to Jordan. Many of those evacuated were Palestinians from Gaza with dual citizenship. Over 1.8 million people are estimated to live in the Gaza Strip.
‘Us against Hamas’
Back in Jerusalem, Sarah Grossman said the rocket fire in the past week had scared her more than the second Intifada because it was unclear how long it would continue.
She said the conflict shouldn’t be viewed as Israelis versus the Palestinians.
“It’s rather us against Hamas – the fact that Hamas is using women and children as shields is deplorable – but if we can’t stop them they will do worse to us.
“If Israelis put down their weapons there will be no Israel, but if the Palestinians put down their weapons there will be peace,” she said.