THE SIEGE OF SDEROT
By Micah Halpern
Thursday February 21, 2008
The numbers are numbing.
Do the calculation.
Fifty days. Four hundred Qassam rockets.
If Qassam rockets continue to be fired off at this rate by the end of the year Israel will have been hit by almost two thousand eight hundred rockets.
Last year, 2007, there were one thousand one hundred and fifty rockets hitting Israel from Gaza. This year, 2008, the projected number - if the situation remains unchecked - will be three times this year's total. That means two thousand eight hundred enemy rockets hurdling into Israel.
Those mind boggling statistics refer just to rockets. What about the people?
What about the people who will be forced to run for shelter 2,800 times this year. What about the kids? Just think about it, a child born into the city of Sderot within the past six years has never known what it is NOT to run for shelter on a regular basis. Has never known that meals are NOT supposed to be interrupted by blasts. Has never known that other people sleep peacefully at night. Cannot know that bedwetting is not the norm, that shaking and difficulty concentrating are not normal childhood behaviors. Has never known life without Qassams.
And what is being done to secure the lives of these people on the brink - on the brink of society, on the brink of sanity, on the brink of the country they call their own - secure rooms are planned for their homes.
3,150 rooms will receive fortification in the near future inside homes that are within a one mile range of Israel's border with Gaza. Do not misunderstand, 3,150 homes will not be fortified. A designated room within each of 3,150 homes will be fortified. It's called a safe room, a secure room. It's where you go when everything around you is scary and unsafe, when your world is literally crumbling down upon you.
In a briefing given to the government by Brigadier General Yair Golan, head of the Home Front Command, that same briefing that announced the 3,150 safe rooms, members of Israel's Knesset were informed that since the year 2001 $138 million has been spent in the defense of civilians living in the area around Gaza.
Now do that calculation.
In seven years one hundred and thirty eight million dollars was spent. In other words, about $19 million dollars per year has been spent to protect Israeli citizens - locked into their homes because they have no place else to go - from Qassam rockets. $19 million for the people in need is a paltry sum. It is an embarrassingly paltry sum. It is smaller than the annual budget for Knesset travel.
Why are Israel's decision makers incapable of defending Israel's poorest citizens? "Why," as one general put is "are Israeli children on the front line and not soldiers?" It is not the role of children to sit, to play, to learn, to live in a bomb zone. It is the role of the government to protect those young citizens.
The story of the Siege of the Qassams upon Israel is the story of 21st Century international diplomacy.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and members of his government have been traveling the world talking to world leaders trying to get the nod of approval for a sustained Israeli strike against Hamas forces in Gaza. Israel wants to set the groundwork for the propaganda battle that will inevitably ensue after an attack. Israel's intentions are admirable - but time is being wasted. It is a pre-determined, historically-validated given that most of the world will condemn Israel even as they tacitly acknowledge the moral right of a country to defend her citizens.
Why scurry around the world begging for permission to do what you know must inevitably be done with or without permission? Why waste time, risk more lives, incur more injuries, ruin more lives? Just plan and implement multiple sets of attacks, strategies and counter attacks. Include media plans along with the military plans. Do it before more young boy lose their legs. Do it now.
Do it before a horrific disaster. Quite frankly, that is my fear. I fear that Israel is waiting for a sign - an awful, disastrous, costly sign - to legitimize an Israeli attack against Hamas. I fear that Israel will wait until a Qassam hits a house and kills a family. I fear that Israel will wait until a terror attack from Gaza successfully infiltrates into Israel and people are murdered.
The founders of the Jewish State were obsessed with the idea of taking charge. The idea of creating Israel was predicated on moral and historical ideals. One of those ideals was controlling the destiny of the Jewish people, another was providing a safe refuge for Jews from around the world.
The Jews have arrived. Protect them.
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