Rockets are launched toward Israel from the Gaza Strip early on May 12, 2021. (Photo/JTA-Abed Rahim Khatib-Flash90)
Rockets are launched toward Israel from the Gaza Strip early on May 12, 2021. (Photo/JTA-Abed Rahim Khatib-Flash90)

Each time the sirens sound, it’s just as terrifying

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There are many things in life you can prepare for, but I don’t think there is anything that can prepare you for the moment when you hear sirens from all sides, and you know that you have to run immediately to a bomb shelter and hide for your life from a rocket that will hit somewhere, maybe near you, in the next 10 seconds.

Five-year-old Ido Avigal from Sderot heard the sirens but it was not enough. He was hit and killed by a rocket from Gaza three days ago.

This fear can’t be described unless you experience it. My friends, I have experienced this fear this week in Israel. I saw my friends and family experiencing this fear when we had to run at 3 am to a bomb shelter, when I had to stop my car on a highway to run and hide in an open field. I don’t wish anyone to go through this. It reminded me of 2014, when I returned to Israel with my family after four years in New York and we experienced a similar situation. But again, nothing really prepares you for the next round. It doesn’t prepare the residents of Ashkelon, Netiv Haasara, Sderot , Beersheva and other cities and towns across Israel. Kids growing up in the South experience continuous fear and trauma from years of rocket fire, living under constant bombardment, afraid for their lives.

When discussing  current events in Israel, take a minute and consider whether any country would tolerate rockets launched at its capital city. What would be the United State’s response to such an attack, on Washington, DC or any other American city? How would you feel and what would you do if you had to stop your car on the highway to hide from incoming rockets, or run to a bomb shelter with an 80-year-old parent?

Why do Israelis’ lives need to be hijacked by a terror organization that is indiscriminately launching rockets from civilian population centers and toward civilian population centers? This isn’t about Sheikh Jarrah or the Damascus Gate. Hamas’s goal is to terrorize Israelis and destroy the state of Israel.

This murderous organization is trying to undermine and expand its influence in the Palestinian Authority. It instigated the current escalation in an attempt to seize control of the Palestinian agenda, and to weaken and replace the Palestinian Authority within the West Bank. It is trying to exploit the heightened religious and Palestinian nationalist sentiments surrounding the holy days in Jerusalem in order to encourage terrorism and violence. Hamas’s activities are in opposition to the Palestinian people’s interests; they harm Palestinian society, violate international law, and harm the State of Israel’s interests and security.

Hamas has also hijacked the lives of the people of Gaza. Between 20 and 30 percent of the rockets launched by Hamas and other terrorist organizations fall in the territory of the Gaza Strip; at least nine Palestinian children were killed early this week by such rockets. Every one of the 1,400 rockets launched at Israel in the past three days represents an act of terrorism and is a war crime. Hamas has located its terrorist infrastructure in the heart of Gaza’s civilian population, turning its own people into a human shield. They could have done so much with all the money they are investing in rockets and arms.

These are also difficult days of polarization and violence within Israeli society. I have no doubt that our common interest and hope will prevail, as our leadership has condemned the violence on all sides and called for de-escalation. Most of us Israelis oppose this terrible violence. We have to make sure that synagogues in Israel won’t be burned, and people won’t live in fear. We won’t allow Hamas and their allies to undermine the fabric of coexistence between Jews and Arabs in Israel. There is no place for this kind of violence in Israeli society, and we condemn it with all our strength. Coexistence  is crucial for the state of Israel; our diversity is our uniqueness and strength.

I trust that Hamas will be deterred, Israeli security will be restored, and our internal differences will be bridged through the goodwill of our citizens.

 

 

 

Shlomi Kofman
Shlomi Kofman

Shlomi Kofman is the consul general of Israel to San Francisco and the Pacific Northwest.